Book Review: “The Healing Garden”

“Let’s have tea. Let’s have galaxies, let’s have earthworms, let’s have sorrow and tenderness, and let us pour and receive the bottomless mercy that life has for us in our forgiveness, our failures, our longings. In return, let us forgive the world for being the world, let us allow all things to be forgiven, to be blessed, just for a moment, just for the duration of a cup of tea.

– Joan Sutherland

Review The Healing Garden
“The Healing Garden:
Herbs for Health and Wellness”
By Deb Soule; photography by Molly Haley
Princeton Architectural Press, 2021
244 pages, paperback, $25.95

I share this quote from a page of Deb Soule’s “The Healing Garden” because the book is this very cup of tea. It is a sweet respite from the push and pull of the world around us, in the same way that quietly harvesting chamomile or holy basil can be. Soule’s words soothe and calm as she brings us into the sacred and teaches, or reminds us, of plant truths. The preface starts with the following: “This book is more than information about herbs. The words and images are prayers on a page.”

Drawing on over 45 years of apprenticing with medicinal plants, Soule, founder of Avena Botanicals in Rockport, Maine, blends practical information with encouragement for others to nurture respectful relationships with plants, trees, pollinators, animals and birds. It is a gentle call for all of us to learn and honor the interconnectedness of all living beings and to cultivate our spiritual awareness as we cultivate our plantings.

Molly Haley’s gorgeous photography places us alongside Soule she harvests herbs in her gardens.

Divided into four parts, the text covers gathering with gratitude, drying herbs, preparing herbal medicines and healing with herbs. The basics of growing herbs biodynamically and making teas, tinctures, oils, decoctions, syrups, vinegars, plant essences and more are intertwined with gems of Soule’s vast knowledge. I particularly loved the section on drying herbs and the photographs of her drying rooms and record-keeping notebooks.

Eighteen easy-to-grow medicinal herbs are covered in a section on healing with herbs. Soule shares biodynamic growing tips, harvest and drying information, and medicinal preparation techniques and uses.

There were times when this book made me weep, as it brought to light the contrast between the current state of our country and the true nurturing essence of the plant world. The truest place is a garden: it holds no lies. Plant a patch of something to nurture your soul. Take the time to listen, to sip a cup of tea. Perhaps take “The Healing Garden” with you down that path.

Roberta Bailey, Seven Tree Farm, Vasselboro, Maine

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