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The Well-Gardened Mind

The Restorative Power of Nature

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A distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener presents “a truly uplifting book on the power of gardening—and how it can change people’s lives (Stylist, UK).

The garden is often seen as a refuge, a place to forget worldly cares, removed from the “real” life that lies outside. When we get our hands in the earth we connect with the cycle of life in nature through which destruction and decay are followed by regrowth and renewal. Gardening is one of the quintessential nurturing activities and yet we understand so little about it. The Well-Gardened Mind provides a new perspective on the power of gardening to change people’s lives. Here, Sue Stuart-Smith investigates the many ways in which mind and garden can interact and explores how the process of tending a plot can be a way of sustaining an innermost self.

Stuart-Smith’s own love of gardening developed as she studied to become a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. From her grandfather’s return from World War I to Freud’s obsession with flowers to case histories with her own patients to progressive gardening programs in such places as Rikers Island prison in New York City, Stuart-Smith weaves thoughtful yet powerful examples to argue that gardening is much more important to our cognition than we think. Recent research is showing how green nature has direct antidepressant effects on humans. “The most original gardening book ever [that] combines observation, horticulture, literature and history” (Sunday Times, UK), The Well-Gardened Mind is a book for gardeners and non-gardeners alike, and the perfect solace for people seeking healthier mental lives.

Photograph © Harry Stuart-Smith

Sue Stuart-Smith, a prominent psychiatrist and psychotherapist, took her degree in English literature at Cambridge before qualifying as a doctor. She worked in the National Health Service for many years, becoming the lead clinician for psychotherapy in Hertfordshire. She currently teaches at The Tavistock Clinic in London and is consultant to the DocHealth service. She is married to Tom Stuart-Smith, the celebrated garden designer, and, over thirty years together, they have created the wonderful Barn Garden in Hertfordshire.

Photograph © Harry Stuart-Smith

Sue Stuart-Smith, a prominent psychiatrist and psychotherapist, took her degree in English literature at Cambridge before qualifying as a doctor. She worked in the National Health Service for many years, becoming the lead clinician for psychotherapy in Hertfordshire. She currently teaches at The Tavistock Clinic in London and is consultant to the DocHealth service. She is married to Tom Stuart-Smith, the celebrated garden designer, and, over thirty years together, they have created the wonderful Barn Garden in Hertfordshire.

"A garden is a physical, natural, social, spiritual, and therapeutic space. The author lays this out in her book about the healing, consoling, and life-affirming effects of gardening. A trained therapist, she narrates her work with a soothing, comforting but far-from-sleep-inducing voice. Her cadence is even and clear but not monotonous. She argues that a garden helps us cope with a fast-paced life by slowing us down, and her narration has the same effect. While the book is not a how-to, the author offers numerous examples of the therapeutic power of gardening. She discusses at length how valuable working with your hands can be. By tending your plants, you are gardening your inner space and cultivating a better mental state."

– AudioFile Magazine