Armitage’s Garden Perennials, Second Edition by Allan M. Armitage (Timber Press, 2011) is a great A to Z perennial reference and picture book (1300 photos) of 136 genera from Acanthus to Zephyranthes. It has a page or two of descriptive text for each perennial (including growing zone information) as well as the botanical and common names of perennials.
What I found most helpful were the photos of the cultivars and hybrids within genera. Take Coreopsis, or Tickweed, for example. The author provides photos for 20 different hybrid versions of Coreopsis with names such as ‘Route 66’ and ‘Rum Punch’.
This is a book I would use before going seed shopping. By studying the photos, you can quickly make a selection of the flower and plant that appeals to you most. For instance, I have too many yellow plants and I would choose to replace my yellow Coreopsis with ‘Snowberry’ (a white flower with burgundy center) or ‘Heavens Gate’ (a solid pink flower with yellow center).
At the very back of the book, in Part Two, Armitage includes four pages of plant lists for various conditions: aggressive (such as helianthus and monarda which both tried to take over my flower beds), cut flowers, drought tolerant, foliage, fragrant, ground covers, moisture lovers, vines and winter interest. An index is provided for both botanical and common names.
The hardback is “coffee table” worthy.