Once the drifts of wrapping paper are cleared away, the dinner leftovers consigned to the refrigerator and guests heading home, the lucky gardener who received a nice fat book — one with pages and that new-book smell — can kick back with a cup of tea and a few choice Christmas cookies and begin to enjoy the next eleven days of the holiday.

This is the time of year to pull out all stops and give a book that enchants, like Phaidon's "The Gardener's Garden," 480 pages of photographs and text featuring 250 horticultural wonders by garden designers, horticulturists and landscape architects, from the 14th century to the present. The range of selections, contributed by an international panel of experts, is truly eclectic - from New York City's High Line to a moss garden in Japan to L'Oasis d'Aboukir, a vertical garden on the face of a Paris building. This is the book to inspire winter dreams for your favorite gardener.

True food for thought is found in the equally inspiring "The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food" by James Beard Award-winning chef Dan Barber. The food on the third plate referred to in the title describes Barber's vision for the future of the American diner. The first plate, with its corn-fed steak and baby carrots, is the typical Big Ag offering; the second, steak from grass-fed beef and organic, locally raised carrots, is the current paradigm of good eating; but the third is a main dish of carrots with a side of beef - the sustainable option Barber sees as the future of responsible eating. In his book, Barber visits food pioneers from all over the world, exploring the farming practices of olive growers in southern Spain and those of seedsmen in Washington state who are developing new varieties of grain in collaboration with local bakers, millers, and malt makers. Those who enjoy the works of Michael Pollan will appreciate reading about sustainability from a chef's perspective, as Barber mixes food history, environmental philosophy and restaurant lore with verve and humor.

So we've set our gardeners dreaming of exotic landscapes, and turned their thoughts to a sustainable future. What's next? How about practical advice? Timber Press has just the ticket for the serious gardener: "The Manual of Plant Grafting: Practical Techniques for Ornamentals, Vegetables, and Fruit," by Peter T. MacDonald. This is for anyone who ever mused on the idea of taking a twig or two from a favorite apple tree and somehow sticking it onto another. While grafting is a method of propagation that has been in use for thousands of years, new techniques have arisen in the last 20 years, and MacDonald's book features information on the reasons for grafting, along with detailed information on what type of graft should be used, when it should be done, what type of root stock needs to be used, and what environment it needs to be kept in. This may be more information than the average gardener needs, but for anyone who dreams of someday having a few fruit trees it's important to have the best information in hand. Further, as grafting of edible plants like tomatoes has become more popular, it's good to know how to master the techniques and create a super tomato of one's own.

Finally, take pity on the snowbound gardener, waiting impatiently for their favorite season to return, and remind him or her that, while they can't plant vegetables right now, they can still eat them. "Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi" is the latest cookbook from Israeli-born chef and restaurant owner Yotam Ottolenghi, the follow-up to his 2010 "Plenty." In this new offering Ottolenghi's vegetable-based dishes with Middle Eastern flavors are organized by cooking method: grilled, baked, simmered, cracked, braised or raw. The range of recipe ideas and the accompanying photographs are stunning and a change of pace for vegetarians. Some of the ingredients are not those one ordinarily has on hand (tamarind paste comes to mind), but other recipes depend on juxtaposing common ingredients in unexpected ways. Slow-Cooked Chickpeas on Toast with Poached Egg? It could be the new breakfast of champions.