Oh, how I wanted to love this book! My love of gardening and permaculture goes deep, as deep as my devotion to my Druidry. This book should be a combination that plays right into what I want to read about the most. However, The Druid Garden by Luke Eastwood sadly left me feeling “meh”. It’s a solid middle of the road read that leaves you wishing for more inspiration but is at least grounded in a basic understanding of horticulture.
I had hoped that the background the author brings to the book, being a trained horticulturist and working in the industry for a decade, would lend this book a level of expertise that other books on the topic lack. All the information is accurate and there are useful tips about cultivation. It just feels like any other gardening book, although not one by a particular expert one. No unusual or interesting tricks. No tips that would only come from a Druid’s perspective. The plant lists at the end of the book are solid. They alone are what will make most readers interested in checking this book out. There are bits of history, myth, and grounded information for growing trees, shrubs, and other plants.
On one hand the book feels too prescriptive. There are a lot of generalizations about what one should and shouldn’t do when gardening. Rarely are these flushed out with any investigation into how these guidelines came to be. Let’s take spacing for example. There are sections where the author speaks to how overcrowding is an issue facing many gardens and you should give plants plenty of room, following recommended guidelines. My own experience tells me that many of these recommendations are overestimations. Particularly when doing vegetables and herbs. The book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew helped me and many of my community garden members maximize production. I wish that this book took more time to provide avenues for further exploration for gardeners wishing to step outside the norms.
On the other hand, this book was too general in areas. I wanted more information about how one puts all these together in a spiritual way. There is a chapter at the end that provides a few example garden styles, but the details are sparse. There are very few (maybe even none?) personal stories of gardens the author has put together for spiritual practice. I was left wondering how the author’s experience with a Druid specific garden changed their practice, changed their garden.
One of the chapters that most frustrated me was the one on history of gardening. It covered a vast timeline (awesome!), but it was so very Eurocentric. There were a few mentions of First Nations and their gardening practices, but it failed to really put into focus the incredible history of land stewardship practices offered by these communities, let alone how those practices continue today (afterall, First Nations are alive and well and have a rich present, too!). This felt like a missed opportunity. I anticipated an author with a Pagan background and a focus on the spiritual nature of gardening to be more in tune with the desire of readers to hear a more diverse and full story.
This is a book with good information, but it lacks any broad inspiration and personal flavor. If you need a board correspondence list for your planting projects, pick this book up. If you are looking for garden how-to, pick up a gardening book with photos. If you want to feel inspired to take your practice outside, pick up a different book. It’s an ok book. I wouldn’t tell anyone NOT to read it, but I’m also not going to be gifting it anytime soon.