The Healing Garden. Gardening for the Mind, Body, and Soul by Gay Search is a wonderful resource on gardening whether you are starting a garden from scratch, or just changing a part of your garden. Though I bought this book many years ago, I find the information in it to be relevant and applicable even today.
This is an excellent book on how to grow and maintain a garden that speaks to all our senses including touch, smell, color and even spiritual components to the garden are addressed in this book. The author Gay Search looks at many aspects of gardening and shows us how it is more than just plants that go into a garden. She shows us how a garden can be a refuge for us to escape into another world, where for a few minutes you can be transported to a peaceful place.
This book is categorized into 6 major sections. 1. Gardens of the mind and spirit 2. Herbs for health 3. The healing power of color 4. The power of flowers 5. Water, water, everywhere, and 6. Low allergen gardens. Each chapter contains a detailed gardening history, a list of plants, and a tutorial on how to create a garden within today’s lifestyle.
In the first chapter, titled Gardens of the mind and spirit, Gay Search dwells into the significance of gardens in spiritual and religious aspects of ancient cultures including Egyptian, Greek, Chinese, Roman, English, Mogul, and Japanese cultures. She discusses how important gardens were and still are in all these cultures and how gardens have always played a mystical role. She ends the chapter with examples of how we can create a contemplative place in our own garden. For example, she cites one scenario where we can create an outdoor space that has a quiet corner with natural sounds to mask the noises of life. She recommends placing special plants close by so that their leaves rustle together creating natural soothing sounds that can drown out unwanted noises, thus putting us in a peaceful mood.
The next chapter, titled Herbs for health is huge. Gay provides background information on herbs in various cultures from China to India, Greece and England. This chapter is packed with information on how herbs are used in medicine, how herbalists use herbs, how to grow herbs organically, how to use them in your medicine cabinet, what not to use them for, and how important their fragrance is in the garden. There is so much valuable information on herbs in this chapter that I think it could be it’s own book.
The third chapter is titled The healing power of color. What’s interesting in this chapter is that a lot of pages are devoted to the theory of color itself. I found this information to be very valuable. Gay Search talks about what effect color has on our emotions and how to use color to create a specific mood in the garden. Only after going into color theory does she talk about color in the garden and how to use it effectively in various areas of our landscape. For example, she describes using a single color planting bed (shades of blue in this case because blue is a relaxing color), to create a more contemplative mood in one of her garden projects. At the end of this chapter she has an extensive list of plants and flowers categorized by color.
I assumed the next chapter titled The power of Flowers was about colorful flowers. But this chapter is more on the topic of aromatherapy of flowers. The entire chapter is about how the fragrance in flowers is so important in a garden. Gay discusses how to use fragrant plants and flowers in the garden to create moods that are either calming or stimulating. She also dwells into the science of essential oils and discusses how they are extracted from plants and flowers. At the end of the chapter, Gay lists a large number of plants that can be used in the garden for their aromatherapy attributes. A more appropriate title for this chapter could have been “Aromatherapy of Flowers.”
The last two chapters, titled Water, Water Everywhere and Low Allergen Gardens, are both full of details on how to use water features in the garden and how to use low allergen plants in one’s landscape. I didn’t even know such plants existed.
The Healing Garden. Gardening for the Mind, Body, and Soul is a fabulous reference book on gardening that looks at the bigger picture of what an outdoor space could look like. Rather than full of beautiful photos of plants, trees and flowers and tips on growing them, this book is focused on creating an outdoor space that is more of a garden refuge. A garden where one can enjoy nature and feel calm and connected to their natural environment.
If you are looking for a great resource on the fundamental steps to create a peaceful garden landscape where you can let your cares slip away, this book is worth having in your home library. The Healing Garden is available on Amazon.