Book Review: The Joy of Gardening by Ellen Mary

"You can’t help but relax and smile when reading a book as encouraging as this..."

Ellen Mary’s book “The Joy of Gardening: The Everyday Zen of Mowing the Lawn” is a fascinating concept – in principle it’s a gardening book, but in actuality it’s more about growing character than it is about growing cauliflowers.

There are some wonderful snippets of gardening gold in amongst these pages. The concept of ‘sacrificial crops’, the advice on edible flowers, and the tips for encouraging the regrowth of bulbs and tubers were all particularly enlightening. Though I can quite categorically state that I’m not showing my husband the section on the benefits of allowing your lawn to grow wild. ‘No mow’ is definitely a no go for this garden, he’s getting his mandatory weekly zen session whether he likes it or not.

I’ve not encountered much Zen in my adult life, but I recognise the techniques I’ve come across elsewhere in my experiences with mindfulness and guided meditation. This is a book that is written to make you feel calm, it’s sage advice for the worriers, the over-thinkers, and those of us that need to be reminded to slow down every now and again. I can see this book being a gratefully received gift for many new gardeners.

"Everything in this book is about harmony and balance, and it’s a lovely little gem as a result."

Perhaps the most fascinating chapter for me was the one that touched on the Japanese art of shinrin-yoku, an instructive chapter walking you through the process of reducing blood pressure, stress and anxiety by reconnecting with your garden. It’s a sentiment that is echoed throughout the pastel-coloured easy-to-read pages of this delightful book – Ellen Mary is reminding us to reconnect with nature, to live in harmony with it. Our garden shouldn’t be a chore or something that we worry about, it should be a safe space where we connect with the natural world.

You can’t help but relax and smile when reading a book as encouraging as this. The biggest challenges I remember facing when I was a new gardener were the fear of failure and the fear of not knowing what I was doing doing; as well as providing some incredibly useful tips this book reminds us that failure is just the first step toward success and that, holistically, if you approach gardening with the right mindset you’ve already succeeded just by turning up and appreciating the outside world.

Everything in this book is about harmony and balance, and it’s a lovely little gem as a result.

About the Author: 

Happiest when surrounded by plants, Ellen Mary is passionate advocate for the benefits of nature for wellbeing, spreading the word through The Plant Based Podcast and her regular talks.

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Angela Swan

Posted on July 13th 2021


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