Claire Austin publishes perennial guide
Leading plantswoman, Claire Austin, has written a uniquely practical and inspirational guide to her favourite 800+ garden perennials.
In ‘Claire Austin’s Book of Perennials’ the author explains how she grows perennials and combines them in the garden and how she found inspiration in the pages of Graham Stuart Thomas’s book Perennial Garden Plants (Dent 1976).
The book is the culmination of 30 years of growing hardy perennials by Claire who has exhibited for many years at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show winning numerous medals, including Gold, for her exhibits of irises and other perennials. She grew perennials for 20 years while working at her father’s company, David Austin Roses then in 2001 she and her husband, Ric Kenwood, established Claire Austin Hardy Plants.
Designed as a small, usable perennial book for every gardener, from expert to beginner, it reveals Claire’s personal recommendations of the most reliable, garden-worthy plants combined with straightforward advice from this hands-on experienced grower.
The first chapter – ‘About Perennials’ – I found really useful and the book overall has plenty of tips and ideas for how to choose, site and care for perennials, how to combine them in planting schemes and suggestions for the best plants for attracting bees and butterflies or for cutting.
Claire’s nursery at White Hopton Farm holds the National Collection of Bearded Irises and the National Collection of Herbaceous Perennials and over 900 photographs featured in the book have been taken in her own iris and peony fields and perennial borders by Claire herself.
She admits that the book is not an encyclopaedia, but instead an unashamedly personal selection of many her favourite perennials and ones that she would hate to be without: “I have tried and tested the featured perennials over the course of my own 30 years as a nurserywoman and through creating seven gardens of my own“, she says.
Claire started writing the book after she moved her nursery from Shawbury in north Shropshire to the beautiful countryside of Sarn in mid-Wales. The result is a comprehensive, stimulating and enjoyable book through which many a happy hour will be spent discovering both old favourites and one suspects not a few new varieties.
Chapters include ‘Putting Perennials Together’; ‘Perennials for …. bees, butterflies, pots and cutting and combining with annuals, bulbs and shrubs’; ‘Practical Stuff’ including planting, maintaining and propagation and finally the ‘Plant Directory’.
I found the Plant Directory both helpful and stimulating and there are certainly lots of varieties recommended by Claire that I certainly want to try. One of the most important aspects of this book is, I think, Claire’s extensive knowledge and experience which enables her to introduce us to varieties we may not either have known about or considered. This is an extensive A-Z section with 805 perennials, full details on plant care and variety information, all described in Claire’s engaging style.
Claire’s last publication – ‘Irises, A Gardener’s Encyclopaedia’ – won the Garden Media Guild Award for Garden Reference Book of the Year. I feel sure her latest book will certainly be a strong contender for the gardening awards.
‘Claire Austin’s Book of Perennials’ is self-published by White Hopton Publications, in paperback at £19.00 and can be ordered from Claire’s website at: