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Lloyd ( The Mixed Border ) spends ``too much time writing and too little actually gardening,'' he complains. Here, though, he combines both passions and takes us on a tour of the grounds of Great Dixter, his 15th-century Sussex manor house. With gardens designed originally by Edwin Lutyens, and an outlay that includes moats, a topiary lawn, sunken garden, orchard, meadow and more, his holdings are uncommonly extensive, as well as long-lived. But there are still ways in for those of us with less to work with. Organizing his book by season and by flora (ferns, grasses, bamboos, roses), Lloyd welcomes us within, recommending ``aggressive but nice'' poppies, and allowing for paths with ``plants splurging'' across them. Lloyd goes into detail in sketching his vision of a horticultural nirvana, and his words serve him vividly in describing the transitions, variations and workings of pure chance that affect even the most deliberate and well-designed garden. Too bad, then, that some of the photographs appear marred: an allium blurs, a crocus clots. For the most part, though, they are spectacular. (Apr.)