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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

December 17, 1995|CHRIS GOODRICH

THE TRANSPLANTED GARDENER: An American in England Looks at Hedges, Ha-Ha's, History, and More by Charles Elliott (Lyons & Burford: $22.95; 221 pp.). A scandal really, don't you know, but the bloom is off the English rose--by one estimate its cultivation in Britain has declined by 60%, down to a mere 20 million plants! Not to worry, though: The English garden is alive and well, and in this volume Charles Elliott has captured many of its charms. An expatriate American editor in London, Elliott gardens at a country home on the Welsh border, and there he finds himself a stranger in a strange land. He needs a shovel--but finds the standard, easy-to-use American version, long-handled and shield-spaded, is virtually unknown in Britain. He does battle with the ubiquitous English nettle, only to discover that it gravitates toward people because human bodies and excreta produce the phosphate they love. Editing a biography of Charles Darwin, he learns that the naturalist's most commercially successful book during his lifetime was neither "The Origin of Species" nor "The Descent of Man" but "The Formation of Mould Through the Action of Worms." Although most of the essays collected here were first published in Horticulture magazine, they are much too interesting to appear solely in the bush league.

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