The TLN Recommends: Garden books for inspiration

Healing garden books for inspiration

If you’re still looking for the perfect gift for someone special (including yourself), here are some recommendations for beautiful books with a healing garden them that are sure to inspire you and your giftees to create beautiful, meaningful, nurturing spaces. These are all books that I own and refer to again and again. There are more academic and educational books out there, which are listed on the TLN’s References page. When you buy from any 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.

This is the third year for TLN Blog book recommendations, and I have a couple of new ones to add to the list. The first is Sharon Danks’ Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation. Although this book is not so much geared to home gardeners, it’s so inspiring that it deserves a place on this list. It’s a beautifully illustrated guide for turning the traditional school ground’s slab of asphalt into edible gardens, wildlife habitats, and vibrant creative spaces. Cheryl Charles, Co-Founder and President of the Children & Nature Network, has this to say about it: “An inspiring, important, and practical resource. Grounded in experience and loaded with photographs to illustrate the concepts, this book is an invaluable tool for all of us who are working to reconnect children and nature where they live, learn and play.”

The Goodbye Cancer Garden by Kristi ValiantThe Goodbye Cancer Garden should sit on the shelf next to Our Shadow Garden (below). Written by Janna Mattheis and illustrated by Kristi Valiant, The Goodbye Cancer Garden is about a family that plants a vegetable garden in spring with the idea of seeing mom, who is undergoing chemotherapy, “better by pumpkin time.” Matthies wrote the book based on her own story. The book shows a family that is dealing with a mom with cancer in a very life-affirming way.

Our Shadow GardenOur Shadow Garden is a sweet children’s book 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 won the 2010 Growing Good Kids: Excellence in Children’s Literature Award from the American Horticulture Society and Jr. Master Gardeners. When you purchase directly though the Children’s Art Project, all proceeds go to them at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.

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

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. For friends and family reading this post, I will simply say: “hint hint.”

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!