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Miles, Bebe - Wildflower Perennials for Your Garden
A detailed guide to years of bloom from America's native heritage.

(American Garden Classics) Illustrated by Peter Loewer - STACKPOLE BOOKS, Mechanicsburg, PA (1976, 1996)

Reviewed by Norma Beredjiklian
July 2000

Picture of Book and Link to

            Sometimes, when I consider myself very lucky, quite often that very personal experience is connected to an unexpected find, and in frequent cases, a book. This is why I felt so lucky this week. I found Bebe Miles' popular classic in a remainder bin, and drastically reduced to boot! How fortuitous, I thought. Concerned as we are in this outstanding American Violet Society of ours about this lovely flower and its preservation as one of the glories of America's native heritage, I quickly grabbed the copy and headed for the bookstore's cashier.

            A well-known gardener in decades past, Bebe Miles died in 1980. According to Peter Loewer, her friend and illustrator of this second printing, that was the year in which --"the world of wildflowers lost a great friend! " I also learned that in the early 60s and 70s Ms. Miles wrote extensively on native gardening. Her books were enthusiastically received even though the subject of gardening with perennial and native plants was not as fashionable a pursuit as it is now.

            Assessing Wildflower Perennials for your Garden almost a quarter of a century after its first publication reveals wonderful facts. Bebe Miles put forward 40 plus years of wildflower watching in the eastern Pennsylvania region, most specifically, the Bowman's Hill State Wildflower Preserve in Washington Crossing State Park. In her introductory words, she is quick to acknowledge the immense help and advice received from many of her contemporaries who worked for countless years to preserve this country's botanical heritage. After all is said and done, what she left us is a gift that makes us recipients of a very rich legacy.

            In addition, Miles gives the novice gardener very important tips that run the gamut of basic landscaping, plant hardiness and selection all the way to propagation and transplanting. Her delivery is concise and simple. Equally useful is the indexing of plants by garden areas: sunny, shady and wet. These are introduced and listed alphabetically by their Latin nomenclature while on the page headings they feature the corresponding common name. What follows on each page is a general description that includes best conditions for cultivation and propagation as well as related species. In short, a wealth of information in one relatively small book, and a must for anyone who is committed to recreate the garden of America in his/her own backyard! Violet lovers will be particularly pleased to find that the genus Viola is very well represented in this remarkable work.

            Hopefully, and due to the renewed interest in native gardening, Miles' Wildflower Perennials for Your Garden will become once again one candidate among many to be favored with a reprint. In the meantime, it will be quite a challenge to find a copy in the bookstores, and special orders may be required. If you are lucky enough to find one, hold on to it for dear life!

P.S.: The site is one good source to order this book on line. Apparently, they have it in stock and at the great price of $9.50! Libraries, of course, are the other alternative.

© Norma Beredjiklian 2000
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