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Minimalist landscapes

Tabletop Gardens 40 Stylish Plantscapes for Counters and Shelves, Desktops and Windowsills Rosemary McCreary Storey Publishing, $16.95

July 20, 2006|Lili Singer

As promised in its subtitle, this well-illustrated paperback delivers ideas for indoor landscapes intended for up-close enjoyment. As for style, all are easy to create using a minimum of materials -- plants, containers, stones -- with arresting form, texture and color.

Small-scale herbs are staged in urns, fancy-leaf begonias in pots that match their markings. Floating gardens in clear vessels expose plants with underwater roots. "Leafless stems, unusual blooms, dewy foliage and squiggly growth" fill a bog garden.

Although the recommended small succulents are very appropriate, they are plopped into pots with little flair. Terrariums filled with ferns and African violets or little primroses harken back to Victorian times and the 1970s.

Most plantings are long-lived, given optimum placement and proper upkeep as directed. The author, a Sonoma County garden writer who also teaches gardening, supplies detailed advice for building and maintaining each tabletop garden.

The most ephemeral examples -- dwarf narcissus in a bed of moss, a shallow grass garden edged in stone -- may last for only weeks or months. But all of the book's "plantscapes" last far longer than cut flowers and do it with great charm.

-- Lili Singer

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