Book Review: The Druid Garden
As a long-time gardener, I'm a sucker for good books on gardening, and this happens to be one. It's a pleasing combination of solid, practical gardening how-to and thoughts about connecting your gardening activities with your spiritual life, whether you're a Druid, some other kind of Pagan, or just a person who wants to honor the Earth through your everyday activities.
The book begins with a history of gardening and farming: the many ways in which people have grown their own food and built relationships, for better or for worse, with the land through the ages. Until I saw it laid out in direct linear fashion, I didn't realize how closely the history of horticulture echoes the place of ordinary people in society, their privilege or lack of it. It's illuminating to realize that being able to grow your own food and keep all of it for yourself is a very real power, one that has eroded over time and around the world. Food sovereignty, it's called, and it combines a sense of freedom with a connection with the Earth that is a major component of spirituality for many people.
The nuts-and-bolts section of the book begins with a thorough discussion of soil, compost, and garden planning - subjects that are often given short shrift in the haste to get to the more exciting aspects of gardening. Don't skip these chapters or just skim through them; they provide valuable information that will serve you in the long term, regardless of the type of garden you end up creating.
Likewise, the chapters on plants as living beings and methods for creating spiritual connections with plants are worth reading more than just once. This is not some woo-woo New Age stuff, but a firm grounding in easy-to-understand botany combined with a reminder that all life is one life. Whether you choose to connect with the plants around you via touch, meditation, or mindful consumption (or all three), doing so will add a valuable facet to your gardening experience and your spiritual life.
I like that this book includes trees and shrubs - both the typical orchard varieties and the Druid grove trees that are referenced in Celtic literature - as part of gardening. We often limit the concept of "gardening" to seasonal vegetables and maybe flowers. But really, any plants we tend become part of our garden. That can happily include trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, and even wild plants that have crept in along the edges or that the birds have "planted" for us in their peregrinations.
In addition to cultivation instructions for all the different kinds of trees and plants, Eastwood includes ideas for simple ornamental and herb gardens that incorporate the concept of the four classical elements, and a helpful section on natural solutions to pests and disease. I like that he's honest about the amount of work it takes to safeguard and maintain an organic garden. It is labor, for sure, but it's worth it, both for the connection with the Earth and the food independence that it creates.
There's an extensive bibliography and a helpful index of common plant names at the end of the book. I wish there was a more extensive index, but if you're an ebook reader, you can just search for any term you like. Indexes are, sadly, disappearing from books at an alarming rate these days. But don't let the lack of index keep you from reading this one. It's well organized, so even without a full index, the information you want is still pretty easy to find.
The Druid Garden will be released April 1, but you can pre-order it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound, Bookshop.org and other online bookstores. If you want to wait until after the release date, I encourage you to order it through your local independent bookstore.
Full disclosure: I'm doing some PR work for the author, but I'm reviewing this book here because I enjoyed it and I think it's worth your time to read it. I don't review books that I don't like, regardless of my relationship with the author.