Cover image for Out in the garden : growing a beautiful life
Out in the garden : growing a beautiful life
Riddle, Dean.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2002]

Physical Description:
245 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
SB455 .R52 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It's always a joy to discover someone who approaches his life's work with such exuberance as to make it seem more like play than a profession. So it is with Riddle, whose passion for plants and gardening was engendered as a boy in his small-town South Carolina neighborhood, trained in a technical college horticulture program, and honed to a fine art at England's renowned Hillier Arboretum. Although he has created gardens for the rich and famous, those he designed for his own rustic rental cabin in the Catskill Mountains foothills have brought him the most satisfaction. Forthright and revealing, this horticultural memoir divulges as much about Riddle's personal life as it does about his gardens, for it's truly impossible to separate the two. Practical information abounds, for Riddle is a veritable fount of knowledge (and opinion) about astounding annuals, perennial performers, dazzling designs, all of which are recounted in his delightfully conversational commentary, as he mixes piquant observations with homespun philosophies about everything from manners to marigolds. --Carol Haggas

Publisher's Weekly Review

An accomplished horticulturist who has written prolifically for Elle Dcor and gardening publications, the author communicates his passion for his profession in this appealing memoir. It is not necessary to have an extensive knowledge of gardening to appreciate the practical advice Riddle offers. He draws on his own practice to demonstrate all aspects of garden making, from initial design to choice of plants, deployment of water and fertilizer and the use of containers. Raised in South Carolina, Riddle studied horticulture in England before eventually settling in upstate New York. For the last 10 years, he has been renting a simple bungalow with spectacular mountain views. Here he's designed a fenced kitchen garden, enclosed by sticks and filled with vegetables and flowers, a creation that has given him "more pleasure and taught me more than I ever would have imagined." Riddle effectively conveys the joys of a relatively modest lifestyle lived in the midst of great natural beauty. Interspersed are reminiscences of his beloved parents and descriptions of the gardens that impressed him as a child. He also reflects on his life as a gay man and recalls the death of a friend from complications of AIDS. Although he never came out to his parents, now deceased, Riddle is certain his mother understood and accepted his identity. Stylishly written with gentle humor, Riddle's reminiscence is, in its quiet way, inspiring. B&w illus. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Riddle, who writes the monthly column "Dean's Dirt" for Elle Dcor magazine, offers an engaging and humorous memoir about his lifelong love of gardening, his appreciation for the simple things in life, and growing up gay in the rural South. Born in Mauldin, SC, Riddle was enamored of plants and nature at an early age. After a brief job at a local nursery, he studied horticulture at a small community college in North Carolina and eventually won an internship at the prestigious Hillier Nursery in England. When Riddle got the chance to create his own garden in Woodstock, NY, he filled it with the vegetables and old-fashioned annuals that had so influenced him during childhood. Though filled with useful tips on plants and design, Riddle's book is about much more than gardening. It's about discovering pleasure and beauty in life's simple things and the value of family and friends. Whether describing the hijinks of a video shoot in his garden by the B52s or extolling the virtues of a cherished vase that belonged to his mother, Riddle's prose is compulsively readable, funny, and entertaining. Recommended for public libraries. Phillip Oliver, Univ. of North Alabama Lib., Florence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.