The Garden Awakening by Mary Reynolds September 05, 2016 17:59

The Garden Awakening by Mary ReynoldsI have read my fair share of gardening books. However, this one is totally different to anything I have read before. And I'm still not quite sure what I think about it all. But here goes... 

Mary Reynolds is the youngest woman to have won gold at Chelsea Flower Show. The Garden Awakening shares the journey she undertook, not just to make it to Chelsea, but to leave behind the constraints of 'traditional' garden design and take a leap of faith. The plan was to refocus on creating gardens that express nature rather than seek to confine it. To reconnect people to their plots of land, no matter how large or small. To find a sense of balance, energy and harmony. And the results have been truly magical. 

The Garden Awakening combines a personal journey with detailed garden design advice. It begins with a section about restoring wellness. Don't be fooled into thinking this is about slinging a few barrows of horsey poo around the place to add 'oomph'. Restoring wellness sets the tone for the remainder of the book; which is not just about the soil and plot that you tend, but also about restoring wellness to yourself.

Now, I have to admit at this point that I'm not known for my mindfulness, spirituality or 'zen'. I love a good yoga class, but that part at the end, when you are meant to be relaxing, has me lying there with one eye open looking around at the rest of the room, wondering how they all do it. Or making a mental shopping list. Or both. Reading the book created that same sense of inner battle within me - with one half saying 'Really?' while the other said 'Well, why not?' The reason for this conflict lies in the way the book blends practical garden design ideas with magical, spiritual ceremonies and rituals effortlessly. The author's sense of ease only heightened my sense of turmoil, until I gave into myself and just relaxed. There was so much in the book that I agreed with, it seemed churlish to be sceptical about the rest. 

Magic, passion and joy fill every page of this book. Ancient Irish customs are entwined with a belief that "the land is a living body." What a simple statement. But so thought provoking. The concept instantly struck a chord. It hasn't just changed my view of my own garden. It has influenced the way I look at all outdoor spaces. 

I cannot help but feel richer for having read this book. It has opened my eyes and given me a totally new perspective on familiar, much loved spaces. The connection between parent and child is a continuous theme in the book; used as a means to explain how land should be treated as both a gift and a responsibility and to be nurtured on many levels. This metaphor has a special resonance for me. I heard the word 'Permaculture' a lot when I was a child, thanks to my Mum and Dad's love of gardening. For years it has laid buried, forgotten in some corner of my mind. Now it is back, with a much greater sense of understanding and consciousness. And I feel all the better for it. 

The Gardening Awakening, designs to nurture our land and ourselves is out now, published by Green Books. Dare to be Wild, a film inspired by the life and work of Mary Reynolds, will be out in UK cinemas from Friday 23rd September.