AT THE Christmas season, garden books bloom. Lavishly photographed flower A books, serious studies on obscure plants, books for the gardening beginner, all are springing up from the publishers. Here is the best of the crop:
* "Gardens for All Seasons" by Jack Kramer (Abrams, 204 printed pages of 10-by-12 inches, illustrated, $45). Kramer writes: "It seemed to me that a volume of photographs, drawings, and information on gardens around the U.S. in each of the four seasons of the year would be of great interest and the idea of writing one was challenging."
The gardens discussed and photographed are: the Richard Scurry Garden, New York City; the Leola B. Fraim Garden, Boston; the Eldon Dannhausen Garden, Chicago; the Whitney Stone Garden, Charlottesville; the William Nathaniel Banks Garden, Atlanta; the Burt Getz Garden, Phoenix; the J. Gordon Douglas Garden, Santa Barbara; the Milo Scott Bergeson Garden, San Francisco and the Mrs. Corydon Wagner Garden, Tacoma.
"A pleasing garden is more than a collection of plants growing haphazardly in an outdoor area," says the author. "It is an aesthetic expression created the way a painter composed a landscape painting. It should solace the soul and delight the eye in any season."
* "All About Orchids" by Charles Marden Fitch (Doubleday, 276 printed pages, illustrated, $15.95). Due to modern culture techniques and space-age propagation procedures, anyone can grow beautiful orchids right in the home, says Fitch. "Even people of moderate means can now afford a collection featuring the best tropical orchids from around the world. This book contains all the basic instructions you'll need to successfully grow these exotic plants in a window garden, sun porch or greenhouse . . . More than 25,000 species are officially recognized. Add to this naturally large family thousands of man-made hybrids created in each genera each year and you have some idea of how many orchids are available for your pleasure."
* "Growing & Using Herbs Successfully" by Betty E.M. Jacobs (Garden Way Publishing, 223 printed pages, illustrated, $6.95 paperbound). Jacobs gives good advice in this book about growing herbs indoors: "They need the same care as any other plant grown under artificial conditions (indoor growing is not natural). Herbs that adapt themselves better than most to indoor conditions include chervil, chives, dill, garlic chives, sweet marjoram, mints, parsley, rosemary, sage, winter savory, tarragon, garden thyme and lemon thyme." Outdoors, she suggests, "garlic can be planted a week or two before your first expected frost in the fall . . . It can also be planted as early in the spring as you can work the soil. Both plantings will mature in late summer, but the fall-planted crop will give the heaviest yield."
* "The House Plant Expert" by Dr. D.G. Hessayon (Scribner's, 128 printed pages, illustrated, $7.95 paperbound). The charm of house plants may be universal, but many millions of them die needlessly each year, say Hessayon. You can't just leave them to look after themselves; each plant needs care and each variety has its own particular requirements. The purpose of this book is to tell you the secrets of success and the special problems of all types of house plants.
* "The Complete Book of Evergreens" by Kenneth A. Beckett (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 160 printed pages, illustrated, $16.95). Wind shelter is a prime requisite if a garden is to be enjoyed throughout the year, the author says. If it does not exist already then put up a hedge or taller windbreak. "Evergreens, of course, are the ideal choice," he says, "and none are better than some of the conifers."
Four good Ortho gardening books published recently by Hill and Knowlton would make fine Christmas gifts for friends or for yourself. Each one has 96 printed pages, is well illustrated in full color, is priced at $5.95; all are paperbacks. They are on sale at bookstores and garden centers. The books are:
* "All About Tomatoes" -- Rarely are your taste expectations so completely satisfied as when you bite into your first home-grown tomato. According to the tomato book, they can be grown almost anywhere there are six to seven hours of daily sunshine: along sidewalks, beside walls, up espaliers, on rooftops, in barrels, in old tires and on your windowsill. The book provides a lot of know-how about growing tomatoes, also recipes for using them.
* "All About Bulbs" -- Bulbous plants are among the easiest plants to grow, according to the bulb book. Success begins with good quality bulbs. Always buy them from a reliable source.
* "All About Perennials" and "All About Annuals" -- Both books are a source of ideas and basic information. They contain guides for planting and using flowers in a variety of new and imaginative ways, and explore some of the principles of color, aesthetics and garden design. But perhaps even more importantly, it contains all the practical information you need in order to produce a beautiful flower garden.
A must on your Christmas shopping list should be a book on growing vegetables. A good one published recently is "Making Vegetables Grow" by Thalassa Cruso (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 229 printed pages, illustrated, $6.95 paperbound). Cruso is known for her television programs, books and newspaper articles about gardening.
With vegetable gardening, virtually the entire crop must succeed if the gardener's efforts are not to have been in vain, she writes. "What's more, in a small plot several successive crops must come to a lavish harvest -- something very few people ever attempt these days except with their flowers." With vegetables you also need more specific knowledge on soil condition, fertility and pest control than with flowers, she says.
"This is much more demanding than setting out a few annual plants . . . but to me it is also enormously more rewarding. The most obvious reason, of course, is the taste of home-grown vegetables."