This review originally appeared in the July/August issue of Northern Gardener.
In Creating Sanctuary (Timber Press, 2018), author Jessi Bloom interweaves gardening practices with those of meditation, aromatherapy and Ayurvedic medicine. Readers familiar with organic and sustainable gardening philosophies will find many common techniques in Bloom’s work.
As the book’s subtitle—Sacred Garden Spaces, Plant-Based Medicine, and Daily Practices to Achieve Happiness and Well-Being—promises, gardening is just a part of what Bloom strives to address.
She emphasizes the sensual aspects of gardening as she discusses the process of creating, and then using, a personal garden sanctuary. As she writes:
“We spend so much of our lives using just one or two senses—maybe squinting at a computer screen or gluing our ear to a phone—that our sanctuary garden may offer the best chance we have to enjoy the full spectrum of sensory pleasures.”
She offers some unusual garden-art options, such as mandalas, cairns and labyrinths, and highlights some noteworthy public gardens and farms that illustrate her points.
A landscape designer and International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist, Bloom devotes about a third of the book to botanical alchemy. She describes how to grow, harvest, preserve and use plants (mostly herbs) for medicinal and spiritual purposes. She offers recipes for teas, tinctures and other products.
In the capsule descriptions of 50 plants she labels “sacred,” Bloom includes, along with care requirements, the plant’s sacred powers (hops induces relaxation and peaceful sleep) and interesting tidbits (Abraham Lincoln put hops in his pillow).
Bloom closes with self-care rituals that can be practiced in the garden or in other natural settings, and plant-based mixtures for body care and household uses.