April 28, 1986 12:00 PM

by Ethne Clarke and Clay Perry

To look at this inviting book, made up mostly of photographs of glorious gardens, is to realize that our idea of the perfect garden comes from the British. The houses are small, simple backgrounds for little lawns and wide beds of blooming plants in dazzling colors. The seasons are divided into early summer, with gardens from Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Cornwall, Devonshire, Surrey and Hampshire, midsummer, Norfolk, Dorset, Somerset, Suffolk and late summer, East Sussex, Surrey and Kent. This book even includes a few kitchen gardens that have such straight rows of vegetables and are so weed-free that they look like catalog ads. But it is the thatched-roof houses with a staggering variety of colorful flowers along walls and walks that take the breath away. The roses seem particularly large and vivid, but then so do the delphiniums and the poppies, sweet william and lilies. Nothing is prettier, however, than pink hollyhocks, tall as a roof, framing a doorway. The authors’ text provides many comments by gardeners from the past: “In June 1712, Joseph Addison writing in the Spectator…’Our British gardeners…instead of humouring nature, love to deviate from it as much as possible.’ ” There’s a brief essay by the photographer, Clay Perry, which offers useful tips on the equipment and time of day that will help a photographer make a garden look its best. (Viking, $25)

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