Three outstanding books now available make wonderful gifts for gardeners. One is about the plants of the Bible, with 113 full-page watercolor illustrations; another is a dictionary of landscape plants, with 771 photographs in full color; the third is about Antarctica, a big book filled with color photographs of birds, seals, whales, the seas and ice of the country at the bottom of the world.
"All the Plants of the Bible," by Winifred Walker (Doubleday, 240 pp, $14.95).
The late Winifred Walker was an internationally known, award-winning botanical artist and official artist to the English Royal Horticultural Society of Westminster, in England. In 1939, she was invited to bring her collection of Shakespeare's Flowers to America. Her lovely watercolor paintings were destroyed when her ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Waker soon won acclaim for creating a large new collection of flowers of California and became artist-in-residence at the University of California.
"From earliest childhood I had been swayed by the rhythm of the woods from the Scriptures," she says in her book. "What, I wondered, were the costly frank-incense and myrrh borne by the Wise Men from the East on their pilgrimage to the Babe at Bethlehem? I determined to locate every plant mentioned in the Bible, and five years of research made it possible for me to paint the illustrations in this book."
All the illustrations are from life, she says, except the balm, bdellium, spikenard and frankincense, which had to be portrayed from pressed specimens lent by the University of California herbariums at Berkeley and Westwood.
Accompanying each illustration is a full description of the plant along with its place in history, its growing habits and modern-day use.
"Trees and Shrubs for Western Gardens," by Gordon Courtright (Timber Press, distributed by ISBS, Inc., P.O. Box 555, Forest Grove, Oregon 97116, 239 pp, 9 1/2 by 11 inches, $42.50).
Courtright has been a licensed nurseryman in California for 38 years, and his book, a dream of 25 years, is the result of studying people who came to the nursery hunting plants but wanting all the same size plants to display together in a given area. This book divides the plants into the height they grow.
Actually, many of the plants included in the book are at home in the East and as far north as Zone 3 with winter temperatures of 30 to 40 degrees below zero F.
The book is divided into sections by typical height and type, growth characteristics are identified, and a planting guide is provided with broad cultural requirements of the plant, exposure to sun, drainage and soil requirements.
"Antarctica -- No Single Country, No Single Sea," by Creina Bond and Roy Siegfried (Mayflower Books, 176 pp, 9 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches, illustrated with photographs a full color taken by Peter Johnson, a renowned natural history photographer of South Africa, $27.50).
Siegfried is a member of the science faculty at the University of Cape Town, and Creina Bond has been editor of African Wildlife magazine for the past eight years.
The Antarctic continent and the seas surrounding it are regions of fantastic beauty of immense scientific interest and contain stores of natural resources, some of them renewable, some nonrenewable, according to the authors. r
It is so different from the familiar countries of the earth it could be another planet. The sky swings and whirls with color, ice crystals in the air play tricks with the light so that there seems to be not one sun but many suns, there are arcs and haloes and a night with a ring of moons. Lakes of brine explode with the cold. The sea is solid but the solid sea moves, and solid rivers collide with the sea.
"Not until 1978 was the first human born among Antarctica's glaciers and icefields," the authors say, "for 121 years before that men died in the snows, their corpses so well preserved in their white graves that they passed into the future unchanged by death.
"Antarctic blurs the boundaries of time -- yesterday and today are easily confused when the frozen relics of the past 5,000 years drift past in an iceberg. Even the water boiling in the kettle may have been quarried among the blizzards of those long-ago summers when Captain James Cook first sailed into the Indian Ocean . . . a cup of water may contain water of 1772 vintage.
"In 1959, 12 nations drafted a contract without precedent. It led to the ratification of the Antarctic Treaty in 1961 -- dedicating the continent to peace. Science would be Antarctica's only industry -- knowledge would be its trade. And those nations that had raised their flags on its ice-bound shores, agreed to freeze all claims for 30 years."