New Zealand Handbook of Bulbs and Perennials
Edited by Hugh Redgrove
Published by Godwit Press, Auckland, New Zealand, 1991
Reviewed by Joy Ames
This is a revised, updated
and expanded version of the 1953 publication The Handbook of
Bulbs and Perennials for the Southern Hemisphere. Dedicated
to the gardening public of New Zealand, it was compiled by Hugh
Redgrove and an impressive list of fellow contributors, each with
a wealth of experience and a delight in growing these plants in
It aims to provide a
reliable guide to the identification, selection, cultivation, and
propagation of over 350 genera of bulbs and perennials. In fact,
it includes in alphabetical order, 382 genera, numerous species
and cultivars, and 433 colour illustrations considerably
more than the 250 genera and 246 illustrations (mostly black and
white) of the 1953 handbook.
There is also an excellent
index, cross-referenced for genera, synonyms and common names. This
is invaluable, especially for those of us who find difficulty in
remembering recent name changes. It is to be hoped that all gardeners,
nurserymen, garden centres and writers will use the correct current
botanical names, as listed in this handbook.
So much has changed since
1953. Gardening is now the number one hobby, often closely associated
with the use of flowers and foliage in floral arrangements. Ornamental
horticulture is more professional, providing employment and export
revenue from cut flowers, foliage, bulbs and plants. Garden centres
have developed as well as specialist nurseries, with an increasing
emphasis on perennials and bulbs.
New introductions, selections
and hybrids as well as old favourites from both Northern and Southern
hemispheres are grown in New Zealand gardens. It must have been
hard for the editor to decide where to draw the line. In the handbook,
small plants are limited to those which are conveniently grown at
the front of a border. Larger plants include some sub-shrubs which
are commonly grown with perennials in New Zealand gardens. 'Bulbs'
include corms, tubers and rhizomes (ill-defined in the glossary)
as well as true bulbs.
The sub-title 'Bulbs
and Perennials A to Z' is apt. Each genus is easy to find, especially
with the index.
The family and common
name is below each heading. For all but a few less important genera,
the number of species and natural distribution is followed by descriptions
of major or representative species and cultivars (including many
excellent New Zealand bred cultivars). The distinguishing features
are described, as noted by an observant, practical gardener, not
Height in centimetres
and inches, season of flowering, and cultural details follow. Appropriate
depth and distance of planting of bulbs is included.
It is interesting to
note the connection between conditions in the country of origin,
and advice on site selection and culture in our gardens; similarly
between root structure and seasonal root growth, and advice on how
and when to transplant and divide perennials successfully. Some
comments on attractive plant associations are included.
The text throughout is
concise and clear with a great deal of sound practical information
presented in a most readable form. Considerable space is devoted
to some genera such as Iris, Narcissus, Lilium, Gladiolus, Dahlia,
Carnation and Dendranthema (Chrysanthemum!) in which the modern
classification of the various groups as well as the species are
The greatly expanded
sections on Hosta, Primula and some other genera reflect Hugh Redgrove's
enthusiasm for these plants, and his wish for other New Zealand
gardeners to share his pleasure in growing them.
A colour photograph alongside
the name and description helps greatly to identify and remember
a plant. In this handbook there are great number of excellent illustrations
alongside the text, as well as a few attractive garden scenes. The
quality is not consistently good, but anyone who has tried to make
a photographic record of flowering plants knows the difficulties.
In spite of the considerable
improvement in cameras, film and reproduction techniques in recent
years, some colours, notably blues and reds, are not always true.
The plant, light or weather may not be perfect. It requires a lot
of patience, knowledge and luck to be at the right place at the
right time to photograph a plant at its peak of perfection. One
can always hope to improve ... next year! With such a diversity
of plants some a few centimetres, some over a metre high,
the selection of illustrations from available photographs could
not have been easy. Most of them demonstrate clearly the flowering
characteristics of each genus of perennials and bulbs and in some
cases the diversity of species and groups within the genus. That
is a real achievement. The less successful illustrations could well
be replaced in future editions.
Names and photographs
of cultivars often date a reference book, but when they are outstanding
they add to interest. I would like to see, for example, pictures
of a bunch of New Zealand bred cultivars of Nerine, and of Zantedeschia,
which in both cases are better than any overseas cultivars
as are the New Zealand bred cultivars of the dahlia and carnation
which are well illustrated.
Pests and Diseases
These are mentioned only
as they affect the routine culture and propagation of plants. Reading
such comments as "Aphis chew ... ", "eelworms are almost microscopic"
and the recommendations for hot water treatment in a home
garden, it is obvious that gardeners should look elsewhere for information
on the identification and control of pests and diseases. Revision
by specialists is recommended for future editions of the handbook.
There are a number of
errors in the spelling of botanical names in the book. Some grammatical
errors were noted and also obvious mistakes in conversions between
centimetres and inches.
More serious, however,
is the mislabelling of photographs and users of the book need to
P. 24 Top left is Arisarum
vulgare not Arisaema candidissimum.
Bottom the white
flower is Arisaema candidissiumum not A. praecox.
P. 43 Top left is Urceolina
peruviana not Bravoa graminiflora.
P. 59 Top right is Chionodoxa
luciliae not C. sardensis.
P. 215 Ornithogalum
saundersiae not O. arabicum.
Others which are doubtful
according to the text descriptions are:
P. 28 Arum maculatum,
P. 67 Crinum x posoelli, P. 83 Dendianthema
'Yellow Noon', P. 89 Digitalis mertonensis, P. 254 Scabiosa
It would have been better
to delay publication to allow thorough checking of the text, illustrations
and captions, but no doubt there was a desire and maybe some pressure
to print this long-awaited book as soon as possible. Corrections
should be made before reprinting.
In the mean time, I shall
be using this handbook frequently as a guide to the current nomenclature,
identification, selection and more successful cultivation of bulbs
and perennials. Already I have a list of more plants which I want
in New Zealand: Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture
1992 3(1): 15
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