Inside The New York Botanical Garden

The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden

Posted in From the Library on May 17 2018, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


The Know Maintenance Perennial GardenThis week’s book review is a #ThrowBackThursday to the popular classic The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden. Written in 2014 by Roy Diblik for Timber Press, the text is a favorite of gardeners who love perennials. Diblik, who worked closely with designer Piet Oudolf on the Lurie Garden in Chicago, has brought his wisdom and knowledge to the public with Know Maintenance. Each of the 62 plans in this work are based on a 10’x14′ grid that is modular in design, offering home gardeners many combinations and plants to suit their landscape and needs, regardless of whether their space is larger or smaller than the example grid. The plans are inspired by works of art as well as existing gardens (for example, Monet, Great Dixter, and Swarthmore College), and are divided into two sections for areas with sun and shade. In addition, plant profiles for 74 plants offer readers suggestions for different plants to use in existing gardens or as a part of new plantings.

Joyce H. Newman interviewed Diblik for Plant Talk in 2014. Here are some highlights from their discussion:

  1. Your tagline for the book is: “Knowing your plants means less work.” Is that your main message?
    There is so much confusion about buying and placing plants. Plants are purchased based on initial appearance and generally placed together based on bloom time and flower color. Many are short-lived, fashionable plants that decline quickly in average garden conditions and then are frequently replaced. I believe if we take time to come to “know” plants as we do our friends, we can create healthier relationships—plants with plants, plants with people, and people with people.
  2. What most appeals to you about perennials?
    I enjoy perennials because of their lifestyle. Most have a giving nature, they are adaptable to many conditions, are actually easy to grow and care for, and I enjoy learning where they live and flourish in their native locations.

Perennials offer tremendous diversity, having many types of flowers, color, foliage, stems, and roots. They also have beautiful growth habits and structural forms. To me they are living art and a simple indication of the diversity of earth.

For those who are new to perennial gardening or for those who are experienced gardeners and designers, Know Maintenance continues to offer guidance and inspiration to all.

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