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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2020 Sue Stuart-Smith. Originally published in Great Britain in 2020 by William Collins. Excerpt from “The Garden” in Chapter 9 is reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd, London, on behalf of The Beneficiaries of the Estate of Vita Sackville-West. © Vita Sackville-West 1946. Excerpt from “Hold out your arms” in Chapter 10 is reproduced with permission. Helen Dunmore, Counting Backwards: Poems 1975–2017 (Bloodaxe Books, 2019). © Helen Dunmore 2017. (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

What listeners say about The Well-Gardened Mind

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Author reading doesn't work

The book would be interesting to read, I think, but the narration is mind numbingly monotone and I just couldn't finish it.

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  • Maude
  • 2021-02-26

Fabulous book

I am interested in all aspects that this book covered from gardening, nature, mental health and history from veterans of war to Freud to St. Hildegard of Bingen to Wordsworth and more! It’s quite impressive what she covers. You do not, however, need to be a gardener to enjoy this book. I listened to it and read the hard copy as I wanted to take in more and review what Sue Stuart Smith writes about so meticulously and beautifully. I always prefer books read by the author as there is an element of heart that often seems missing if one hasn’t a good reader or is not the writer. Her voice is soothing and lovely. I’m going to listen again! Loved it in so many ways.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Claudia in Colorado
  • 2020-11-05

Fascinating book about mental health and gardening

I loved this book. The performance is sometimes stilted but the material makes up for it. There are great ideas here for mental health professionals and gardeners alike.

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  • dr Frank
  • 2021-05-29

Tremendous insight into the power of gardening

The book is nothing like I anticipated - it is much better. I anticipated a dry book on gardening and the mind. However, the stories combined with historical antidotes, made the book alive with insight that I embraced as someone who has gardened off and on for forty years but in 2020, embraced it like never before.

The stories, success, and insight along with the excellent narration, made the book more than anticipated. I highly recommend this book.

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  • Lawrence the 4th
  • 2021-03-28

Much Needed for Society

Everyone needs to read this book. It’s a great documentation of how we all need nature amd gardening for our own health.

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  • Joao G. D. Santos
  • 2020-11-12

The Well-Gardened Mind

This book was recommended by a Climate Reality Leader colleague, and it was splendid.
I strongly recommend to everyone who wants to heal yourself and why not other people's minds.

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  • LRWord
  • 2021-11-09

Wonderful Book for Gardeners

This delightful, encouraging discussion and memoir of gardening is a resource for people who enjoy any kind of gardening (including having houseplants) and want to understand the therapeutic aspects of gardening in more depth. The author, a retired psychiatrist, discusses various treatment programs for mental and physical illnesses which involve gardening and spending time in gardens. For example, the author's grandfather, traumatized by his time as a WWI POW, was rehabilitated by gardening.

The author writes about the men in WWI who were stuck for long periods of time at the front lines. Some of them grew flowers or vegetables when they had the chance. It was something to help them keep a hold on their sanity.

It turns out that both Freud and Jung enjoyed being outdoors and working in a garden. Freud was very fond of orchids.

I was very interested in the discussion of prehistoric gardening. Researchers believe that some very ancient gardening was intended to produce especially desirable foods, such as figs. They also believe that ancient people grew gourds simply to make them into musical instruments. In other words, our remote ancestors enjoyed growing things. It wasn't all the drudgery of survival.

If you feel restored and energized by gardening, you will find much that explains the value of it in this book.

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  • Amy Dutton
  • 2021-08-05

Wonderful to listen to while gardening!

As if I needed more reasons to enjoy my gardens! The psychology of why gardening is beneficial and how it's being used to restore humanity. This was the perfect companion to the self care and focus that I've been needing this summer!
The reader is very articulate, and her voice is beautiful, but reads a little slower than it's normal for conversation. I listened at 1.25 speed which fixed that and made it perfect.

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  • LA Reviews
  • 2021-07-10

Great View if Gardening From a Mental Perspective

Narrator was very good. The beginning and end were great. Parts if the middle didn't resonate with me as much. Very eye opening to hear the role of nature, growth and death on mental health.