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Give a gardener a good book

By Marty Hair

Knight Ridder Newspapers

Rick Darke passed the woodland stream near his office in southeast Pennsylvania many times before he wanted a deeper understanding of what his eyes were seeing.

So over several years Darke photographed the same spot at different times and seasons, from tranquil spring mornings to foggy autumn mists and wintry sunsets tinged in icy pastels.

He draws on the dramatic results for "The American Woodland Garden" (Timber Press, $49.95), a book that applies lessons of the natural woodland to Darke's philosophy of gardening and landscaping. The book includes profiles of recommended woodland plants and advice for designing and maintaining a woodland garden, with the emphasis on plants native to the region.

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W. George Schmid's take on growing plants in lower light is "An Encyclopedia of Shade Perennials" (Timber Press, $49.95). Schmid, a Georgia expert on hostas and other plants, includes his experiences and enthusiasms, enriching reference information on 184 genera and 7,000 species and cultivars.

Whether they garden in shade or sun, those curious about the origins of plant names like Annabelle hydrangea and Arnold Promise witchhazel will enjoy "Legends in the Garden" by Linda Copeland and Allan Armitage (Wings Publishers, $24.95). Reading these accounts is like finding a new side to something you thought you knew well -- because the plants are likely growing in your garden.

Fans of British writer Beverley Nichols will be charmed with "Garden Open Tomorrow" (Timber Press, $24.95), the last book in the series on gardening, life, cats and other vital topics. The uninitiated might start with "Garden Open Today" or the Merry Hall trilogy to see why gardening volumes by Nichols, who died in 1983, attract a cult following.

For sentimental reading pleasure, a favorite book this year is "Two Gardeners" (Beacon Press, $25), the correspondence from 1958-1977 between Katharine White and Elizabeth Lawrence. It begins when Lawrence, a North Carolina garden writer, sends a letter to White about her review of gardening catalogs in the New Yorker. That sets off a relationship through letters that, over two decades, affords the women both personal and professional support.

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