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December 01, 1985|BARBARA SALTZMAN

VISIONS OF PARADISE by Marina Schinz (Stewart, Tabori & Chang: $39.95). Among the many pleasures of this beautifully designed and edited volume on "Themes and Variations on the Garden" is the meshing of word and pictures. Though photographer Schinz has been accorded the byline, the textual contributions of writer/landscape architect Susan Littlefield deserve more than passing mention, for they add considerably to the visions of earthly delights proffered by Schinz. As Schinz notes in her introduction, "gardening is an exercise in optimism. Sometimes, it is the triumph of hope over experience." The triumphs pictured here, however, illustrate real achievements in gardening, aspirations for which to aim. Many of the gardens illustrated, from Monet's at Giverny to Le Notre's Versailles to those of Vita Sackville-West and Gertrude Jeckyl to a myriad in between, are well beyond the reach of most mortals, but their ability to inspire is amply evident. Schinz's full-color photographs are achievements in their own right, rivaling many others of the same gardens. Presentation of "Visions of Paradise," from its organization to the obvious care in printing and reproduction, greatly enhances its allure. Chapters on the cottage, herb, kitchen and rose gardens are particular joys. Those on the perennial border, "English" garden and naturalized garden are almost palpable, visual assaults on the senses. Few recent efforts have been so successful at conveying the possibilities of gardening--from its potentials for artistry to its sensual delights.

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