The very mood and atmosphere of the garden -- its scents, colors, and textures -- are often indelibly linked to scenes from the gardener's life. As he dispenses excellent hands-on gardening advice in Out in the Garden, Riddle draws on his past and present, reflecting on family, childhood, and growing up gay in South Carolina. Back in 1980, when Dean Riddle was a young horticulture student, he "thought annual flowers, not to mention birdbaths, were the heights of frivolity -- things to amuse and occupy little old ladies." Thinking himself a serious plants-man with "no interest whatsoever in design," he dreamed of collecting woodland wildflowers, rare trees, and flowering shrubs native to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he was born and where he developed and nourished a deep love of plants and the natural world.A decade later, after living in various parts of the country and making gardens for other people, Dean Riddle settled in the Catskill Mountains. There, he finally got the chance to make his own first garden-"a small garden of sticks and stones with a swept dirt floor." But instead of planting rare stewartias and speckled trout lilies, he grew old-fashioned flowers and everyday vegetables like the ones he remembered from his aunt and uncle's farm in South Carolina. In the process he learned the value of good design and the importance of relating house to garden. And he discovered that the good life "has far less to do with money than it does with style, awareness, and gratefulness."Riddle's thoughts on gardening are astute and straightforward. His storytelling, while at times poignant, is punchy and hilarious. Honest, helpful, and always entertaining, Out in the Garden is both a "how-to" manual and a memoir -- and succeeds masterfully at both.
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