A jocose appreciation of do-it-yourself gardening's joys and sorrows from a Scripps-Howard columnist. A transplanted West Virginian who now lives in southern Rhode Island, Smith offers a ruefully merry account of how, at no small cost, she learned to coax blooms from New England's inhospitable soil. Playing it for laughs throughout, the author favors chapter headings and textual inserts drawn from the you-can-lead-a-horticulture-but-you-can't-make-her-think school of humor. Cases in point range from ""Peonies Envy"" through ""When Iris Eyes Are Smiling."" While poking gentle fun at herself and other would-be Luther Burbank types cursed by black-thumbed ignorance of Nature's frequently perverse ways, Smith conveys a down-to-earth sense of gardening's variant charms. ""A garden is a combination trading post, encounter group, social center, and workout class,"" she notes. ""It can be a place of great serenity and calm or the scene of hot debate."" The author also understands the lure of dahlias, the problem of toolsheds (which blight the fairest landscape), the terrors of flower-show competition, seasonal exigencies, the pleasures of catalogues, and allied aspects of amateur tillage. An amiable contribution to a genre that, like perennial borders, never seems too crowded.