Landscaping with Container Plants, by Jim Wilson (Houghton Mifflin, $35). Like many contemporary garden books, this one is three parts inspiration to one part practical advice. The inspiration comes in the form of glossy photos (verdant Soho rooftops, lush Vancouver Island windowboxes) and cheerleader prose. Here, for example, is Wilson (host of PBS's "Victory Garden South") on ingenious alternatives to terra cotta pots: "Convert an old birdhouse into a hanging basket, fill a stone sink or a cracked kettle with flowers, or grow salad greens in an old horse trough or a wooden bushel basket." The practical advice includes tips on how to water a roof garden without a faucet, lists of suitable plants for container planting, detailed information on artificial soils, fertilizers, plant diseases and wintercare. A bonus for the pure of heart: Wilson offers organic alternatives to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

A Patchwork Garden: Unexpected Pleasures From a Country Garden, by Sydney Eddison (Harper & Row, $19.95). "My textbook was trial and error -- lots of the latter," Sydney Eddison writes. "When you first embark on garden-making, you are dealing with all sorts of elements about which you know next to nothing." Patchwork Garden is an account of how Eddison and her husband created a garden after buying a house on eight acres in Connecticut. The project was complicated by two things -- Eddison's husband, Martin, hated the outdoors and she herself had never gardened. This winning book is her account of the process, from clearing land ("a clearing in New England is nothing but a forest waiting for you to turn your back") to the realization almost 30 years later that "the picture we associate with an individual garden and garden-maker may disappear. But in the best of all possible world, another will take its place . . ."

A World of Plants: the Missouri Botanical Garden, with essays by Charlene Bry, Marshall R. Crosby and Peter Loewer and photographs by Kiku Obata (Abrams, $39.95). In St. Louis, where it is located, the Missouri Botanical Garden (the nation's oldest) goes by the name of Shaw's Garden, after the trader-millionaire who established it in 1859. This combination of essays and photos takes the reader through the garden's numerous subdivisions: the Japanese Garden, the Climatron (a huge, dome-covered greenhouse), the Desert House and more. Among the period photographs is one of a Victorian-era couple, he holding his straw boater and she her plumed chapeau, each standing on the stout pad of an enormous water lily.

America's Cottage Gardens: Imaginative Variations on Classic Garden Style, by Patricia Thorpe, photographs by Even Sonneman (Random House, $29.95). In England, writes Patricia Thorpe, cottage gardeners were begun by people "simply learning to garden and trying to make the most of a little space." Later, in the 19th century, cottage gardening became chic and the wealthy created their versions of the simple gardens of the poor. This book is about the search for American gardens created in the spirit of the original cottage gardens -- "small, personal, individual, eccentric, spontaneous gardens created by amateurs." Some of the gardens illustrated in this book are the equivalent of folk art -- Beatrice Wyatt's garden of painted rocks in Ventura, Calif. Others -- Helen Gurion's garden in Cooperstown, N.Y. -- are more traditional. All are evidence of the individual spirts of their creators.

10,000 Garden Questions Answered by 20 Experts, edited by Marjories J. Dietz (Harper & Row, $32.50). Here is more than 1,500 pages (including the index) of gardening advice. Presented in question and answer format, this comprehensive guide covers 14 areas -- from soil to lawns to annuals and perennials to weeds -- of interest to the gardener. There is also a section devoted to regional gardening problems and one with sources for further information -- books, county agricultural agents and sources for seeds and plants.

The Wildflower Gardener's Guide: Northeast, Great Lakes, and Eastern Canada Edition, by Henry W. Art (Storey Communications, Inc., Pownal, Vt. 05261; $22.95, $12.95 paperback. The trend toward indigenous gardening -- i.e., shunning exotics in favor of native plants -- is given impetus by this well-illustrated handbook. It includes detailed instructions for cultivating 32 wildflower species, among them Dutchman's breeches (which indeed look like little undergarments hung on a line), the downward-pointing eastern columbine and the fluer de lis-like bunchberry. But the author adds a caution about sources: "Plants growing in their native habitats should never be dug up for the garden." Not only is such poaching unethical; it might well be illegal under state law or the federal Endangered Species Act. Rather, backyard botanists should carefully collect seeds from wild specimens or patronize one of the growing number of natural nurseries. Also available, in paperback only at $12.95 each, are similar guidebooks to southwestern and northwestern wildflowers for the garden.