Books for Inspiration with a Healing Garden Theme

Healing garden books for inspiration

I’m forgoing Wordless Wednesday today in a big way since the number of shopping days until Christmas is dwindling fast. If you’re still looking for the perfect gift for someone special (including yourself) and you can’t get everything you need from the TLN store, here are some recommendations for beautiful books with a healing garden theme.

These are all books that I own and refer to again and again for inspiration when designing and consulting about healing gardens (including my own). There are more academic and educational books out there, which are listed on the TLN’s References page. Our “If You Only Read Five” page, which lists books in categories (inspiration, evidence-based design, horticultural therapy, specific populations, etc.), is still a work in progress, but look for updates this spring.

The books in this list are sure to inspire you and your giftees to create spaces that are truly nurturing to body and soul. And as a bonus, when you buy from all of the Amazon links on this post, you’ll be nurturing the Therapeutic Landscapes Network as well. Through the Amazon Associates program, the TLN receives a percentage of each book sale. This is true for Amazon purchase at any time of the year, so please bookmark the link and use it when you shop there. Of course, if you can find the books locally, all the better.

Our Shadow GardenI just discovered this sweet, sweet children’s book, Our Shadow Garden, by Cherie Foster Colburn. Illustrated by young patients at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, it’s about a girl who creates a garden for her grandmother: When a beloved grandmother becomes ill and is no longer able to be in the sun, her granddaughter is inspired to create a garden for her she can enjoy. She and Poppa work together in secret to transform Nana’s garden into a night blooming oasis, a place where she can be with the creatures and plants that bring her happiness. Published by Bright Sky Press, Our Shadow Garden is the winner of the 2010 Growing Good Kids: Excellence in Children’s Literature Award from the American Horticulture Society and Jr. Master Gardeners.  I’m not providing an Amazon link to this book because when you purchase directly though the Children’s Art Project all proceeds go to them at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. They have raised more than $26 million dollars for cancer patients and their families selling notecards and gift items that feature original art by pediatric cancer patients, so when you buy this book, you’ll be giving a gift that becomes two gifts.

And speaking of children, A Child’s Garden: 60 Ideas A Child's Gardento Make Any Garden Come Alive for Children, by Molly Dannenmaier is a must-have if you’ve got kids or clients with kids. The book provides wonderful ideas for creating and embellishing spaces that nurture young people. Or just for the kid in you.

Meditative Gardener

Here’s another book that’s relatively new to my collection: The Meditative Gardener by Cheryl Wilfong – I met Cheryl at a Garden Writers Association meeting last spring, and she was kind enough to give me a copy of her new book, The Meditative Gardener. Whether you are more of a meditator or more of a gardener, or that perfect balance of both (bless you), this book is filled with insights and parallels between cultivating mindfulness and cultivating a garden (plus beautiful photographs, many by the author). For those who garden but don’t meditate (or not as much as they’d like to), it will inspire you to put down your trowel for a moment and just be in your garden, enjoying its gifts. And for those who have a spiritual practice but don’t garden much, you’ll be inspired to invest some time and energy in a little bit of soil and some plants to tend to see what grows in your garden, and in you. You can order the book through her website, and Cheryl has a lovely blog ( as well.

Derek Jarman's GardenDerek Jarman’s Garden by Derek Jarman – It’s funny how many of the other books in this list refer to Derek Jarman’s garden and have at least one picture of it from this book. It’s one of my personal favorites, too. Not your garden-variety garden book, but truly beautiful, inspiring and life-affirming.

Gardens for the SoulGardens for the Soul: Designing Outdoor Spaces Using Ancient Symbols, Healing Plants and Feng Shui by Pamela Woods – This book (not surprising, given the title) delves a little more into the spiritual. Woods, who is a dowser as well as an artist and landscape designer, begins with a chapter on garden energy. The next chapter focuses on ancient symbols like labyrinths, medicine wheels, mandalas, and spirals. Woods also talks about how using universal patterns can make us feel more connected to nature the earth.

Peaceful Gardens

Peaceful Gardens: transform your garden into a haven of calm and tranquillity by Stephanie Donaldson – A nice little book (it really is little, measuring 5.5 x 6.5″) with hundreds of drool-worthy photographs and great ideas. I like the mixture of garden styles in this book – everything from traditional cottage-type gardens to wild meadows to very modern, spare, contemplative spaces.

Minter The Healing GardenThe Healing Garden: A Natural Haven for Body, Senses and Spirit by Sue Minter – This was one of my first “healing gardens” books. I really like Minter’s first chapter, “The Healing Arts: A marriage of botany and medicine” for its overview of the history of healing gardens and the therapeutic use of plants and nature. In general, her scope is broad, touching on a lot of aspects of healing gardens, from herbs and organic vegetables to Feng Shui and color theory. A delightful buffet for those who like a little bit of everything. There’s another book by Sue Minter called The Healing Garden: A Practical Guide for Physical & Emotional Well-Being. I’m not sure how it differs from the one above, and I’m sorry to say I don’t have it…yet.

The Healing Garden Gay SearchThe Healing Garden: Gardening for the Mind, Body and Soul by Gay Search – After a short overview, Search delves into herbs, both culinary and medicinal; flowers, especially as used for color and scent; water in the garden; and low-allergen gardens. She includes some good plant lists and suggestions for each category, and even a few garden plans.

The Healing Garden SquireThe Healing Garden: Natural Healing for the Mind, Body and Soul by David Squire (it sure is confusing that three different books have the same main title.) – Squire, too, starts with a nice chapter that gives some historical perspective, including the Garden of Eden, Islamic gardens, monastery gardens, and tea gardens. His next chapter is something of a surprise: “Does Soil Have a Soul?” He’s got a good point here, which is that everything comes from the soil, so that had better be healthy first. I appreciate this, since nothing is more depressing – and less nurturing – than a garden that doesn’t thrive. After that, each chapter is devoted to one of the five senses: touch; scent; taste; sound; taste; and sight – color, patterns, shapes, and textures.

Healing Gardens RawlingsHealing Gardens by Romy Rawlings – I’d say that “holistic gardening” is the main thrust of this book – that to create a garden that is healing for us, we must create a healthy garden. In other words, be good to the earth and she will reward you. After an overview of this concept, Rawlings focuses on the following topics: Feng Shui (a whole chapter, looking at the various schools); color therapy; herbalism, with both culinary and medicinal herbs; aromatherapy; and styles of gardens, including meditation and Zen.

SanctuarySanctuary: Gardening for the Soul by Lauri Brunton and Erin Fournier – This book is all about nature and gardens as sanctuary, and how to find and create sanctuary in your life. I have to say, though I love all of my book-children equally, there’s something particularly inspiring about this one. Perhaps because it’s more than just a garden how-to book, or perhaps because the photos are just so darn scrumptious. As another indication that this is something special, here are the chapter titles: Peace; Change; Passion; Mystery; and Contemplation. It’s one of the few books, along with Derek Jarman’s Garden (below) that calls attention to and embraces death as a part of the garden’s cycle. There’s also a nice section on labyrinths at the end of the book.

Spiritual GardeningSpiritual Gardening: Creating Sacred Space Outdoors by Peg Streep – This book, more than any of the others, is about creating sacred space and a place where you connect with your spirit, or soul, though nature. Streep touches on myriad different spiritual gardens, including Zen, Gaia, Celtic, and Biblical, and several different methods of connecting with nature including aromatherapy, Feng Shui, and labyrinths. For those who are more spiritual or even religious, this book will speak to you. But even if you’re not, it’s a good pithy read with lots of great pictures and quotes.

Did I miss any? Leave a comment! Always looking for more great inspiration books to add to the list…and to my bookshelf.