Ann Lovejoy. Rodale, $35 (288p) ISBN 0-87596-836-8

As gifted a writer as she is a gardener, Lovejoy is always a pleasure to read, and her lyric prose is at the heart of this inspired and inspiring volume for the intermediate gardener that offers a conceptually sophisticated, but eminently accessible (and entirely organic) method for creating naturalistic beauty. "I believe that gardens are more serene when they reflect what's found in nature," writes Lovejoy, who encourages readers to stay keenly attuned to their surroundings and "cooperate" with plants instead of trying to "control" them. Based on the same curriculum she uses in her Seattle classes, this excellent book leads readers through Lovejoy's principles to successful garden design, including "the five senses of the garden" (welcome, enclosure, entry, flow and place), plant layering, the "golden bowl effect" (a sunny central area surrounded by "plants and key trees for privacy") and "an informal rule of thirds" (one third evergreens, one third deciduous structural plants [trees and shrubs] and one third perennials). Maintenance and care of a garden that is as lovely as it is nearly self-sustaining are also covered, and the book includes a workbook that allows readers to gather site information in a logical way, set goals and create an overall garden plan. Lovejoy is consistently lively, and readers may find themselves as charmed by her singular turns of phrase (hydrangeas' "skeletal flowerheads seem to rebloom when heaped with snow") as they are by her horticultural wisdom. (Mar. 16)