Around this time of year you can't be out in the garden weeding. There's only one thing left to do: read. Here are some out of best books out to help gardeners read, plan and dream their way through the winter months.
* Flora: A Gardener's Encyclopedia by Sean Hogan, chief consultant (Timber Press, $99.95). An outstanding gardening magnum opus. Assembled by a team of 67 writers over five years, it contains 11,000 color photos and information on 20,000 plants, from common garden irises (rating 17 pages of photos and description) to giant Amazonian waterlilies grown only in horticultural gardens. The weighty 1,584 pages are divided between two slip-covered volumes. Included is a CD-ROM with links to gardening Web sites, a "Plant Chooser" to find plants for your particular growing conditions. Flora is a handsome reference work for serious gardeners.
* The Lawn Bible: How to Keep it Green, Groomed, and Growing Every Season of the Year by David Mellor (Hyperion, $16.95). This basic guidebook for lawn care is laced with stories from Mellor's own experiences as groundskeeper at Fenway Park, like the time he found eight bass from the Charles River on the field after a heavy rain washed them up through the storm pipes.
* Organic Kitchen Gardening: A Guide to Growing Produce in Small Urban Areas by Barbara Segall (New Holland, distributed by Sterling, $19.95). This slender volume for the beginning urban gardener has tips on growing compact varieties of fruits, herbs, and vegetables on small plots, rooftops, and balconies, and includes garden plans.
* The Passion for Gardening: Inspiration for a Lifetime by Ken Druse (Clarkson Potter, $50). The author's 250 dazzling photographs capture the essence of 10 extraordinary gardens. He explores how the creators have tended their natural spaces and been rewarded by them in turn. The gardens include Chanticleer, a stunning but little-known public garden outside Philadelphia, plus a conservationist's tall-grass prairie and Druse's own garden in New York State.
* Planting the Natural Garden by Piet Oudolf and Henk Gerritsen (Timber Press, $35). This recent classic by two Dutch designers who changed the face of European gardens is now in English, but the photos of naturalistic gardens with inspired plant combinations speak for themselves. Often, flowers are incidental to foliage texture for a long season of interest with low maintenance.
* Taylor's Encyclopedia of Garden Plants edited by Frances Tenenbaum (Houghton Mifflin, $45). This user-friendly 447-page reference work offers information on more than 1,000 selected plants for North American gardens, illustrated with 1,200 color photos. Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening was published originally by Houghton Mifflin in 1936. Forty years later, it was re-launched as a line of gardening books under Tenenbaum's editorship.
* The Well-Designed Mixed Garden by Tracy DiSabito-Aust (Timber Press, $39.95) focuses on design techniques, using a sophisticated mixed palette of annuals, woody plants, and perennials. Garden plans, information tables, and many photos make this an accessible book for beginners. Experienced gardeners who are passionate plant collectors will appreciate its encyclopedia of plant combinations.