The surest sign of spring

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March 01, 1998|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN STAFF

The publication of new gardening books this time of year is as sure a sign of spring as the first robin. The current crop includes even more practical guides than usual to get beginners started or to help experienced gardeners improve their techniques. Here are some of the best:

You knew it was coming -- more gardening books from the Dummies Books people. The series' latest entries are "Annuals for Dummies," "Container Gardening for Dummies" and "Lawn Care for Dummies" (Dummies Press, $16.99 each). They each have the features that have made Dummies Books so successful: a jazzy, easy-to-follow layout; lots of down-to-earth advice; and icons that flag quick tips, important information and warnings. And these three new books have color photographs as well.

A series of concise books aimed at beginning gardeners is new from Ortho Easy-Step Books, including "Landscape Design," "Roses," "Lawns" and "Vegetables" (Sterling Publishing, $4.95 each). These pack a lot of information into a small amount of space with the help of color graphics and photographs. They have all the basics, including planting charts and glossaries; but experienced gardeners won't find much new here.

Something that is genuinely new is the American Horticulture Society's heat zone map. H. Marc Cathey's "Heat-Zone Gardening" (Time-Life Books, $24.95) explains how to use it to choose plants that will thrive in specific climates and landscapes. He also has good advice on dealing with drought and summer heat.

Finally, for everyone who loves insider tips (and who doesn't) there are Barbara Blossom Ashmun's "200 Tips for Growing Beautiful Perennials" and "200 Tips for Growing Beautiful Roses" (Chicago Review Press, $7.95). Ashmun is a professional garden designer and consultant, and a frequent contributor to national gardening magazines. These books are as sweet as they are useful, and are good choices for pretty but practical gifts.

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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