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Thursday, January 13, 2005 - Page updated at 12:32 P.M.

"Perfect" winter read will have you yearning for spring

Special to The Seattle Times

Book Review

This oversized volume is packed with luscious photos and plant profiles that first appeared in the world's most beautiful gardening magazine, Gardens Illustrated, published by the British Broadcasting Co.

If you read the magazine every month as I do, you'll be delighted to have these pithy, knowledgeable plant bios collected in one place, with additional photos. If you've so far missed the delight of such a fine magazine, you couldn't find a better introduction to its knowledgeable writers and elegant photography.

"Perfect Plants: Profiles of Special Plants for Your Garden"

edited by Rosie Atkins
Hylas Publishing, 2004, $29.95

Rosie Atkins, founding editor of Gardens Illustrated and now the curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden, says she pulled the profiles together because she feels they are the "heartbeat of the magazine." She's gathered dozens of the world's best garden writers and asked them to explore the history, cultivation and possibilities of their favorite plants, so the book is full of enthusiasm and practical experience. There's great impact in having years of these in-depth plant studies compiled in one big colorful book to serve as both inspiration and tutor.

Noel Kingsbury writes on hardy geraniums, Brian Mathew on cyclamen, Beth Chatto on fritillaires and Martyn Rix on corydalis, among dozens of others. The profiles are divided into intriguing sections; check out the "Curiosities" section if you're into proteas or arisaemas; "Strong Performers," for especially robust plants; or "Show Stoppers," for odes to Oriental poppies, crocosmia and monarda.

This is the kind of book that will make a good gardener out of the beginner, allow the more experienced horticulturist to compare notes with experts and please all of us with its detailed description and obvious love and appreciation for the very best plants.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company