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How Dry Is Your Garden

Word & Web

September 18, 1999|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

BOOKS

Fulcrum Publishing has a series of xeriscape books (the "Xeriscape Plant Guide" has probably been the most popular) and now brings a general, more complete addition to the group.

Gayle Weinstein's "Xeriscape Handbook" ($25, 1999) may not have a detailed flower and plant listing, but it does address most subjects conservation-conscious gardeners should be interested in. Xeriscaping is especially tuned to saving water, which always makes sense in Southern California.

Weinstein points out that picking the right plants isn't enough; you have to be diligent about landscaping decisions and ongoing maintenance. It can get fairly complicated creating the best conservation plan, but the author takes you through the process step by step. She starts with a detailed evaluation of the environment, whether it's a small plot or a huge backyard, and asks you to consider elements such as water flow, soil makeup, mulch and compost benefits and using recycled water that you may not think is even suitable for the garden.

Hilary Burns' "Cane, Rush and Willow: Weaving With Natural Materials" ($25, Firefly Books, 1999) is best suited for advanced crafters, but there are several projects that novices can tackle. For veterans with a well-stocked tool chest, Burns shows how these materials can be incorporated into chairs, arbors, sculptures, even small boats.

For those of more modest means, she lays out plans for creating baskets (some simple, others more involved), tassels, parcel wraps and bracelets. Besides basic and more sophisticated weaving techniques, the author explains how to prepare the cane, rush and willow stems, from drying to dyeing.

As for getting the stuff in the first place, she points out which varieties can be harvested by the truly ambitious. If that's too much, there's a long list of suppliers to call on.

THE WEB / Search Engine Pulls Its Weight

GardenWeb (http://www.gardenweb.com) has all the usual features: chat rooms, gardening tips, product info and an array of plant, flower, tree and shrub photos. But its best feature is the search engine that easily takes you to some of the country's best public gardens.

Just go to, say, the bonsai section and a list of gardens featuring examples of this Japanese technique comes up. From there, you can go on guided tours of many of the locations. The categories range from butterfly gardens to arboretums to herb gardens. There are also links to aquatic gardens and wetlands.

The online version of Ladies' Home Journal (http://www.lhg.com) has improved one of its most visited features, the Furniture Arranger. You can type in the measurements for any room in your house, then move images of furniture and other pieces around to get a virtual replica of the space.

Designers' tips appear automatically on the screen, and you can select armoires, beds, dressers, night stands, kids' furniture, file cabinets, bookcases, computers, rugs, lamps and other items. Although the process is free, there are, of course, links to the dealers if you want to buy any of the stuff.

To have a book or Web site considered for this column, send information to: Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Mark Chalon Smith can also be reached by e-mail at mark.smith@ latimes.com.

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