cover image In a Green Shade: Writings from Homeground

In a Green Shade: Writings from Homeground

Allen Lacy. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $25 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-618-00378-5

Culled from Lacy's quarterly gardening newsletter, Homeground, the writings in this eloquent and informative book combine horticultural advice, plant lore and hybridizing history with descriptions of the plants that bloom in the small plot surrounding the author's house in suburban New Jersey. Lacy (a former gardening columnist for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and author of The Inviting Garden) has very individualistic plant preferences--the ""species tulips that have evolved in nature instead of being gussied up by humankind,"" for example, or the old roses, which shouldn't be snubbed because their blooms are short-lived (after all, as he opines, ""No one despises the dogwood for not being in perpetual flower""). Lacy turns up his nose at a few popular garden favorites, such as the Japanese pink cherry Kwanzan and overbred marigolds that ""look as if they were made in a factory,"" but he relishes some common plants: gourds, which he grows on a pergola, alliums of all kinds and certain species of goldenrod. The pieces, which include trenchant commentaries on light-fingered visitors on garden tours and deceptive catalogue descriptions, are imbued with his passion for collecting unordinary plants, such as cat's whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus). Readers will be inspired to acquire for themselves some of the delights Lacy discusses so felicitously, and to help them do just that, he includes an annotated list of mail-order nurseries, many of which specialize in hard-to-find plants. Line drawings by Martha Blake-Adams and a bibliography add to the book's appeal. (Apr.)