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Britain's great gardens

The Gardener's Garden, by Jerry Harpur. Boston: David R. Godine Inc. 158 pp. $27.50. In ``The Gardener's Garden,'' 33 professional British gardeners have written about their own gardens and the great estates and gardens they take care of. Their pleasure and pride in their work is coupled with Jerry Harpur's photographs, which are of such excellent perspective you feel as though you are standing right in these definitively British gardens.

The gardens run the gamut of bog gardens, cottage, meadow, botanical, dwarf conifer, rock and scree gardens, wildflower gardens, and formal parterres. Imagine the scent from 4 thousand blue and white hyacinths. (Imagine the work!) More practically, picture yourself strolling through the morning mist under apple blossoms, knee-deep in bluebells and cowslips. Or create a golden dell with golden hostas, spiraea ``Gold Flame,'' a golden catalpa and sambucus, and yellow flowers.

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The passion and total commitment of these head gardeners is the necessary ingredient for great gardens. As Tony Shilling of Wakehurst Place believes, ``There is surely little merit in endeavor if it is not directly linked to a desire to seek high standards.''

The cold-weather frustration of this book is that it makes the reader want to go outside and dig in the ground, or better yet, hop on an airplane to England. Instead, one settles for planning, listing new plants, new combinations and ideas, new gardens to visit, and reveling in the radiant photographs of flowers which you can almost smell. Valuable on many levels, ``The Gardener's Garden'' is a treasure-trove. Dig in.

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