Gardens Update: Trusted guide

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the most often consulted books in the pile that never makes its way back from my desk to the bookshelf is Graham Stuart Thomas's Perennial Garden Plants (Dent, pounds 19). A companion volume, Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos (John Murray, pounds 25) has just been published in the same uncompromising format: few pictures, concise prose, opinionated in the best sense.

Much of Mr Thomas's working life has been spent as gardens adviser to the National Trust. Both these books, alphabetically arranged, give suggestions for companion planting, drawn from the author's long memory of plants enjoyed. He also includes comments from other authorities, the plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll, and the magnificently assured William Robinson. Plants that Mr Thomas thinks especially garden-worthy are marked with a star. With an ever-increasing number of new varieties, this is a comforting benchmark.