THE WEEKEND GARDENER by Peter McHoy and Roger Swain (Harper & Row: $19.95; 192 pp.).
THE GARDENER'S PALETTE, edited by Brian Carter, based on an original idea by Jasmine Taylor (Rainbird/Doubleday: $14.95; 160 pp.).
In tandem, "Weekend" and "Palette" offer the gardening equivalent of "grazing ": enough to tantalize the appetite but not quite a full-course meal. "Weekend's" introduction to the basics of gardening is a good starting point, with 23 kinds of garden plans, from long narrow gardens and country gardens to large, sloping gardens, compact gardens and city retreats. Roughly 30 pages on plants barely touch on the variety available, but that's where "Palette" comes in.
"The Gardener's Palette" promises more than "600,000 color combinations for your garden." The beauty of this book is its innovative design, which should help both beginning and experienced gardeners visualize how a specific plant will work in a specific place. Spiral pages are divided in flip-over fourths by plant height, with plants grouped by season. Clear descriptions of 292 plants, combined with key symbols delineating sun or shade requirements, type of foliage and growth, make entries particularly helpful; full-color drawings show size and spread as well as close-up views of flowers and/or leaves. While you might quibble with some plant descriptions (fuchsias as full-sun plants, for example), by and large, this is an ingenious means of helping you plan your garden intelligently--for color, season and space. Together, "Weekend Gardener" and "Gardener's Palette" should send you to the nursery well prepared for the myriad choices awaiting you.