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Books by and for Passionate Gardeners

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 14 December 2001

People who love gardening often end up asking questions like... what is gardening, why do we do it, what do we learn from it , what does it mean... what is our relationship to plants, to the garden, to the earth? Here are four books of this kind of thinking.

Growing Myself; A Spiritual Journey through Gardening, by Judith Handelsman. This book got me started writing this column. For Handelsman, caring for plants opens the heart to the interconnectedness of all life — and when a gardener honors that, plants respond. She writes about talking to her plants, about bonding with them, about growing along with them. I decided to follow her advice to let plants know before I move or prune them.

Why We Garden; Cultivating a Sense of Place, by Jim Nollman. As Nollman takes readers on a tour around the gardens on his land, he tells stories of how and why he built each one. He muses on our cultural preconceptions about gardening: for example instead of thinking of a garden as a painting, how about... as a drama? — in which the site, the plants, the gardener, and the other inhabitants all interact. He invites us to pay deeper attention to our natural, mind-body connection to the place where we live.

Second Nature; A Gardener’s Education, by Michael Pollan. Americans are split, says Pollan, between a love for pristine wilderness and the need to make use of our land — to the point where there are two camps that are both unreasonably extreme, and we need to find a middle ground. Gardening is the key: gardens teach us about finding a compromise between the “culture” camp and the “nature” one, “between those who would complete the conquest of the planet in the name of progress, and those who believe it's time we abdicated our rule and left the earth in the care of its more innocent species.”

Anatomy of a Rose; Exploring the Secret Life of Flowers, by Sharman Apt Russell. Plants communicate, cooperate and compete; they are highly aware of, and responsive to, the world around them. Interconnection is everywhere, the facts are clearly documented (even the research, in the back of the book). But Russell explores botanical science with a light touch, speaking from the point of view of the plants! My jaw dropped in wonder.

These books stretch the mind .... but they’ll be welcome fare to people with a passion for gardening.

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark