With Nan Fairbrother and Katherine White stilled, Eleanor Perenyi bids fair to be the new laureate of garden worlds past and present, and gardening matters-of-fact. In this gathering of her thoughts, the arrangement of topics is alphabetical--so the order is blissfully random: Annuals, Artichokes, Ashes, Asparagus, Asters, Autumn, among the A's; Lawns, Lilies, Longevity, for the less-endowed L's. Annuals calls forth regrets for the demise of the hardy sort (sweet peas, larkspur--already ""old-fashioned"" to the Victorians) and their replacement by ""tender"" greenhouse blooms--scentless, standardized, high-colored zinnias and marigolds, and the droopy, ubiquitous petunia. Autumn brings the nuisance of wild apples on the lawn, and the quandary: should the offending tree be felled? ""Memories of The Cherry Orchard make that impossible to face. The ring of the axe would be harrowing enough; now it's the whine of the chain saw, heard all too frequently in the village as the elms have gone down."" Birds are a mixed blessing too--but Perenyi gladly gives up her scarecrow, ""an increasingly derelict version of myself."" Reading for sheer delectation, one comes across kernels of advice. Looking for tips on the cultivation of a favored plant or the performance of a chore, one finds light refreshment: blues, with their ""overtones of class distinction,"" occasion a discursus on U and non-U gardening; compost inspires a tribute to the Jeremiah of chemical contamination, J. J. Rodale--who, Perenyi thinks, would have hit it off with another frustrated Pennsylvania farmer, S. J. Perelman. (Perenyi is herself an organic gardener--by, she believes, predisposition.) And there are subjects that are here simply for the excellent reason that Perenyi has something to say about them--like Longevity (of gardeners) and Woman's Place (among the posies?). Many of the entries, among them the last, are essays of some weight as well as considerable character. A fine, sturdy book for all its small pieces--easy to get into, hard to lay aside.