Book Review 12 

Native Plants for the Short Season Yard: Best Picks for the Chinook and Canadian Prairie Zones 

By Lyndon Penner 

  • Publisher: ‎Brush Education, (2016) 
  • Paperback‏:‎ 272 pages 
  • ISBN-10: ‏155059640 
  • Dimensions: 6” X 9” 
  • Price: $9.99 ( – Kindle Edition); $10.49 ( – Kindle Edition)  

– note: at the time of writing, this book appears to be no longer available in print form except as atrociously priced used copies, though you may be able to find it cheaper somewhere other than Amazon. 

Note: This review is adapted and expanded from the one I posted to Amazon after purchasing the book in 2022. I subsequently returned the book as it did not meet my expectations. 

I really wanted to like this little book. It is a good book for northern gardeners, and would be a great read to help you get through the long winter, but as a useful guide it is lacking. For starters, it is very text heavy – it takes a lot of reading to find out what you might need to know for any particular plant. In addition, the photos are very small and not all that helpful. 

I did appreciate that the plants were listed in alphabetic order by scientific name, but they are grouped by shade tolerance. This is problematic for several reasons. For one, many native plants often do OK in a large range of shade. Aquilegia (columbine), for instance, is listed in the full sun category in this book, though in many other books it is listed as part shade (and in one book that I recently read it was listed as part shade to full shade). In my own garden, it thrives in all three shade categories. As a result, it is difficult to decide where I should start looking for a particular plant. 

Another complaint I have is the index – under Aquilegia, it says to see Columbine. Why would you not just put the page number beside Aquilegia? And this is how ALL the scientific names are handled. It just means you need to take an extra step if you happen to know the scientific name rather than the common name (and I have discussed at length, elsewhere, the problems with common names). 

My biggest beef with the book, though, is that with the title Native Plants for the Short Season Yard, even though the author talks about the importance of native plants, he says “sometimes, hybrid or garden forms are better choices” and then goes on to add “Don’t be a purist”. There is lots of research now available that indicates that hybrids (sometimes referred to as nativars – for native cultivar) do NOT provide the same benefits to insects that the pure strains do. Yet the author does not discuss this aspect of using cultivars.  

Despite the flaws, there are some other good things the author has done. For one, there is a section called Potential Threats to Native Plants, that includes, among other things, a discussion on invasive species. He also talks about the use of natural alternatives to pesticides. In addition, he spends some time discussing how to ethically and responsibly grow native plants from seeds and cuttings and why we shouldn’t dig plants from the wild (unless, of course, the land is slated for development). 

Given the paucity of books on native plant gardening for northern climates, this might be a great starting point if you’re looking for something to read this winter, but I was quite disappointed in the book overall, despite wanting to like it (for the very reason that there ARE very few books on the subject). It really is aimed at gardeners in the Canadian prairies (and perhaps the northern-most Midwest States) but the like any good gardening book, there is probably lots that other gardeners can get from this little volume. 

If you’re looking for a good winter’s read, and you don’t mind reading the kindle version, then this would be a good little book for a northern gardener. But in the end, I only gave 3 stars out of 5. 

Happy Native Plant Gardening. 

© The Native Plant Gardener 2024