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Essays of a personal nature

Native Treasures Gardening With the Plants of California M. Nevin Smith University of California Press, $24.95

July 20, 2006|Lili Singer

The knowledge pool for Mediterranean-climate gardeners is now deeper and richer, thanks to this distinctive work.

Its format, unlike other valuable, new native-plant books, is not encyclopedic. The author, a distinguished horticulturist and nurseryman, is a Californian whose expertise stems from a lifelong observation of native plants in the wild and growing them in the nursery and garden. He calls his book, a collection of essays, techniques and plant profiles, "an ode to California and its plants."

The book opens with the basics on California's natural habitats as well as garden design, selection, care and propagation of native plants. The next section, "A Few of My Favorite Things," offers detailed writings on select trees, shrubs, sub-shrubs, perennials, bulbs, corms and annuals. Among them: "Toyon on My Mind," "Sages for the Senses," and "The Magic of Lilies."

The comments are passionate, reflective, loving and sometimes cutting, like those of a good, serious teacher. The layout is elegant, the photographs (most by the author) fabulous. Curious gardeners with a passion for beauty will not be disappointed.

--Lili Singer

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