A courtly, gallant backward glance at one woman's life in gardening. English-born, California-based Welsh here takes stock of gardening as a genteel tribal inheritance: Her Yorkshire family had cultivated it as an honored tradition. But there is little that is proper or stodgy in the pursuit. Rather, this writer gallivants and consorts, with plants as with words, and her green companions are engagingly droll. In a chapter on wisteria that mixes practical advice liberally with personal reminiscence, for example, Welsh confides how, after she scolded her white-flowering wisteria for not being purple, the vine promptly died. It later revived, obligingly producing purple blossoms, after she apologized for the previous insult. Illustrations abound in the book: candid snaps, like the one of Welsh as a chubby ``girleen'' bedecked ``in nothing but flowers''; landscape photography, exposing the architectural tendencies of massed delphiniums in a British plot; and decorative portraits of poppies and others twining their way up the page. An especially comic visual vignette: pictures of Welsh, her mother, babysitter, and brother caring for chickens and getting the hang of a tractor. The author offers detailed and sensible counsel on pest control, the construction of garden paths, the mainstays of Japanese gardens, methods of composting, and more. Yet Welsh's claim to charm springs mainly from a store of high spirits and from her descriptive liveliness. Surveying the rough patches in a past that includes her mother's several marriages, geographic dislocations, and sundry money worries, she seems to hop gaily to the nearest flower--and thrive. Elysian messages murmured by one with a nobly stiff upper lip.