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Originally published Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Book review

"Our Life in Gardens" presents passionate gardening regardless of climate

"Our Life in Gardens" by master Vermont gardeners Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd is that rare gardening book that will serve readers in every climate zone in the country.

Special to The Seattle Times

"Our Life in Gardens"

by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 322 pp., $30

"Our Life in Gardens" is the rare treasure of a gardening book that deserves to be read in every climate zone in the country.

You'll be amazed at the wide range of edible and ornamental plants that Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd are able to cultivate in Vermont, even though temperatures have been known to plunge to 30 below zero at North Hill.

Despite design decrees like "improbability is not a quality we value in landscapes," this courageous duo even grows banana trees, which spend their winters as truncated logs in a rented plastic-tube house.

There's plenty of pithy practicality here, from how to stake peas to selecting the most delicious kinds of artichokes. Annuals, trees, bulbs, perennials — these guys grow them all and are happy to share their tricks and opinions.

But it's the 30-year thread of impassioned gardening, from the couple's first houseplants in a Boston apartment to their famously floriferous Vermont acreage, that will keep you reading. And help you forget your disappointment that the book offers not a single photo of the garden.

Books are made memorable by their authors' willingness to share personal stories honestly. These gardeners admit their mistakes as surely as they revel in the beauty they've created and tend. They masterfully evoke the joys of digging in the dirt, the comfortable rhythms of the gardening year.

"There are always surprises," write Eck and Winterrowd, "though we are happy to realize that they fall about evenly on the sides of success and of disaster. Over our years here, we have gained some wisdom about both, and that is what we wish to pass on."

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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