Book Review Series: Powerful Perennials

Review of Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens that Thrive in Any Climate by Nedra Secrist

Guest Post by Kalliope. Kalliope is a former college instructor in both written and oral communications courses. She earned an MA in Linguistics from BYU and recently began a PhD program at University of London. She has two naughty kitties that fill her days with glares and snuggles. You can read another post by her here

Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens That Thrive in Any Climate


Powerful Perennials is a gardening book focusing on the needs of gardeners in hardier zones, and particularly focusing on the Intermountain West. Nedra Secrist hones in on the needs of garden lovers that live in this harsh, sometimes unpredictable region, which is high in elevation, short of growing season, and experiences sudden and extreme temperature changes.

This book organizes its topics with extremely useful categorizations, with sections dedicated to Cold-Hardy Perennials, Drought-Tolerant Perennials, and Wildlife-Resistant plants. All of these are vital considerations for gardeners in this region, where day-to-night temperature changes can vary by more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, summer months are a long march of blistering heat with the promise of a bit of rain in the autumn, and deer and other wildlife venture into suburban gardens to score a ready meal in the dark of night.

Like many gardening books, the first page dedicated to each species includes pictures, physical description, species name and pronunciation, zoning and light information, and more. But on the second page, each plant is given its own unique voice and introduces itself to the reader! Every plant takes a page to introduce the reader/gardener to its history, medicinal uses, the story behind its name, care instructions, and much more. It was not an approach I had seen before, and certainly not one I was expecting, but I found it truly charming.

Interspersed in each of these sections are general reference charts and mini-articles, including a pronunciation guide for Latin names, stalking instructions, a how-to on adding textured lacy perennials to your garden, using Lavender essential oil, and much more. There are tons of specialty topics addressed in this book, with special consideration to the gardening needs of Rocky Mountain gardeners, which are so often overlooked in traditional gardening books.

But this book is useful for more than just the Rocky Mountain gardener; gardeners in northern regions or dry regions can find much to meet their needs in this book, and all gardeners benefit from the incorporation of a few plants to ward off the wildlife.

Powerful Perennials is unique and utterly charming, while also being useful and highly informative. It certainly has a novel point of view, and it is clear throughout that the author is highly knowledgeable and deeply cares for the business of growing things. I highly recommend Powerful Perennials to anyone who loves both the hard work and the whimsy of a garden.

This is a part of the Exponent Book Review Series and Cyber Monday Giveaway. By making a thoughtful comment on this post, subscribing to the Exponent, or making a donation to Exponent II by sending a PayPal donation to, you will be entered into a drawing to win one of many books being reviewed! Check the intro post for information and terms. Entries accepted until the 5th of December 2015.

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5 Responses

  1. spunky says:

    I love the idea of hearing this from the plant’s perspective! Thank you so much for this review– this book is now on my wish-list!

  2. Nella says:

    My friend recommended me to read this book. she said this is a good book. I’m planning to buy it.

  3. Thanks! I love tough plants. I don’t like to fuss over my yard. I just want it to grow.

  4. fMhLisa says:

    My entire garden is perennials. The big problem is that I love gardening and now that it’s all established, there’s very little for me to do. I need more garden.

  5. Kari says:

    As the sad caretaker of several dead outdoor plants this book sounds like the one for me. I need a little guidance when it comes to outdoor gardens.

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