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The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials

By Daniel J. Hinkley

Photographs by Lynne Harrison

Foreword by Roy Lancaster

[Hinkley's] prose melts like butter, his wit is outrageous, his knowledge is inviting and accessible.

Ketzel Levine, Plant Talk

Dan Hinkley's quest for distinctive plants has led him on expeditions to China, Korea, Nepal, Chile, and remote areas of North America. The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials presents the most fascinating perennials found during Hinkley's treks around the globe, describes the assets each plant brings to the garden, and explains how it is best cultivated and propagated. Illustrated with Hinkley's own splendid photographs as well as those of Lynne Harrison, this new paperback edition includes a new preface by the author and a completely updated list of sources for plant material.

Awards for this book: American Horticultural Society Book Award, New York Times Editor's Choice - Best Books for Gardening

Media reviews

"Reading the book is like taking a plant hunting trip with Hinkley."

—Pat Rubin, Sacramento Bee

"The whole world can be as close as your backyard when you look at it through Dan Hinkley's eyes."

—Kristine Moe, Seattle Times

"Graced by the author's formidable knowledge of botany, the book promises to satisfy the most demanding tendencies of today's gardener."

—Alice Joyce, Booklist

"This is just the kind of information we need to know ... It is experienced guidance in choosing amongst the hosts of available plants."

—Valerie Easton, Pacific Horticulture

"Hinkley manages to educate us about these beauties and oddities without being intimidating."

—Valerie Easton, Pacific Horticulture

"Hinkley, like all serious gardeners, knows that to understand how a plant behaves, you must first see how it grows in its native environment."

—Diana Dickinson, Country Gardens

"This is a plantsman's book, written for plant-lovers. ... There is no better source of information and inspiration than this volume."

—Tom Karwin, Monterey County Herald

"Dan is an engaging writer and passionate plantsman."

—Lili Singer, Southern California Horticultural Society Newsletter

"A wonderful safari through the lands of the uncommon ... Good photography and a good read."

Green Thumb Chatter

"I recommend this book…for any really keen gardeners in your circle."

Daily Telegraph (London)

"The dean of modern-day plant hunters is Daniel J. Hinkley. So it's with great excitement that the gardening world greets his first book, The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials."

Avant Gardener

"(The Explorer's Garden) is one of the truly great horticultural books of the twentieth century. It is fully as delectable as Ernest H. Wilson's A Naturalist in Western China (1913) or F. Kingdon Ward's Plant Hunting on the Edge of the World (1930), but one of the best things about it is that all the plants it describes are available to gardeners today ... (It) devotes a proper amount of attention to plants that are currently in high fashion among truly dedicated gardeners ... But what I found most exciting about this book is the great number of plants discussed in great detail that I have never even heard of. Reading about Saruma henryi, Stretopus amplexifolius, Disporopsis perneyi, and Triosteum himalayanum convinced me that gardening is inexhaustible, that we will never run out of new plants to try."

—Allen Lacy, Homeground

"His [Dan Hinkley's] enthusiasm shines ... Great!"

—Marty Figley, Michigan Observer and Eccentric

"More than just a handy reference, it's a compete guide to the plants he's discovered in his explorations."

—Janice Guerrasio, Log Homes Illustrated

"It is hard to imagine that anyone other than Hinkley, who has personally grown more than 9000 plants (and most of those included in this book), could offer better advice on hardiness, cultivation, and propagation."

—Patricia Jonas, Plants and Gardens News

"Witty text that is a true delight to read. His enthusiasm is contagious ... A must book for the plant collector and those in the trade that deal with unusual plants."

—Bill Funkhouser, Perennial Notes

"If you've ever read Dan Hinkley's yearly catalog then you are familiar with his wonderful prose which exudes with enthusiasm."

—Gary Keim, Hybrid

"His prose melts like butter, his wit is outrageous, his knowledge is inviting and accessible. Hinkley writes about plants with passion and humility, transforming hard earned data into pure delight."

—Ketzel Levine, Plant Talk

"But for plant lovers, (the chapter titles) will come as beguiling invitations to read on."

Trenton Times

"Clearly any book containing so much that is new yet detailed, scholarly yet personal, is going to be indispensable for any serious gardener with suitable conditions–and few of us lack at least one moist and shady corner in which to experiment with some of Hinkley's recommendations. ... It hasn't been pre-packaged. It isn't formulaic. And, by heaven! It positively heaves and throbs with a love and knowledge of 'his' plants."


"The horticultural cognoscenti throughout the Pacific Northwest have been panting for this book for months, which has only just been released."

—Steve Whysall, Vancouver Sun

"This is truly an exciting book, not only for the sense of adventure which Hinkley conveys to his readers, but also for the joy he shares in his writing."

—Ethel Fried, Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer

"The perennials in this book have come from all corners of the globe, North America, England, Chile, Nepal, China, Japan and other foreign lands. If you are wanting a preview of some newly discovered perennials that will be entering the culture of American gardens, this is the place to discover them."

—Russell Studebaker, Tulsa World

"[Dan Hinkley's] depth of knowledge, breadth of humor, and exuberant love for all things green — or, for that matter, variegated — translate well to the printed page, making this intriguing and informative new volume a must-have for anyone who wants to know more about unusual garden plants."

—Steve Silk, Fine Gardening

"In this wonderful book on rare and unusual perennial Daniel Hinkley takes his readers on fascinating journeys of plant exploration and discovery. ... Quality first-hand information from someone who has observed the plants in the wild and grown them in the garden, all spiced with wit and insightful opinion. ... Is The Explorer's Garden one of the best books on perennials ever written? You bet it is."

—Carl Hahn, American Gardener

"Hinkley has written a delightful and very informative book. ... Uncommon but striking species are presented with descriptions that convey why they have so thoroughly charmed the author. Many beautifully-printed color photographs are an additional, powerful attraction for the reader. ... Highly recommended."


"Engaging, witty prose."

—Karen Hugg, Northwest Garden News

"A wonderful gift for a gardener, it will inspire long, sweet green daydreams, and undoubtedly lead to the creative expansion of the garden come spring."

—Natalie Walsh, Schenectady Daily Gazette

"For the serious perennial gardener this book will be educational and inspirational."

University of Vermont Extension Book of the Month

"This is a picture book to read; a plant list to drool over; a collector's dream come true. Read it with awe."

—Mary Hoffman, Hardy Plant Society of Oregon Bulletin

"Any plant lover will savor this book."

American Herb Association Quarterly Newsletter

"His writing is a fine balance of sensitive description, story-telling, and hands-on knowledge of the plants, flavoured with the excitement of discovery."

—Ann Milovsoroff, Pappus

"It is a marvelous collection.…It is a story of a man's wonderment in the plant kingdom, how it started and where it is still leading."

—Lani Morris, Into the Garden

"Like Hinkley's voluminous Heronswood Nursery Catalog, this book, written with inimitable style and wit, comprises a virtual candy store for collectors and plant addicts."

—Larry Lee, University of California Botanical Garden Newsletter

"This key figure in America's gardening renaissance shares the excitement of first encountering a plant in its native habitat, and offers useful advice on the assets each plant brings to the garden and on how it is best cultivated and propagated."

—James A. Baggett, Rebecca's Garden

"To review a book so meticulously compiled and so competently and wonderfully written is hardly a challenge. No biting criticisms are needed here. Quite simply, this book stands far and away from a largely mediocre and often poorly edited, ever-burgeoning mass of garden-oriented books."

—Todd Lasseigne, Rock Garden Quarterly

"The book is delightfully written, beautifully illustrated."

—Paula Panich, Dirt

"This is a marvelous volume of permanent value which belongs in the library of all who eschew the ordinary."

—John Swenson, Current Books on Gardening and Botany

"A must book for the plant collector and those in the trade that deal with unusual plants."

—Bill Funkhouser, Perennial Notes

"If you've ever read Dan Hinkley's yearly catalog then you are familiar with his wonderful prose which exudes with enthusiasm."

—Gary Keim, Hybrid

"Anyone who has ventured beyond the long-established favorite perennials and tried some less known and less grown beauties should be enthralled at finding so many new and enticing treasures, many of which can be tried in his or her garden."

—Jean S. Wexler, Vineyard Gazette

"To review a book so meticulously compiled and so competently and wonderfully written is hardly a challenge. No biting criticisms are needed here. Quite simply, this book stands far and away from a(n) ... ever-burgeoning mass of garden-oriented books. ... Even the omnipresent hardy geraniums are treated unconventionally, exposing the reader to new and unfamiliar cultivars. ... In short, buy this book for your horticultural library. Buy it for your friends. Buy it for Lynn Harrison's (and Dan's) sumptuous, flawless, and artistic photography. Buy it so Dan can write the follow-up woody plant volume! Most of all, however, buy this book to gain a better understanding of our lone planet's marvelous and awe-inspiring plant diversity and of each constituent species' uniqueness–this all contributing to a constant enrichment of our gardens."

—Todd Lasseigne, Trillium

"This book will become a 'must have' for herbaceous plants enthusiasts."

—John Simmons, Garden (Peterborough)

"This book will interest perennial lovers everywhere, extolling the virtues of plants that enjoy a cool, moisture-rich climate such as that encountered on the northwest coast."

—Jane Sterndale-Bennett, Hardy Plant

About the author

Daniel J. Hinkley

Daniel J. Hinkley writes for numerous horticultural publications and is in high demand as a speaker throughout North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. He has been awarded the Scott Medal, the Liberty Hyde Bailey Award, and the Veitch Memorial Medal, among others. He serves as horticultural consultant to Monrovia Growers and to several design firms, including Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, Portico, and The Berger Partnership.

Read more about Daniel J. Hinkley

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