Container gardening is hot, hot, hot.

Ho hum. What's new is year-round container gardening, "changing out" your containers to match the season. This excites a lot of gardeners and retailers, but it sounds like a terrific amount of work and expense to me. Am I the only gardener who enjoys the offseason?

So I admit, I opened Barbara Wise's new book, Container Gardening for All Seasons (Cool Springs Press, $21.99), with bias aforethought. And while I found many of the 101 designs she offers up pleasant to look at, I also found a surprising number that looked overstuffed, which you know comes at a cost.

When you're talking multiple pots times four seasons, that should be a critical consideration.

That said, there's one important thing I liked about this book.

Wise, a former songwriter-turned-gardener-turned-professional horticulturist from Brentwood, Tenn., lays out simple instructions for choosing a pot, plants, and soil, and ideas for where to place the finished product. She defines her terms and explains how to read her "recipes," which are simple planting diagrams suggesting specific plants for each season, how to arrange them in the pot, and how to care for them.

The idea behind this book is consumer-friendly. Which makes it all the more incomprehensible that some of Wise's "recipes" list up to 28 plants! And that they're stuffed into pots like groceries in a Smart Car. I like a full container as much as the next person, but come on.

For example, the "Bonny Scotland" spring combo — medium container, partial sun — is filled with one gallon-sized Scotch broom, three gallon-sized autumn ferns, two 1-gallon pots of coral bells, five wintercreepers, and three yellow violas. It took me a while to find everything online, but by my calculations, this design, excluding the pot, could cost more than $100.

And that leaves me cold, cold, cold.

— Virginia A. Smith