1990's Has Bumper Crop Of Books For Plant Lovers

December 01, 1990|By Amalie Adler Ascher

This has been a banner year for garden books, with new publications and some reissues of classic old favorites offering solid informational mate-rial and pictures to knock your eyes out. Choices won't come easy, sohere, to help you with your holiday shopping, is a sampling of what'sin store.

"The Wise Garden Encyclopedia" (Harper Collins, $39.95),now completely revised and updated, combines descriptions of a long list of plants, denoting their characteristics, principal species and enemies and often their culture; directions for carrying out various procedures such as pruning, propagating and fertilizing;and explanations of gardening terms. The text is liberally sprinkled with line drawings and includes a section of photographs in color.

"10,000 Garden Questions," edited by Marjorie Dietz (Harper & Row, $32.50) and now revised and updated, is a book I wouldn't be without. Its scope is amazing, with few issues left unanswered. With this 1,507-page volume in hand, you should be pretty well able to solve by yourself most of the problems you'd otherwise need help with.

Donald Wyman's name on a book is in itself enough to assure quality. His "Trees for American Gardens" (Macmillan, $50), now revised and expanded, is generally considered the definitive work on the subject. Examining trees from every angle -- their colors, shapes, fruit and flower production, conditions fostering growth and well-being and the various purposes they serve -- and providing lists of trees to favor and those to reject, the book points the way to selecting trees for every situation.

The reissue of the works of two other celebrated plant experts is also worth noting. They are Louise Beebe Wilder's "Color in My Garden" (Atlantic Monthly Press, $29.95) and Graham Stuart Thomas' "Plants for Ground-Cover" (Sagapress/Timber Press, 9999 S.W. Wilshire, Portland, Ore. 97225; $26.95 plus $3 handling) which run the gamut from shrub to flowering types.

Siting trees and composing plants generally, and carrying the procedures out in an environmentally responsible way only scratches the surface of the material contained in "Rodale's Illustrated Encylopedia of Gardening and Landscaping Techniques" ($26.95). From soil specifics to propagation and pest control, and the nurturing of everything from herbs, lawns and house plants to outdoor ornamentals, the book leaves no stone unturned in preparing the reader to develop a green thumb.

Also new from Rodale Press are "Foolproof Planting" ($22.95), which gives directions for propagating more than 250 vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs, and "Flower Garden Problem Solver," by Jeff and Liz Ball ($24.95). The male member of the duo is a plant expert on the "Today" show.

"Gardening America" ($40), by Ogden Tanner, Viking's entry in the landscaping market, takes you on a pictorial journey from coast to coast to view wonderous settings that overwhelm you with their voluptuousness. The text identifies many of the plants in the gardens and also analyzes styles and influencing forces.

Ready to help you design a landscape that expresses your own personal taste, from Little, Brown, are "Town Gardens," by Caroline Boisset ($40), and "Creating Formal Gardens," by Roy Strong ($35). Henry Holt is offering "Private Gardens," by David Stevens ($29.95). All are handsomely illustrated in color and rich in information and detail.

In Ms. Boisset's book, you'll learn how to frame entrances, enlarge on space, mask walls and situate furniture and architectural features. Mr. Stevens takes you through the steps of planning an outdoor living space and also tells you how to keep it in trim with the least effort. Mr. Strong demonstrates that grounds needn't be vast to convey a sense of elegance. It's the elements in a garden, he says, that give it grandeur, and he spells out what they are.

In the category of art books but offering substance as well are "A World of Plants" (Harry N. Abrams, $39.95), a tour of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the next best thing to a visit, and "Botanical Masters," by William T. Stearn (Prentice Hall, $24.95), including a history of botanical art and featuring 56 illustrations from wildflowers to orchids by masters working at one time or another at England's famous Royal Botanic Garden at Kew.

Also notable are "Alba, The Book of White Flowers," by Deni Bown (Timber Press, $32.95 plus $3 for shipping, address above), which encourages greater appreciation of so-called colorless flowers (which on looking deeper you find aren't lacking in color at all); and the incredible "Classic Bonsai of Japan," by Nippon Bonsai Association (Kodansha; $100), comparable in quality to a fine album of Old Master paintings.

For flower arrangers, there's "Floral Keepsakes," a collection of wonderfully creative dried designs by Sunny O'Neil (Sedgewood Press; $23.95 including shipping and available from her at P.O. Box 504, Mount Vernon, Ohio 43050.)

Baltimore's own June Robison Kahl offers "Flower Design Made Easy" (Prospect Hill, also of Baltimore, $14.95), which gives explicit step-by-step instructions for reproducing the arrangements required.

"Wreaths" documents the kind that know no season and should therefore provide inspiration for decorating the year round. It's by Richard Kollath (Houghton Mifflin, $12.95).

And for pure reading pleasure, the eloquently written "The Garden in Autumn," by Allen Lac (Atlantic Monthly, $29.95); "The Startling Jungle," by Stephen Lacey (David R. Godine, $19.95); and "A Gentle Plea for Chaos," by Mirable Osler (Simon & Schuster, $22.95), should help keep a gardener enthralled till spring.

Also a delight is "The Country Diary of Garden Lore," by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer (Summit Books, $16.95).

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