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
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!