A current stack of gardening books explores not only techniques but reasons that drive gardeners:
- "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance," said Ophelia. "And there is pansies, that's for thoughts." Shakespeare's mad heroine wasn't so demented that she forgot floral tradition. Ancient Greeks wore rosemary wreaths on their heads to improve their memory, and pansies' name is derived from the French penser, or to think. "The Secret Language of Flowers: Rediscovering Traditional Meanings" (Rizzoli), by Shane Connolly, with photographs by Jan Baldwin, explores the origins of the floral symbolism and suggests arrangements to create when you're trying to send someone that special message.
- They are symbols of beauty. A war was named after them. And they have always enchanted gardeners and non-gardeners alike. In "Roses: A Celebration" (North Point Press) 33 gardener-writers offer their feelings and expertise about the many variations of these popular flowers. Among contributors is the late Graham Stuart Thomas, one of the best-known rosarians of recent years, who has written about his favorite, Souvenir de St. Anne's. Edited by Wayne Winterrowd, this volume is illustrated by paintings by Pamela Stagg in 19th-century horticultural style.
- Continuing his exposition of the gardens that inspired the French impressionists, Derek Fell offers "Cezanne's Garden" (Simon & Schuster). In words and photographs, Fell examines Paul Cezanne's family home, the Jas de Bouffan, located in Aix-en-Provence, and shows how the gardens there were reflected in the painter's art.
- Gardens are undeniably beautiful, the British poet Jenny Joseph says, but it's the aromas that excite her. "Led by the Nose: A Garden of Smells" (Souvenir Press/IPG) is her book of essays and observations of the perfumes (and sometimes the stinks) that are part of the gardening experience.
- Most of them are nothing like you will be tending at home, but "Gardens of the World: Two Thousand Years of Garden Design" (Flammarion), by Jean Paul Pigeat, is a tour-in-print of grand palatial, public and a few private gardens. Among them are the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy, the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, and Versailles in France. The author points out that many historic gardens were meant to display wealth, and that tradition continues today in corporate gardens such as the one at Pepsico headquarters in Purchase, N.Y. Pigeat urges readers to look at other great gardens in public view, such as New York City's Central Park, Kew Gardens outside London, and those at amusement parks like the Disneyland near Paris and Tivoli in Copenhagen.
- In the same mood, Michael Brix looks at the era of geometric garden design in pre-Revolutionary France. In "The Baroque Landscape" (Rizzoli), Brix focuses on Andre Le Notre, creator of the gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte and later, Versailles. The principles he established went on to influence 17th and 18th century royal parks and gardens throughout Europe.
- Those little trees get a big book this season. "Classic Bonsai of Japan" (Kodansha International) from the Nippon Bonsai Association and translated by John Bester, is a celebration of some of the finest specimens of this ancient art that miniaturizes trees and plants by pruning and other growth control methods.
- Despite the best-laid plans, your garden may not perform up to snuff. "Gardener's Problem Solver: Expert Answers to Real-Life Gardening Dilemmas" (Reader's Digest), by Miranda Smith, will help you define and fix troublesome areas. Perhaps the soil is depleted, or the site isn't right for what you wanted to put in it. The plants won't produce as promised. Or there are too many bugs and diseases. Smith offers not only answers but instructions to help you achieve remedies.
- "Flower Gardening" (Reader's Digest), by Julie Bawden-Davis, is a basic reference and starting point when you're determined to turn the yard into your personal little Versailles. She offers plans and advice on design, maintenance, selection, and the rest. There's also a gazetteer of suggested annuals, biennials and perennials, bulbs, shrubs and vines, aquatic flowers, and ornamental grasses.
- Perhaps the most popular among exotic flowers is the orchid, in all its permutations. Once produced only by horticultural professionals, the orchid is now within the capabilities of the weekend gardener. Wilma and Brian Rittershausen explore the field in "Orchids for Every Home" (Reader's Digest), which showcases the variety of orchids available and how to care for them.
- "Pruning Trees, Shrubs & Vines" (Sterling Publishing), by Karan Davis Cutler, is the latest practical guide under the aegis of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The book explains the basics of plant growth and pruning techniques. The book has plant-by-plant pruning tips, as well as discussions about pleaching, pollarding, hedge pruning, topiaries and espaliers.
- Gardening is for kids, too. "Holly Bloom's Garden" (Flashlight Press/IPG), by Sarah Ashman and Nancy Parent with illustrations by Lori Mitchell, is a picture storybook for young readers about Holly's horticultural learning curve.
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