A devoted gardener offers a meandering collection of brief essays that may hold some charm for others of the same ilk. As the editor of Horticulture magazine, Cooper contributes a regular column whose intent, he says, is ``to capture the world in and around a garden.'' This translates into fragmentary and scattered musings, mainly about his own backyard gardens in Massachusetts, so don't look for practical assistance or even the occasional clever idea here. Although the columns are not dated or presented chronologically (for example, the reader sees Cooper's daughter age eccentrically from three to two to six), they are grouped by month. January finds the author poring over nursery catalogs and drafting resolutions (``Stop accepting plants as gifts, no mater how tempting . . . just imagine they are offering a tray of zucchini seedlings''), while by April he is yearning for a spiffier potting shed and delighting over the arrival of packages from mail-order nurseries. A number of columns are little more than the verbal equivalent of puttering, but then, as Cooper says, gardeners do ``raise puttering to the state of high art.'' Occasionally, pieces that were written to be read one at a time are diminished by being crowded together: Although July's articles on water and wateringmusing on a watering can, noting the desirability of an efficient soaker hose, and admonishing readers to learn from water shortages out Westare separated by forays into other matters, they lose some of their effect when read within the space of half an hour. This one is for people who nod sagely at the line, ``There is only so much Geranium endressii one person can handle,'' and whose hours not spent in the garden are spent talking about being in the garden.