VICTORIAN FLOWER gardens are emulated quite a lot these days. Although the ones we see now may evoke images of that period, few are authentic. But closer approximations are possible. "Creating a Victorian Flower Garden" is a veritable catalogue of plants popular during that period. The major source of Stefan Buczacki's information was an album of paintings done in the 1890s by one Alice Drummond-Hay, who documented the many flowering plants in her own Perthshire garden. The 60 paintings are beautiful, the details are precise, and botanical names label each specimen. To the collection, the writer (also the author of "Conran's Basic Home Gardening Book") adds a thorough history of the Victorian garden. England was in its expansive mode at the time, and its inhabitants were bringing back with them plants from all parts of the globe. Buczacki tosses in such tidbits as the origin of the lawn mower, the evolution of the greenhouse (which made possible the survival and propagation of species from foreign lands) and the garden ornaments and furniture of the time.
This is an everything-you-need-to-know book: cultivation practices then and now, schemes for bedding plants and herbaceous borders, and roses of the period are discussed. A directory at the end of the book outlines the individual plants' histories and gives descriptions and advice on procuring seeds or plants. ($22.50)