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A bountiful bouquet of garden book gifts

By Joel M. Lerner, Washington Post
Published December 8, 2007


Brooklyn Botanic Garden's gardening series released three handbooks in 2007. They are Wildflower Gardens, Hummingbird Gardens and Buried Treasures: Tasty Tubers of the World. BBG has published handbooks for more than 60 years. These paperbacks are about 100 pages long, with many high-quality, full-color photographs and illustrations. Great stocking stuffers. Cost: $9.95 each.

Wildflower Gardens is a collection of three- to five-page essays by well-known garden writers. Designing in sun, partial shade and shade are covered. Various kinds of wildflower gardens are discussed, including borders, beds, bogs, meadows, prairies and rockeries. Sixty wildflowers are identified, and instructions for care and planting are included.

Hummingbird Gardens, primarily written by Stephen W. Kress, vice president for bird conservation at the National Audubon Society, includes essays by experts with experience from across the country.

Buried Treasures: Tasty Tubers of the World is about root crops you might never have considered eating. Some of the nut-size tubers are not only tasty but are also a way to control weeds, such as nutsedge, and to grow food crops almost year-round. This is a complete collection of information from experts about edible roots, from the common to the obscure.

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Here are some other garden books that would make good gifts.

Venetian Gardens, a 175-page, hardcover reference book written by Mariagrazia Dammicco and photographed by Marianne Majerus, delivers captivating impressions of back yards, entries and street scenes in Venice, including architecture and ornamental horticulture in this city of more than 500 secret gardens and 118 islands connected by 410 bridges. (Flammarion, $45)

The Garden at Night: Private Views of Public Edens, a 176-page, hardcover coffee-table tome photographed by Linda Rutenberg, captures public garden scenes at times few people experience them - at night. Includes Longwood, Chicago Botanic, Descanso, Fairchild Tropical Botanic and Huntington Botanical. (Chronicle Books, $40)

The Magic of Monet's Garden: His Planting Plans and Color Harmonies, by Derek Fell, offers a window into the mind of one of the great impressionist painters of the 19th and 20th centuries and one of the most gifted flower gardeners of the 20th century. At first Monet gardened to reproduce specimens as still life. Then he discerned how colors could be manipulated outdoors, and he began to paint his favorite subjects in both indoor and outdoor motifs. This hardcover book has 160 pages. (Firefly Books, $35)

Success With Shade-Loving Plants, by Graham Clarke, is for people who want to ameliorate heavy shade, find flora that will grow in the low light of a woodland garden or thrive on the north side of a house. This beautifully photographed paperback shows plants that will bring year-round color to a woodland garden. Clarke covers more than 100 shade-tolerant plants. The 160 pages and more than 200 color photographs and illustrations contain suggestions you might never have thought to try. His suggestions are colored by his residence and gardening in England and reflect a European plant palette. Several are favorites of mine: golden hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra "Aureola"), with yellow leaves that look as if the sun is shining on them; false forget-me-not (Brunnera macrophylla), with large, year-round leathery foliage and blue flowers in spring; and Arum (A. italicum "Pictum"), with white veins on deep-green leaves. (Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, $14.95)

Pots in the Garden, by Ray Rogers, is a library of container plantings that teaches landscape-design techniques with pots, using plants of all varieties. Rogers offers lists of bulbs, shrubs, trees and vines. The ideas are illustrated with 240 full-color photographs. He begins with the principles of color combinations in fully designed settings. (Timber Press, $29.95)