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NONFICTION : THE HOUSE & GARDEN BOOK OF BEAUTIFUL GARDENS ROUND THE WORLD by Peter Coats (Little, Brown: $29.95).

March 16, 1986|BARBARA SALTZMAN

If nothing else, garden designer Coats' personal tour of some of the most magnificent gardens in the world reveals what money and taste can accomplish. Most of those pictured--in gloriously true color shot primarily by Coats--reveal that while big can be better, design makes the difference between good and great. The 60 gardens selected, traversing more than 20 countries, invite repeated browsing (though some of the verbiage cries for clippers). All reveal--from Monet's gardens at Giverney to a reconstruction of Mogul opulence in India to the glorious touch of English landscapers--the fascination that the taming and re-styling of nature has had for us for centuries.

The irony of all these wondrous monuments to wealth, power and grandeur, however, cannot be lost on modern sensibilities. Witness the bloody hand wrought by begonias in Northern Ireland and South Africa's "Fairest gardens in 'the fairest Cape' "; even the beauty of nature cannot compensate for our cruelty to each other.

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