Insinuating comments on plants ""I have lived with and loved""--as well as a few plants and practices unloved: a collection that falls comfortably between the expert advice of a Christopher Lloyd (below) and the essayistic offerings of Eleanor Perenyi or Katharine White. Lacy cultivates a suburban corner-lot in southern New Jersey and writes a garden column for The Wall Street Journal. (Betimes, he teaches philosophy at Stockton State College.) His gardening passion began, we learn from the opening piece, with a bite on a teacher's leg (deserved, the reader will agree): the punishment was to work in another teacher's iris fields and greenhouse (in exchange for the tutoring he'd need after being suspended from school). The anecdote has charm, the boy's initiation into plant care and hybridization is impressive; but the undertow of the pieces lies, rather, in an old photograph of his grandmother's birthplace, tiny, arid Baird, Texas--where Lacy notices hundreds of small stones outlining clean-swept dirt pathways. ""It is the urge to tidy up the natural world. . . to stamp a human signature on it. . . that separates people who garden from those who don't."" In time we will hear of Lacy's sentimental return to a rented domain (no sign of his existence) and the history of his present, ten-year garden--made over from a display of developer's shrubs. But true gardeners also have particular passions--hence, their treasured sources, plant societies, preferred species. In two McPhee-esque pieces (hero-breeders, obscure scientific breakthroughs), Lacy celebrates the unexpected American daffodil. A field gone wild brings recognition of the kinship of wisteria and broom; disillusion with the tall bearded iris (unhealthy, unsightly out of season) leads to appreciation of Siberians and Louisianas. (Lacy's Southern background expands his horizons.) And, along with remarks on such as ""The Transience of Columbines,"" there's tribute to the backyard deck a son insisted on building, dismay at local ""one-stop garden shopping."" Lacy's peeves are mostly routine--who, after all, speaks well of hydrangeas? But his past ardors and present obsessions--amplified by lists (nurseries, organizations, books)--make very agreeable reading, plant catalogues in hand.