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A good book in winter is a balm for gardeners

Email|Print| Text size + By Carol Stocker
Globe Correspondent / December 13, 2007

Everyone's caught up with the rigors of holiday shopping and celebrating right now. But after that, thoughts will turn - as they always do - to dreams of warm, lush climes. The gardeners in your life especially will be looking forward to the first days of spring. Here are a few beautiful and useful garden book titles to tide them over.

"A Pattern Garden: The Essential Elements of Garden Making," by Valerie Easton (Timber Press, $39.95) proposes 14 design elements that can make the difference between a soul-satisfying garden and one that's merely attractive. These include garden gates, patios, reflecting pools, bridges, and curving paths, each involving a transition. (Easton will headline an all-star symposium on this subject Feb. 10 in Wellesley. Call 877-436-7764.)

Like Native American tribes before them, native American trees are being wiped out by diseases from abroad. The American chestnut and elm are gone; the American hemlock, ash, and butternut are going. "A Natural History of North American Trees," by Donald Culross Peattie (Houghton Mifflin, $40), combines two classic books from the 1950s, along with their handsome period illustrations. In the six decades since Peattie wrote these memorably acute essays on America's forests, his worst fears have been exceeded.

Some people resuscitate old gardens imperiled by neglect. But it's a garden designer that Wellesley historian Allyson Hayward has rescued from oblivion with the terrific biography "Norah Lindsay: The Life and Art of a Garden Designer" (Frances Lincoln, $65). Lindsay (1873-1948) was a British socialite forced to support herself when her marriage failed. So she turned her hobby into a career and tapped her social circle for clients, who included Otto von Bismarck and Consuelo Vanderbilt. Hayward has unearthed family letters and 300 photographs.

Janis Ruksans has contended with armed rebels and corrupt government agents throughout Eurasia to retrieve "the world's choicest bulbs" for his international mail order business based in Latvia. He describes his quests in "Buried Treasures" (Timber Press, $39.95). "Down to Earth with Helen Dillon" (Timber Press, $29.95) features witty and instructive essays by this esteemed garden maker based in Dublin.

"Fallscaping: Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn," by Nancy J. Ondra and Stephanie Cohen (Storey Publishing, $22.95), will inspire gardeners to make the most of New England's most glorious season.

Evergreen conifers are wildly popular, with 1,300 species and varieties currently jostling in the marketplace. But some grow too big and some grow too slow. Which are just right? "Conifers for Gardens" by Richard L. Bitner (Timber Press, $59.95) will tell you. However, I would have liked more attention to deer resistance in this book and in the equally encyclopedic "Perennials: The Gardener's Reference," by Susan Carter, Carrie Becker, and Bob Lilly (Timber Press, $49.50). There are even more varieties of perennial flowers than conifers, so use this book to identify new and outstanding performers. Then just google their names to find mail order sources. It's never been so easy to get the best garden plants!

Suppose you could make high-fashion footwear out of flower petals instead of leather? That's what conceptual photographer by Michel Tcherevkoff has done in "Shoe Fleur: A Footwear Fantasy" (Welcome Books, $34.95) by using Adobe Photoshop and other computer programs to manipulate vegetative images into, yes, shoe designs that are witty, weird, and winning.

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