CREATING JAPANESE GARDENS By Philip Cave Charles E. Tuttle: Boston, 176 pp., $34.95 (Aurum Press: London).
ARCHES AND PERGOLAS By Robert Ditchfield, Canopy Books/Abbeville, 63 pp., $9.95 (Charles Letts $ Co.: London)
THE ORNAMENTAL GARDENER: CREATIVE IDEAS FOR EVERY GARDEN By Miranda Innes, Stemmer House: Owings Mills, Md. 160 pp., $35 (Eddison Sadd Editions Ltd.: London)
THE PLANT GROWTH PLANNER By Caroline Boisset, Prentice Hall, 192 pp., $25 (Mitchell Beazley: London)
MRS. GREENTHUMBS: HOW I TURNED A BORING YARD INTO A GLORIOUS GARDEN AND HOW YOU CAN, TOO By Cassandra Danz, Crown, 246 pp., $12 paper.
CUTTING GARDENS By Anne Halpin and Betty Mackley, Simon & Schuster, 144 pp., $27.50.
THE GARDEN SOURCEBOOK: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO PLANNING AND PLANTING By Caroline Boisset and Fayal Greene, Crown, 360 pp., $40 (Mitchell Beazley: London)
THERE appears to be a never-ending flow of books hot off the publishers' presses to give advice on garden planning and design. They vary from the systematic-scientific to the personal-anecdotal, from the inspirational-ideas to the pictorial-idealist - the sort of book that drives you to either despair or greater ambition with images of unattainable beauty.
A book that is full of stimulating pictures, original ideas, and particularly helpful practical advice is "Creating Japanese Gardens" by Philip Cave. No matter if you aren't Japanese or a Zen Buddhist; no matter if you prefer the idea of an American or British garden around your house. Any gardener can discover adaptable planning and construction ideas in this excellent book. Making a waterfall or stream, for instance, is not an exclusively Japanese tradition, and this book contains clear diagrams and so und methodology on the subject. Advice on (and pictures of) different kinds of paths also offer a range of possibilities. The Japanese mingling of artificiality with apparent faithfulness to nature pervades these pages.
Arches and pergolas are garden features with ancient origins in a number of cultures - including those of Japan and China - but have become particularly popular as structural elements in European garden design. One of the Letts Guides to Garden Design, "Arches and Pergolas," by Robert Ditchfield, is a deceptively small book that contains a surprising amount of information, though it is a little short on construction techniques. The book includes plenty of ideas to start one off hunting for the marvelous
variety of scrambling and climbing plants suitable for growing over arches and arcades and tunnels - different roses, wisteria, climbing hydrangea, laburnum, and honeysuckle. The author emphasizes careful siting of arched structures in the garden, and leaves the reader with the feeling that no garden is quite complete without one. Arches provide flowers overhead and add seclusion and mystery to the garden.
"The Ornamental Gardener: Creative Ideas for Every Garden," by Miranda Innes, is a something-for-everyone book. Clay Perry's photographs contribute more than a little to the atmosphere. The book is about furnishing that outdoor room - the garden - and includes examples of gates and topiary, garden sculpture and fountains, gazebos and grottoes. It is wildly eclectic, ranging from eccentric historical pastiche to (though rarely) the modernist. How about a seat you can wheel about the garden like a barrow, chasing sun or shade? Edwardian architect Edwin Lutyens designed one, and it is reproduced for the wealthy today. Steps, says the author, are a "wonderful opportunity to show off potted plants" - so they are. Under the caption "bold bridge" is a startlingly blue painted wooden bridge with striking white struts. Nearby, along the stream banks, bloom blue hydrangeas and agapanthus. The photograph might inspire one to be a little less timid in the choice of man-made structures to place among one's plants.
A not over-large but scrupulously organized book, and one that will be useful for a long time as a reference, is "The Plant Growth Planner," by Caroline Boisset. Its charts, showing the growth patterns and ultimate height and spread of certain trees, shrubs, climbers, ground-covers, and herbaceous perennials, are useful to any gardener determined not to overplant - or underplant. Of course, even such a systematic guide to good planning still leaves room for unpredictable eventualities (droughts, local mi croclimates, caterpillars), which - because it is an art and not a science - make horticulture the experimental delight it is. Particularly useful are the pruning codes for hedges, as well as clear diagrams showing how relatively high different hedging plants - box, holly, beech, and so on - will be in eight years. A very practical book.
So is Cassandra Danz's "Mrs. Greenthumbs: How I Turned a Boring Yard into a Glorious Garden and How You Can, Too" in its own breezy, self-consciously humorous manner. You could read this narrative straight through, season by season. It's all very chatty, hyperbolic, and hilarious. Or you could use the index. Look up "pruning" for example: After Mrs G. gets over raucously describing how she initially felt "like a mass murderer" every time she cut down an unwanted sapling, you come to a page or two of very
sound tips for pruning. But why does this writer have to be so determinedly enjoyable all the time? Is it because she has a radio program in upstate New York?
"Cutting Gardens," by Anne Halpin and Betty Mackey, concentrates on growing plants for flower-arranging. But much of the advice is the same for any flower garden. If flowers are to be grown solely for indoor use, however, and outside decoration is of no importance, then the design of your garden may be different. Planting in massed blocks of one species, or even in lines like vegetables, is perfectly acceptable. The encyclopedia at the end is particularly useful, suggesting how many plants are good for c utting - I was surprised to see holly, ferns, impatiens, and lobelia cardinalis all recommended - and also advising on how best to treat different stems to make them last in water.
A fat book that is packed with all kinds of planning ideas, and amply illustrated with almost 1,000 photographs and 300 illustrations, is "The Garden Sourcebook: A Practical Guide to Planning and Planting," by Caroline Boisset and Fayal Greene. This book includes a useful plant selector, glossary, and lists of suppliers. But the stimulating main part of the volume touches on items you might not find anywhere else - sundials, wall-ornaments, and retaining walls. This is not a how-to-make-things book, but it looks at stylistic ideas, at questions of how best to deal with edges and boundaries, and at countless ways of covering surfaces in a garden. It also includes a diversity of gardening styles - Victorian, wild, subtropical, cottage, and Japanese, too. If you were to choose only one book from the current batch to plan a garden, this would be it.