Reading Hipps is like visiting on the veranda with a good friend who's articulate, funny and an expert gardener to boot. Her elegant prose (``Only in March may one glimpse a frothy white pear tree sporting a single perfect cardinal like a boutonniere'') has often graced the pages of Horticulture magazine. This, her first book, is equally well informed and witty: she describes the spiny yucca as ``a wicked plant. Just the thing to mass beneath a wayward teenage daughter's window.'' Although written from her vantage point in Huntsville, Ala., this volume is definitely not just for Southern gardeners; enthusiasts in every region will find much to enjoy and profit from here. Organized around the calendar year, the chapters examine seasonal highlights of Hipps's own garden, share information on subjects ranging from propagation to slug control and bolster everything with expansive, eclectic plant lists. An index would have been helpful, but the pleasures of this book make that a faint complaint. (Apr.)
A gracious spirit enhances the authoritative horticultural counsel Hipps provides in a journal focusing attention on the particular foibles and triumphs one may expect to contend with in gardens of this country's southern regions. A month-by-month format finds Hipps musing on trees, shrubs, and perennials of all kinds, with detailed information on an eye-opening array of native species, varieties, and cultivars. It makes for good reading and should stir the interest of experienced gardeners hungry for new ideas. Although many of these plants may be grown in the North, the rhythm of the growth cycle that Hipps describes is characteristic of southern climes. A delightful, informative book, displaying a good number of full-color illustrations.