cloth, 160 p., $29.95
Even if you start with only a passing interest, you may find that you are an aficionado of annuals by time you finish Annuals with Style: Design Ideas from Classic to Cutting Edge. That's because Michael Ruggiero, senior curator at the New York Botanical Garden, and Tom Christopher, a contributing editor for Martha Stewart Living, write with such enthusiasm about the flexibility and freedom afforded by these plants. And the authors' relaxed approach to layout makes the whole gardening process seem less intimidating.
"The basic skills of garden design are easy to pick up; you learn them by doing," they write. "And if you want a crash course in garden design, there's nothing better than planting annuals. Your successes will be dramatic, and your mistakes will vanish with the first frost. Every spring will bring a fresh start, too." The authors encourage gardeners to learn about the stylistic elements important in preparing any garden plan: mood (formal vs. informal), color, harmony and contrast, shape and scale. Noting that design is both an art and a craft, they also offer many practical suggestions. For example, they remind us to work with the region's climate by selecting plants likely to thrive here, and to minimize maintenance by grouping together plants with similar soil, sun and water preferences.
In these pages you will find clear, detailed advice on everything from taking cuttings to deadheading. The concluding section designates "the best of the annuals," describes their care and lists the choicest cultivars. Like many gardening books, this one offers the added pleasure of pages of lush photographs — a pleasure that cannot be overestimated at this time of the year.
— Mary McLaughlin, Volunteer, Plant Information Office, Chicago Botanic Garden