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This comprehensive compendium of gardening facts, helpful hints and earthy advice is an unusually readable, user-friendly gardening encyclopedia. The book's first section covers the basics of what a gardener needs to get started: principles of landscape design, "What Plants Need," gardening gear and how to buy plants. Damrosch, who aims to "answer as many questions about gardening as possible," gives more than the standard instructions for making compost and buying pruning tools; she includes details like parts of plants and a comprehensive guide to botanical names that give beginning gardeners an unusually sophisticated and scientific footing. Her intimate, up-to-date, down-to-earth writing is distinctly rooted in the garden, with humor born of experience: "A garden hose is like a lover that you can't live with and can't live without. No scientific advance, to my knowledge, has yet tamed its willful nature." With sections on annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, fruits, bulbs, lawns, trees and even houseplants, to name a few, and with specifics for individual plants in each section, this book will be a useful addition to the collections of seasoned gardeners as well as novices. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.