First-rate books have been published recently, one on garden design, one on how to grow house plants from seed and another an encyclopedia of garden plants.
"Landscape It Yourself - A Handbook for Home Gardeners," by Harold Givens (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 239 pages, illustrated, $17.95 cloth cover, $8.95 paperback).
Givens advocates using your own ideas to create a personalized garden to suit your lifestyle and to provide privacy and recreation.
"This book," he says, "is a clear and practical beginner's guide. It will show you how you can have a garden that will live and grow with you. The approaches discussed have been developed during 19 years of teaching landscape gardening.
"There have been great changes in garden design in recent years. Established rules are now broken as often as they are followed. However, the knowledge of classical rules of design is a valuable tool for implementing your own ideas."
"The Don't Throw It Grow It Book of Houseplants," by Millicent Selsam and Deborah Peterson (Random House, 142 pages, illustrated, $8.95).
This book gives specific, clear directions for growing house plants from pits or seeds or other plant parts.
Last winter the authors had sweet potato vines climbing up the window, beans, peas, lentils and peanuts sprouting in pie plates, casseroles boasting turnips, beets, radishes, kohlrabi and Jerusalem artichokes, and a row of fig trees growing in a plastic box.
"We have tried everything, but in this book we leave out our failures and tell you how to grow only the plants with which we have succeeded."
"Reader's Digest Encyclopedia of Garden Plants and Flowers," edited and designed by The Readers Digest Association (Norton, 799 pages, illustrated, $15).
This is a British encyclopedia and a first-rate one. It contains detailed descriptions of over 2,000 plants and many thousands of varieties. Most of these plants are equally at home in American gardens. There is one disadvantage: Many of the varieties most popular in England are not the ones grown in the U.S.A.
However, any American encyclopedia two or three years old will not include the new varieties of annuals, perennials and vegetables (there are many new introductions every year).
This book provides a wealth of information. There are more than 2,000 good full-color photographers and more than 800 black-and-white drawings giving on overall idea of growth habits.
Included is advice on how to prune and propagate, light, moisture and soil requirements, and hardiness of each of the species. All the facts a gardener needs to know are gathered in a comprehensive entry.
Every entry has been triple-checked by leading horticulturists, the editors say. However, latest research in the U.S. has shown a few of their conclusions to be in error. But it should be said that this is not serious enough to appreciably lessen the value of the book.