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One of my favorite gardening activities is to take the late winter prunings of apple, cherry and peach trees, and place them in glass jars around the house. Like magic, the buds open up in a week or so, filling the house with faint fragrances and cute dots of pastel colors. Not that I thought I invented this spring "forcing" routine, but imagine my surprise when I opened Martha Stewart Living's special gardening issue, and discovered that Martha does that, too! (Yup, page 64.)

Soon I was flipping pages, admiring summer squash recipes, rakes as racks, heirloom eggplants. I realized that Stewart's writers probably loved gardening just as much as I do.

In every gardening magazine on the stands this month, the love of gardening turns into zealotry. We know who we are. We're not looking to collect antique lampshades or invent a new Linux program--we're excited about getting our hands dirty again, and marveling at the wonder of little pepper plants, or the freshest spinach on earth.

Carolina Gardener will never let the serious gardener down. Published seven times a year, it's full of topical local growing information. Every issue carries some mention of familiar Triangle gardening destinations deserving another visit: the David Austin roses at Durham's Witherspoon Rose Culture, the shade-tolerant pimediums at Raleigh's Plant Delights Nursery, and the extensive collection of whimsical yard art at Cary's Garden Supply Company. Chip Callaway's gardens rarely cost less than $50,000. But that didn't deter me from avidly reading Maria Johnson's article, in the February issue of Carolina Gardener, about Callaway's current projects. He's created gardens in Virginia, Florida, Asheville, and Hawaii, but he admits one of his favorite sites to visit is the J.C. Raulston Arboretum at N.C. State.

A dozen shades of green cascade across the glossy covers of this year's best gardening magazines. This spring, Mother Earth News offers its biggest issue of the year, with a three-part garden special. March's Organic Gardening goes number crazy: 50 tools we can't live without, 265 tips for real gardeners! The March/April issue of Fine Gardening, as always, is a daydreamer's delight to thumb through, leaving you yearning for more time, energy ... and a trust fund.

But honestly, my favorite single page in all this horticultural hoo-ha was the full-page, full-color shot at Martha's house, of a Summer Squash Lattice Tart. Now that's something to aim for.

  • Gardening magazines bloom on the racks.

More by John Valentine

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