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Gardening with Perennials

Lessons from Chicago’s Lurie Garden

For gardeners, inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. Perennial enthusiasts around the world might be surprised to find their muse in the middle of a bustling city. Lurie Garden, a nearly three-acre botanic garden in the center of Chicago’s lakefront in Millennium Park, is a veritable living lab of prairie perennials, with a rich array of plant life that both fascinates and educates as it grows, flowers, and dies back throughout the year. Thousands of visitors pass through each year, and many leave wondering how they might bring some of the magic of Lurie to their own home gardens.

With Gardening with Perennials horticulturalist and garden writer Noel Kingsbury brings a global perspective to the Lurie oasis through a wonderful introduction to the world of perennial gardening. He shows how perennials have much to offer home gardeners, from sustainability—perennials require less water than their annual counterparts—to continuity, as perennials’ longevity makes them a dependable staple.

Kingsbury also explains why Lurie is a perfect case study for gardeners of all locales. The plants represented in this urban oasis were chosen specifically for reliability and longevity. The majority will thrive on a wide range of soils and across a wide climatic range. These plants also can thrive with minimal irrigation, and without fertilizers or chemical control of pests and diseases. Including a special emphasis on plants that flourish in sun, and featuring many species native to the Midwest region, Gardening with Perennials will inspire gardeners around the world to try Chicago-style sustainable gardening.

See sample pages from the book (PDF format).

216 pages | 86 color plates, 1 line drawing | 5 3/4 x 7 1/2 | © 2014

Biological Sciences: Botany, Ecology



"Gardening with Perennials, by the British garden writer Noel Kingsbury, muscles its way in, dispensing 'lessons from Chicago’s Lurie Garden.' It will be indispensable for Midwestern gardeners who deal with searing heat and bone-rattling cold—and not much in between. Yes, an Englishman in Chicago. That’s the twist that makes this book special: It took an out-of-towner to realize that the dazzling, gently rolling five-acre Lurie Garden in Millennium Park merited book-length attention. . . . brimming with ideas for every home garden."

New York Times

"Over the years perennial gardening has become a collection of yearly, new-fashioned plants overwhelmed by wood mulch and often replanted every few seasons as the plants decline and die. Plantsman and international garden designer Piet Oudolf created a perennial planting Lurie Garden located in Millennium Park in Chicago that lives engaged in its own well-being and abundant in moment to moment beauty through all four seasons. The planting isn’t theoretical but practice based, creating the possibilities for all future perennial plantings. Noel’s book welcomes you into the health and joy of contemporary perennial gardening."

Roy Diblik, Northwind Perennial Farm

“The dynamic duo of two of my favorite plantsmen, Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, strikes again in this exceptional reference book about Lurie Garden! Beginning home gardeners, master gardeners, and professionals alike can gain insight into the design and care of beautiful yet tough perennials wonderfully suited for busy, environmentally conscious gardeners. Rooftop garden designers will also find it particularly helpful in their quest for successful urban greening.”

Tracy DiSabato-Aust, author of The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, The Well-Designed Mixed Garden, and 50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants

“Kingsbury elegantly explores the concepts informing the Lurie Garden and makes an exceptional case for transforming typical gardens into something far more interesting and sustainable.”

Chicago Book Review

Table of Contents

1. The Story of the Lurie Garden
2. It’s Either Freezing or Baking—Gardening in a Midwestern Climate
3. Making the Garden a Better Place for Plants
4. Choosing Perennials for the Garden
5. Putting Plants Together
6. The Gardening Year—A Guide to Essential Maintenance through the Months
7. The Wild, the Native, and the Cultivated
8. Plant Directory

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