Book review: The Northern Gardener.

The Northern Gardener:  Perennials That Survive and Thrive – Barbara Rayment (2012, Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd., British Columbia)

Barbara Rayment says it all in her dedication:  this book is for any gardener whose little patch of earth is afflicted with

short growing seasons, poor soil, untimely frosts, drought, windstorms, rainstorms, (and) hailstorms….

Yep, count me in – here in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, my garden has all of those “symptoms” at one time or another during any given year.  (I say “year” when I really mean “the two months we can actually produce any sort of flower or veggie crops.”  I joke, but just barely).  And I’m big on perennials, so to say this book is right up my alley is a mild understatement.  The Northern Gardener is the go-to reference we cold climate gardeners should all have at hand as we peruse the seed catalogues and glossy gardening magazines this winter, looking for the best plants to grow next spring.  I sure wish it had been written when I was working in the garden centre years ago – it would have been a massive help!

The Northern Gardener is divided by “habitat,” not according to plant family or colour or any other category.  Rain garden, herb garden, pond and water, prairie, woodland, rockery…they’re all here and more.  Rayment offers up planting tips and cultural maintenance for each habitat and gives examples and photos of each.  Then she follows it all up with an “A to Z” listing of perennials for each category – from Achillea to Zizia, it’s all here.  The plant descriptions are short (you won’t find massive detail) but there are hundreds of listings, and small, but beautifully-shot photos for nearly every one.  Peppered throughout the plant listings are panels that further break down concepts such as drainage, mulching, and pest control – and offer separate categories for perennials with clay tolerance, for example, or deer resistance.   This wonderfully comprehensive list is the perfect starting point for more investigative research (or a rush trip to the garden centre to pick up a particularly desireable selection!).  In some northern regions, you still have time to put in perennials, so grab this book, and go shopping!  🙂


I’m taking part in September’s Garden Book Reviews!  Click on over to Roses and Other Gardening Joys to check out the wonderful reviews by all the participating bloggers!


  1. Being in the South, and having such a long growing period, I am constantly amazed how northerners can garden in such harsh climates. Knowing what thrives in that particular environment is the key. I am going to tell my sister to buy this book – she lives in Colorado, where, as you say, the growing season is about two months! 😉 Thanks so much for joining in!

  2. I garden in Calgary too and I have struggled to have flowers and colour similar to my garden in England. Never managed it! Perhaps if I had this book things would have gone better and been more fun.

    • I’m not sure I’m ever going to get it right, but books like this are certainly huge helpers! It’s definitely challenging to grow things in Calgary – the difference between gardening here and in England must be absolutely immense!

  3. I think this book is right up our alley as well! I am going to show it to my husband and see what he thinks, but it does sound extremely worthwhile. I am into gardening a lot more than I used to be and we are always trying new and different and exciting plants but we are wanting more perennials that will work in our not-so-long growing season in Alberta. Thanks for the info!

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