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Five Great Garden Books to Kickstart Spring

Written by Sally Finder Weepie

Even if you can't get out today and lounge under a rose-covered pergola, you can escape to a beautiful garden by way of a wonderful garden book. Here are some new releases that are so good you can almost smell the wisteria and feel the warm spring breeze.

"At Home in the Garden" by Carolyne Roehm (Potter Style, $85) is a drop-dead gorgeous, large-as-life coffee table book that showcases the gardens of lifestyle legend Carolyn Roehm. The flower-rich landscape outside Weatherstone, her historic Connecticut house, is celebrated in this book, which features a wealth of gallery-quality photographs. Roehm reveals how she created each beautiful scene and how she entertains guests in these breathtaking outdoor spaces.

For pure whimsy, you just can't beat "How to Be a Wildflower: A Field Guide" by Katie Daisy (Chronicle Books, $19.95). The Bend, Oregon, artist brings her beautiful paintings and lettering to this delightful book, a collection of nature-inspired quotations, meditations, lore, and even a recipe for fresh strawberry-rhubarb pie. It's a celebration of the natural world—and an inspirational field guide for living life to the fullest.

Here's a true treat: "The Gardens of Arne Maynard" (Merrell, $70)—the first book ever devoted to the work of this celebrated garden designer. This immersive coffee table book takes you through 12 Maynard-designed landscapes, including the garden around his own house in rural Wales. You'll get lost in the beauty of the lush plant life and pick up some incomparable pro tips from the superbly skilled designer.

You don't even have to be a garden fan to appreciate "All the Presidents' Gardens" by Marta McDowell (available in May from Timber Press, $29.95), a history-rich and very readable account of how our presidents and their families have left their imprint on the 18 acres surrounding the executive mansion. You'll find lots of great illustrations and photos, plus a wealth of entertaining stories. Don't miss Benjamin Harrison's grandkids wheeling around the lawn with their goat, Old Whiskers; Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and his macaw, Eli, in the conservatory; the White House sheep herd of World War I; and President Kennedy showing off the new rose garden. 

Old-fashioned plants are enjoying a renaissance, and it's no wonder. Their beauty and the rich flavors offered by heirloom veggies just can't be beat. Now there's a resource guide to these garden wonders: "Heirloom Plants: A Complete Compendium of Heritage Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs & Flowers" by Thomas Etty and Lorraine Harrison (Chicago Review Press, $29.99). The book includes detailed descriptions and growing tips for almost 500 heritage cultivars (all available in the U.S.). Their names alone sound inviting—Flanders Purple kale, Golden Marconi sweet peppers, Moon & Stars watermelons, Moneymaker tomatoes. Mmm, it's time to get gardening.