I should have known from the cover of what intriguing mysteries awaited. The matte cover is a lush green-yellow with a vine unfolded on one side – the promise of a new life. Yes, the fact that it has a matte cover has marked some points with me! (If you have read my previous reviews, you will remember that I am partial to the opaque book covers …) The subtitle proclaims the theme “At work in the wild is Cultivated World ‘- a wonderful synonym of how gardens really grow and what life is like.
I found myself transported to a world where I still had no idea – but isn’t that what books should do? Yes, I suppose so, but I hadn’t foreseen that this reference book, also a memoir, would be so powerful. Like the fertilizer Johnson talks about so brilliantly, the book has produced childhood memories of playing in nature from the depths of my memory banks. I found myself worried while wondering what it would be like to grow up in that magical place.
Initially, I bought this book hoping to find some answers to common organic gardening questions and found a unique approach to the circle of life through the author. Johnson, the master gardener of the Green Gulch Farm & Zen Center in Northern California, offers an intriguing glimpse of life in both a community and a Zen centre. I found myself driving along the garden paths and through multi-level plots of plants of all kinds. Feeling like the apprentice I surely would have known how, if I had happened to volunteer my time during the harvest season, I followed him closely without wanting to get lost in the lush vegetation. Don’t worry though, just as I thought the vegetation was too overwhelming, Johnson gently and firmly guides beginner gardeners (and readers) on the gravel path.
The book is brilliantly structured. Johnson’s memories, stories and gardening philosophy are perfect followers in reference material chapters. This is a book that – even an avid reader like me – cannot be digested in one sitting. Not unlike a good compost pile, it must be assimilated, transformed and divided into small pieces.
This is a keeper and not one to put on the shelf. This is meant to be brought into the garden itself; the pages open to the sun, providing references while turning the terrain.