BOOKS IN BRIEF

THE ROSE BIBLE, by Rayford Clayton Reddell, photographs by Robert Galyean (Harmony Books, 252 pp., $50). At last, a rose book that doesn't shrink from close-ups of fungi, bad pruning, or bug infestation, and explains how to avoid such calamities. The useful information is buried in the back, however, after pages and pages of roses blushing in vigorous good health. The lustrous photographs so strongly capture the delicacy and beauty of these flowers that a reader might feel tempted to sniff the page.

Author Rayford Clayton Reddell runs Garden Valley Ranch, one of the largest suppliers of garden roses. In this book, he indulges in a brief history of rose culture, and like a genealogist, can't resist explaining the names and lineages of these pampered aristocrats of the garden. Reddell then moves on to rhapsodize over his favorite varieties from many years of growing experience. Readers will want to grab their suede gauntlets and shears and head outdoors after perusing ``The Rose Bible.''

TAYLOR'S MASTER GUIDE TO GARDENING, edited by Rita Buchanan and Roger Holmes (Houghton Mifflin, 612 pp., $60). This is the granddaddy of all gardening books, a whopper of a hardcover reference book. Gardeners won't be able to schlep this monster outdoors every time they want to look something up, but it should occupy an honored spot on the horticulture-book shelf. Readers familiar with the series of specialized Taylor's Guides, such as ``Shade Gardening,'' will be happy to know that the ``Master Guide'' is a separate entity written from the perspective of total landscape care and maintenance for homeowners.

The guide has been edited with an eye toward a unified writing style that makes it reader-friendly and conversational in tone. Because the writers have a general readership in mind, they move slowly through the process of garden design - from evaluating a space to deciding whether to call in a landscape contractor. They also preach the gospel of natural gardening - growing native plants, reducing water and pesticide consumption, and building a landscape that welcomes wildlife.

A huge section of the book is devoted to plant profiles, photographed in color, and a comprehensive encyclopedia of plant characteristics. The pictures that accompany such sections as ``Seasons in the Garden'' and ``Rock Gardens'' show ordinary people's homes and lots, not millionaires' manicured acres.

TASHA TUDOR'S GARDEN, text by Tovah Martin, photographs by Richard W. Brown (Houghton Mifflin, 160 pp., $35). The children's author, whose delicate watercolors adorn her stories, also has a flair for gardening. Or perhaps gardening was the passion that led her into painting. No matter. Garden-book writer Tovah Martin befriended the somewhat reclusive Tudor, who lives in a Vermont farmhouse surrounded by dogs, goats, chickens, visiting grandchildren, and an assortment of caged birds. The author has created a 19th-century life for herself that feeds her books and paintings: She cooks on a wood stove, wears calico dresses and headscarves, and plants her own vegetables.

Tudor, who's in her 70s and still spry, does much of the gardening herself. She enlists family members, neighbors, and friends to help, but the result is a garden so artfully wild and colorful that it could only be the work of a painter. The text is a little saccharine, but Tudor readers will savor every detail of her eccentric life. The names of plants and anecdotal gardening advice give the book credibility, but the pictures are its real asset. The rapturous photography will make gardeners - eccentric or not - swoon with envy.

THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BULBS, CORMS, TUBERS, AND RHIZOMES: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO NATURE'S EASIEST AND MOST REWARDING PLANTS, by Brian Mathew and Philip Swindells (Reader's Digest, 240 pp., $30). As the plants of summer die back after their midseason exuberance, gardeners start looking forward to spring. They envision waves of daffodils and spires of tulips gracing their flowerbeds, and pots of amaryllis and hyacinth blooming indoors. ``The Complete Book of Bulbs, Corms, Tubers, and Rhizomes'' is a thorough, well-organized book that can help both beginning and advanced gardeners get the most from these versatile plants.

Bulb is the common name for many different shapes and types of plant storage systems. The basic similarity is that most need some period of dormancy. The book's most useful feature is an illustrated lifecycle for each type: bulb (represented by a daffodil), corm (gladiolus), tuber (begonia), and rhizome (iris). Simple colored illustrations give an above- and below-ground look at the maturing plant, and explain what to do with the foliage after the big show is over. Gardening lingo is explained clearly in the glossary, and the book is arranged by season, with spectacular photographs bolstering the readable text.

Not everyone knows that bulbs can be planted to bloom in each season. The main idea is to stay a season or two ahead of the game. In fall, plant spring-flowering anemone, grape hyacinth, and snowdrops. In spring, plant summer-flowering lilies, allium, and oxalis. Summer is the time to start fall-flowering crocuses, nerine, and cyclamen. Some winter-flowering crocuses and other hardy bulb-grown plants will actually bloom in cold weather.

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