Gardening Update: Volumes of shrubs

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FLOWERS may be flashier, but foliage is a more sustaining diet in the garden. Most gardeners find this out for themselves. First of all, colour grabs you, but then you move on to form and texture in plant associations. For this you must have leaves, and lots of them.

Jill Billington is a sculptor, now working as a freelance garden designer, and her book Architectural Foliage (Cassell, pounds 16.95) brings an artist's eye to the question of choosing the best plants for your garden.

She looks at the shapes of leaves and the forms that massed foliage make in the garden. She also has a chapter on what she calles 'prima donnas', plants such as onopordon, the Scotch thistle, a biennial which zooms with astonishing speed up to six feet.

Large-Leaved Perennials by Myles Challis (Ward Lock, pounds 12.99) covers much of the same ground but in a different way, with a list of useful plants at the end of the book.

He is particularly keen on tropical foliage plants, which look extremely good in small city gardens - but you have to gamble on the right sort of winter weather. Neither book had photographs sufficiently mouth-watering to make me leap out straight away and plant.