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A SPRING GARDENING SAMPLER | Books

Latest Prose May Plant a Few New Ideas

April 01, 1999|ROBERT SMAUS | TIMES GARDEN EDITOR

There are two distinct crops of garden books--one that arrives in fall, followed by another deluge in spring.

This spring the harvest is so big, I can only mention a few that I found useful in our unique climate or fascinating even if the books aren't geared to the Southland. As many have discovered, practical books written in England--or in other parts of this country--sometimes make little sense here.

The highlights:

* "Pests of the Garden and Small Farm," by Mary Louise Flint (University of California Press, $35), was written for us. It's not only practical and useful, but intriguing and surprisingly readable, considering the subject.

This revised edition will help you identify, learn the life history of and safely control just about every garden bad guy. Keep this one on the workbench, next to the BT and trowel. To order, call (800) 994-8849.

* "Earth on Her Hands," by Starr Ockenga (Carkson Potter, $55), shows 18 American women's gardens, including one in Pasadena. The gardeners and their stories are as much an inspiration as are their lovely gardens.

* "The Gardener's Atlas," by John Grimshaw (Firefly Books, $29.95), shows and explains how flowers and shrubbery got into gardens in the first place, and where they came from, with maps and photos.

* "The Book of Flowers," by historian Catherine Donzel (Flammarion, $50), is not about gardening at all, but flowers after the fact--their impact on life, art, literature, design and fashion. This French book is a visual tour de force, handsomely designed and illustrated. Keep this one safely inside on the coffee table.

* "My Favorite Plant," edited by Jamaica Kincaid (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $20), is an elegant little inch-thick collection of essays by writers and gardeners on their pet plants, from castor beans to hellebores.

* "More Writers in the Garden," edited by Jan Garmey (Highbridge, $17.95), is an audiotape for those who would rather listen to essays on gardening. It's got three hours' worth, written by such greats as Alan Lacy and Christopher Lloyd. To order, call (800) 667-8433.

* "Tools of the Earth," by Jeff Taylor (Chronicle Books, $25), isn't really about gardening either but is a witty book on garden tools (his wife's the gardener). "Someone has been digging in the compost pile, and all evidence points to a certain bad dog," is how one chapter begins.

* "The Houseplant Expert," by D.G. Hessayon (Expert Books, $17.95), is for those who garden indoors. Although a British book, it is useful here and couldn't be packed with any more information. There are practically no margins!

* "Garden Room Style," by Peter Marston (Rizzoli, $35), is an unusually pretty picture book showing dreamy ways to use plants indoors.

* "The Art of the Kitchen Garden," by Jan and Michael Gertley (Tauton Books, $29.95), suggests how to make the homely vegetable garden as pretty as a prom queen, with classic knot patterns and other refinements.

* "The Great Tomato Book," by Sheila Buff (Burford Books, $16.95), is for those who care not a whit about the vegetable garden's looks; they just want big tomatoes and lots of them. The subtitle-- "The Ultimate Guide for the Tomato-Obsessed"--says it all.

* "The Gardener's Computer Companion," by Bob Boufford (No Starch Press, $39.95), is for those who do most of their reading on the glowing screen. It lists on-line information sources, design programs and the like, and includes a CD-ROM.

With it, or with any of these others, you can garden during the day and keep at it well into the night.

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