A bumper crop of books on flowers, ferns, weeds

September 28, 1997|By Martha Smith | Martha Smith,PROVIDENCE JOURNAL-BULLETIN

Here's a sample of new books for gardeners.

* "100 English Roses for the American Garden," by Clair G. Martin. Workman Publishing, 264 pages. $16.95

Bet you didn't know there's a rose named for Brother Cadfael, the mystery-solving monk created by novelist Ellis Peters and embodied on screen by Sir Derek Jacoby. Well there is and it's a waxy pink shade that looks, well, rather sisterly.

It's a very beautiful book, designed in a slim, vertical way to give a left-hand page of text facing a full-color photo at right. All but a scattered few of the roses were created by the legendary hybridizer David Austen who also provides the foreword for the book.

The entries are arranged alphabetically and each page offers such information as availability, uses, stature and habit, and diseases.

* "Weeds of the Northeast," by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. DiTomaso. Cornell University Press. 396 pages. $29.95.

Everything you ever wanted to know about ragweed and more. Ah-choo! Seriously, this is the same sort of comprehensive guide long used to identify perennials and wildflowers except in this case the stars are weeds.

Most of the material in the book is the body of a master's thesis by Richard Uva, now a doctoral candidate at Cornell. The detail is meticulous: Each page of text explains the plant's life and purpose while each facing page offers full-color views of seeds, foliage, flower, if any, and habitat.

This is more a book for the serious botanist, student or for someone who likes to identify plants encountered during rambles through the woods.

* "Ferns for American Gardens: The Definitive Guide to Selecting and Growing More Than 500 Kinds of Hardy Ferns," by John Mickel. Macmillan. 370 pages. $24.95.

Talk about having your bona fides. Mickel, a former botany professor in the Midwest, has been curator of ferns for the New York Botanical Garden since 1968. This is the paperback version of his hardcover book first published in 1994 and, clearly, this is a topic that is his life's work.

"Ferns," he writes, "are undoubtedly the most overlooked and underutilized class of perennial garden plants. There is probably no other group with so little published modern information on its outdoor culture."

I'm sure he's right; I'm sure most people tend to think of a fern either as something that grows wild in the woods or as an easy-care houseplant good for filling a dark corner.

Mickel gently pushes aside the reader's ignorance and, through excellent text and color photos, shows how best to use ferns in your garden space and which varieties to choose.

I recommend this highly -- particularly for those thinking of putting in a water garden or struggling with the challenges of a shade bed.

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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