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Gardening at the Dragon's Gate: At Work in the Wild and Cultivated World Paperback – February 26, 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Perhaps a more appropriate subtitle would have been Zen and the Art of Horticulture Maintenance, since Johnson infuses every aspect of gardening with the philosophy that has been her guiding light for more than 30 years. A Zen Buddhist master, Johnson has served as head gardener for San Francisco’s Green Gulch Farm Center, a place of exceptional tranquility and vibrancy where her daily devotional meditation practices became as essential to the health and productivity of her gardens as they were to her body and soul. Espousing seven essential principles that demonstrate respect for the land through organic gardening and ecological farming, Johnson relates practical information about botanical basics, such as planting, growth, and propagation, as well as the craft of gardening, such as designing, tending, and harvesting. Viewed through the prism of an elemental understanding of the unbridled life that exists in every garden, Johnson’s wisdom is conveyed with a lyrical, poetic, yet pragmatic sensibility that both calms the mind and excites the imagination. --Carol Haggas

Review

“Wendy Johnson shows how the garden and the shared table reconnect us in a profound and visceral way to the earth. A beautiful book and an invaluable resource.”—Alice Waters, founder, Chez Panisse

“Wendy Johnson follows in the footsteps of Thoreau . . . Her book is succulent, full of surprises, wise, tender, tough, and delicious to read. It is for everyone who wants to live a rich, deep, life.”—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path With Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

“A glorious book . . . deep philosophy with dirt beneath its fingernails.” —Bill McKibben, author of The Bill McKibben Reader: Pieces from an Active Life and The End of Nature

“Truly magnificent, a treasure--one of those rare books that you hope, without knowing, will appear in your life. It will keep you in good company for years and years.”—Deborah Madison, author of The Greens Cookbook and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

“A bountiful harvest of wisdom, humor and passion by a master gardener who has spent a lifetime cultivating the soil and the spirit.” —Will Rogers, President, The Trust for Public Land

“This book is a long memory of a relationship with earth.  I am in utter awe of the gusto with which Johnson tells her story.  Read one paragraph and you'll long to hold dirt in your hand.”  —Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind

“Part Zen Koan, part love poem to the land, part master’s manual in the art and craft of gardening, Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate satisfies body, mind, and soul like a really good meal.—Michael Ableman, farmer; author of Fields of Plenty

“Flower and fruit of a lifetime’s horticultural experience, this master work goes far beyond the practical gardening advice it offers in abundance. Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate is full of profound meditations on the chemistry and poetry of botany, geology, and natural history, all rendered in Wendy’s unmistakably rich voice. An instant classic.”—Norman Fischer, teacher and founder, Everyday Zen Foundation; author of Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up

"If Earth took a human voice, it would be Wendy's: wry, fierce, passionately attentive to detail, and so startling in its wild freedom it's almost scary. . . . This book is a tonic to the soul. I dare anyone to read it and not be shaken into a fuller, gladder life.” —Joanna Macy, author World as Lover, World as Self

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1st edition (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553378031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553378030
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is simply amazing, I could not wait for next time I could get into bed with it and a cup of tea and follow along with Wendy Johnson on her rich path of discovery through the garden and through life as a Zen person. The writing has a few too many words at times, but the fact that this was simultaneously a how-to book on gardening and a spiritual memoir full of deep Zen teachings makes it something very special. Wendy Johnson shows herself to be the real deal here, willing to take chances with her life and willing to get her hands dirty for the benefit of others and for the benefit of the planet.
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Format: Paperback
This book springs from rich earth. It digs into an era through the gardening and Buddhist practice of Wendy Johnson. It's so detailed and beautifully blended that, after a session of reading, I would marvel at the mere undertaking of writing this part-gardening, part-spiritual-journey and part-history of the times memoir. A real joy to be relished slowly.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gardening At The Dragon's Gate is for the Earth Starved - I love gardening and do not take the time to do it enough; however, Wendy Johnson's well written, heartfelt, intelligent, humorous, historical and motivating novel has brought me back to my own love of the earth - Each day I read it, I vow to go back to dirty fingernails and the rich taste of earth dust as I crawl around digging and planting - This book rivets you back to your own lovely moments communing with your own garden, however great or small it might be - This book is informative too. I lived in San Francisco and visited Muir Beach and the area many times - I wish I had known of Green Gulch - I plan on visiting now - Any one who has any affinity to the earth, to gardening, to eco-consciousness and to living a life near the soil of their home will be completely pleased, and engrossed in this timely and lovely rich writing and teaching of how to love, and to care for our earth, simply by loving it where ever you are -
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Format: Paperback
It's been a while since I have come across a book that I do not want to see end, and this is such a book.
I am about a third of the way through Gardening at the Dragon's Gate and already I am sad that it will eventually end. I do know, however, that once I have read it through I can have the pleasure of opening it at any point and enjoying it again, and again.
It is a book about gardening, about nature, about life, written beautifully, at times touching, at times funny. More than once I've found myself sitting on the bus reading it with tears suddenly stinging my eyes.
In fact, what am I doing sitting here, when I could be reading!?
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Every so often (if you're fortunate), you can stumble upon a book that resonates so deeply with your essential experience that it becomes a permanent field marker, a 'north star', for measuring the growth of your inner life.

In "Gardening at the Dragons Gate" the author has gifted us with a wondrous book which cannot be pigeon-holed.....a how-to manual for life? a gardeners treatise? a Zen prayer book? Wendy Johnson has woven many beautiful strands into an enthralling, inspiring book that gently calls on us to re-connect and re-learn our place in the natural world.

P.S. I have tried to purchase at chain bookstores, in order to gift others, but it is not available, so thank you, Amazon, for giving us access to hard-to-find books!
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This is a beautiful considered and written book about a contemplative and celebrating approach to the practice of gardening. It is both reflective and as earthy as gardening itself, with wonderful illustrations, and some history of the movement to restore organic practices to gardening in recent decades. There is also a lot of information about plants along the way. The style of writing is a bit like a most excellent and trusted friend confiding what it's been like to be gardening all these years. And it addresses the question - do we create our gardens, or do our gardens (if we're really into it) create us?
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By ndenim on October 26, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The beginning of the book is absolutely lovely sharing the history of the areas and the author's beginnings as a gardener, including her move from the the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in the Ventana Wilderness, east of Big Sur, where she started, to Marin County at the Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center. As the book continues, though, it gets increasingly detailed. So much so, that I started skipping parts in an effort to get to those portions of chapters that had information I could use in our small garden. The author's gardens are a huge undertaking and her accomplishments are amazing. While I hope to get to the end of the book, I'll never get all of it read. The writing is outstanding and the book is a testament to the author's love of the earth and gardening. A perfect version of this book, for me, would have been the beginning exactly as it is followed by a condensed version of the balance. For those who enjoy Gardening at the Dragon's Gate or are looking for a book that is an easier read, you may also want to check From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, Amy Stewart, (no Zen) and Plant Seed, Pull Weed: Nurturing the Garden of Your Life, Geri Larkin (lots of Zen).
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