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Gardening Perennials

The Prairie Gardener's Go-To Guide for Perennials

by (author) Janet Melrose & Sheryl Normandeau

TouchWood Editions
Initial publish date
Mar 2023
Perennials, Canada, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price

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The eighth book in the Guides for the Prairie Gardener series is all about those reliable, grounded plants you can count on: perennials.

Perennials are those species whose stems and leaves die back to their crowns each fall, but whose roots remain alive throughout the non-growing months. They include showy flowers like peonies, poppies, lilies, clematis, and lupine, but also edibles like asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, sunchokes, and rhubarb.

In this guide prairie gardening experts Janet Melrose and Sheryl Normandeau answer questions like

  • What are the best perennials for building biodiversity in my garden?
  • What’s the difference between species, variety, cultivar, and nativar?
  • What kinds of perennials can I grow in containers?
  • When and how do I divide plants once they’re well established?
  • How do I keep enthusiastic re-seeders from taking over?
  • Which of my perennial babies need to be brought inside for the winter?

The pair dedicate a chapter to perennial vegetables and another to mitigating common pests and diseases. The final chapter is a perennial hall of fame, an extended list of recommended plantings for colour, native species, rock gardens, ground cover, fragrance, spring champions, and all-season displays. Janet and Sheryl give you the information you need to make your perennial garden as successful as you can while promoting biodiversity and creating a healthy habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

About the authors

Janet Melrose is a garden educator and consultant, and an advocate for Calgary’s Sustainable Local Food System. She is a life-long gardener and holds a Prairie Horticulture Certificate and Home Farm Horticultural Therapy Certificate. She has a passion for Horticultural Therapy and facilitates numerous programs designed to integrate people marginalized by various disabilities into the larger community. She is a regular contributor to The Gardener for Canadian Climates magazine. She lives in Calgary where she runs her education and consulting company, Calgary’s Cottage Gardener.

Janet Melrose's profile page

Sheryl Normandeau is a life-long gardener, and holds a Prairie Horticulture Certificate and a Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate. She is a freelance writer specializing in gardening writing with hundreds of articles published. She is a regular contributor The Gardener for Canadian Climates, The Prairie Garden Annual, Herb Quarterly, Mother Earth Gardener, and many more. She lives in Calgary.

Sheryl Normandeau's profile page

Excerpt: The Prairie Gardener's Go-To Guide for Perennials (by (author) Janet Melrose & Sheryl Normandeau)


Welcome to the world of perennials! What’s in a name? After all, William Shakespeare once wrote “That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet,” which is, of course, true. But humans love to pigeonhole things with names—for good or for bad—and in the plant world, names seem deliberately designed to bewilder, misdirect, and confuse. So, for the purposes of this book, we need to specify at the outset which types of plants we are dealing with in this very broad category of “perennials.”

By definition, the word “perennial” is something that is “lasting a very long time or happening repeatedly or all the time.” In botany, perennial generally means a plant that lives for three or more years. (Annuals are those plants that only live one year, completing their entire life cycle in one season. Biennials are those that do so within two seasons.)


Perennials are usually categorized as woody or herbaceous. Woody refers to primarily to trees and shrubs, whose hard stems contain lignin. Herbaceous perennials have more pliable stems that contain cellulose.


If we want to get even more technical (and we do!), herbaceous plants can be further divided into graminoids, those that are grass-like, and forbs, broadleaf flowering plants. (Just for fun, the category of forbs includes not just perennial plants, but annuals and biennials, too.) There are weeds that are perennial, as well as forage crops, herbs, bulbs, and many more.


In this book, we are only going to include desirable (for our gardens) species whose aerial structures (stems and leaves) die back to their crowns each fall, but whose roots remain alive, though dormant, throughout the non-growing months. Oh, and naturally, they need to survive and thrive in our northern, highly variable, temperate climate. We are primarily focusing on gorgeous perennial flowers (and we’ll show you some photos containing some serious eye candy), but we’ll also cover a generous selection of perennial vegetables that can be grown on the prairies.


We think that leaves us with lots to talk about, don’t you? And that’s exactly what we’re going to do! In The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Perennials, we’ll cover how to select perennials for your garden and get them growing—from stratifying and sowing seeds to transplanting and dividing. We’ll give you some tips about how best to water, fertilize, mulch, and deadhead them. We’ll help you diagnose and treat problems that may arise and discuss how to tackle challenging environmental conditions. Above all, we’ll give you the information you need to make your perennial garden as successful as you can while promoting biodiversity and creating a healthy habitat for pollinators and wildlife. Why not dig in?

—Sheryl Normandeau & Janet Melrose

Editorial Reviews

Praise for the Guides for the Prairie Gardener series

"Helping gardeners across the prairies succeed in growing food, flowers and everything in between." —Medicine Hat News

"Melrose and Normandeau answer all the questions that the two experts could think of when it came to horticulture on the prairies." —Edify Edmonton

“The Prairie Gardener’s series offers knowledgeable yet accessible answers to questions covering a broad range of topics to help you cultivate garden success. Get growing!” —Lorene Edwards Forkner, gardener and author of Color In and Out of the Garden

“This is a beautiful and incredibly well-written series of books on earth-friendly gardening. Lavishly illustrated, with photos in every segment, the books are a pleasure just to leaf through, but the accessible writing and level of expertise makes them essential to any gardener’s library. Although they’re geared to prairie gardeners, I found great information that transfers anywhere, including where I live, in the Sierra Foothills, and will enjoy them for years to come. Well-indexed, to help you find solutions to elusive problems. Highly recommended!” —Diane Miessler, certified permaculture designer and author of Grow Your Soil!

“All your gardening questions answered! Reading the Prairie Gardener’s series is like sitting down with your friendly local master gardener. Delivers practical guidance that will leave you feeling confident and inspired.” —Andrea Bellamy, author of Small-Space Vegetable Gardens

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