Some people hope for an afterlife where they can stroll along streets paved with gold, happily humming along with the celestial choirs. Personally, I’m hoping for a used bookstore.

That’s my idea of a pleasant way to spend eternity: poking around tall bookcases crammed with interesting old volumes. There would be a creaky wooden floor and some classical music softly playing on an unseen radio. Behind the counter, St. Peter would be hunched over his favorite mystery novel. The atmosphere would be rich with the slightly musty aroma of well-aged literature.

I had the unexpected good fortune to spend a few minutes in that sort of bookstore today (excluding the part about St. Pete). Downtown to take a reference photo for a commercial illustration job, I stopped briefly at Bienville Books and bought Plantcraft, an amazingly cool 1973 gardening book published by a small San Francisco press.


It’s 92 pages of pure urban flower child delight: magical line art by the amazing Chinese-American designer Win Ng, who went on to have a distinguished career as co-founder of designer houseware company Taylor & Ng. A 45-rpm record album, designed to soothe your houseplants into abundant growth, fits into the back cover. Gardening advice that includes such tidbits as, “The chances are excellent that the music which pleases people will also please their plants.” And the whole thing looks as if it was printed on brown paper grocery bags. Fun! I love these little psychadelic snails on the Table of Contents page:


Here’s an image from the chapter on container gardening. Looking at it, I am filled with an overwhelming desire to put on a Joni Mitchell cd and do some macrame…


But here’s my favorite image from the book. It’s not just any illustrator who can cook up something this wildly imaginative for a chapter on plant diseases…


Hmmm? Plants looking a bit lackluster? Just serve your neighbor, the bird-headed girl, a nice glass of wine on the chest of a nude man. There! That’s much better.