Picks and Pans Review: People with Dirty Hands

updated 07/22/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/22/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Robin Chotzinoff

Gardening, like politics, inspires great passion. Whether you choose to rip out weeds or ignore them, go in for formal design or something a little scruffier, or value lilies over squash, you are bound to have an opinion. So it's appropriate that People with Dirty Hands, Chotzinoff's lively homage to the passion of gardening, is full of opinions.

In Texas, Margaret Sharpe disdains hybrid roses, preferring to rustle antique varieties from overgrown cemeteries. In Oregon, Danny Hughes opposes excessive watering and pruning: "A garden shouldn't look like spring when it's not." Capturing these thorny gardeners in their dungarees, with clippers in hand, Chotzinoff gathers a delightful gallery of men and women devoted to the promise of the earth. While she obviously shares their devotion—taking time to contemplate a variety of horticultural wonders—the hotness of chile peppers, say, or the medicinal value of wax myrtle—she also manages to plumb the roots of this magnificent obsession. One winter afternoon, after scratching through the snow in her Denver garden, she uncovers a crocus bulb. It is a poetic reminder that if we dig deep enough, we rediscover life. (Macmillan, $22)

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