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Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate – Review

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Gardening at the Dragon's Gate
At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World
By Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson has gardened at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in northern California for over thirty years.  She tells her life story as it is connected to the garden. Her flowing text is transcribed from years of journaling as she meticulously documents the what, when, how and why of gardening.  But, this is much more than a how to book. It is a biography of gardening souls and an autobiography of a woman of purpose told as only a Zen student can.

As a gardener with spring planting season approaching, I settled back with this book.  I saw, smelled and tasted the garden.  I thought of my own garden and how I might do things differently this year.  I remembered previous gardens and people who I gardened with. I remembered my youth and stayed in the now. It is a book of meditation and vision.

In addition, Wendy offers up several chapters of practical and creative advice for the organic gardener.  So, right next to all this inspiration, are the nuts and bolts needed to hold a successful garden together.  There’s information on tending the garden, managing pests and guests, fertilizing, pruning, propagating, harvesting, and beautifying your garden. There are favorite recipes and beautiful illustrations rounded out with lines of poetry. 

In the final chapters, Wendy moves towards the art of landscaping. As with most of us, the early years of our gardens, are filled with breaking ground and soil conditioning.  We learn what are the garden’s strengths and weaknesses, along with our own. We experiment, succeed and fail.  Then one spring comes where we want to decorate. So, Wendy leads us there too.

This book is so simple, so warm and so full of Zen-like practicality, it would make a wonderful present this year for yourself or any seasoned or beginning gardener. So, make it a part of your gardening library and bring on spring.

Gardening at the Dragon's Gate
At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World
By Wendy Johnson
Illustrations by Davis Te Selle
Bantam Books

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