Schenk ( The Complete Shade Gardener ) has an amazing story to tell--that of his life in the garden. In this man's case, however, there are actually several gardens to be grown, tended, and known intimately, for he travels year-round to eight different gardens scattered across the globe, spending four months each in the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand and the Philippines, and tending vastly diverse gardens. Unfortunately, though, his story is not always told with the clarity and depth one would wish for. Schenk takes readers through his experiences as though on a rambling stroll in a garden, somewhat aimlessly and without answering the questions that might arise. But, just as on a stroll, now and then one stumbles on a wonderful nook in surprise, as when Schenk tells of a little girl's delight with the plants and flowers he has chosen to grow in pots in Vancouver, showing how container gardening can present a horticultural microcosm.21-36 One wants more of these human insights; the book is devoted much more to plants than to the people around them, and the title is misleading, since the ``friends'' come into view rarely in Schenk's account. But on the whole the book, with its concentration on three fascinating regions, does allow the reader to examine plants and gardens in exotic places, and there is much to learn from the great horticultural variety Schenk describes. (Apr. )
Experienced gardeners who enjoy learning about gardening challenges in other countries and environments will find this book satisfying. About 12 years ago, Schenk left his wildflower nursery near Seattle to spend four months each in New Zealand, the Philippines, and the Vancouver, Canada area. During each four-month period that he visits these areas, he has established gardens, usually with friends who share his love for plants. Annually he proceeds to further develop and refine these gardens. Schenk's enthusiasm and love for plants and the people he spends time with every year is evident as he comments about his plant growing and social experiences. This book would be welcome on the browsing shelf or on the gardening shelf.-- Dale Luchsinger, Athens Area Technical Inst., Ga.