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Botanical masterpiece

A Year at Kew Rupert Smith BBC Books, $24.95

September 23, 2004|Lili Singer

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is widely regarded as the world's finest public garden. For centuries, many of the best botanists, horticulturists and garden designers have studied, worked and trained there. Last year, Kew Gardens was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- an honor shared by Stonehenge, the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids.

Currently, Kew's plant collections, conservatories, landscapes and historic buildings in the southwestern corner of London, as well as its "country cousin," Wakehurst Place in Sussex, can be seen in the BBC2 television series "A Year at Kew," on which this lovely book is based.

Twelve chapters, running January to December, include floral highlights, seasonal gardening practices, ongoing research, conservation efforts and subjects ranging from bees to tree care to giant waterlilies. Though seasons at Kew don't jibe with ours, the author's text is poetic, the photos are crisp, and first-person essays by staff members are especially engaging.

*

-- L.S.

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