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Published on May 18th, 2012 | by TLV News


Reviewing The Gestalt Gardener’s Cultivation Compendium (by Benjamin Koltai, from TLV #156)

(Review by Benjamin Koltai)

I had a chance to speak with Mississippi’s Gestalt Gardener, Felder Rushing, during Green Week 2011 at the University of Mississippi. He told me he wanted to start a “Slow Gardening” organization/club and proposed we start a chapter in Oxford. He described slow gardening to me in simple terms.

“It is not always about low input, more about savoring what you do, with a nod towards sustainability and sharing with others.”

When my in-laws asked what I wanted for Christmas, I told them I wanted Felder Rushing’s new book, Slow Gardening: A No-Stress Philosophy For All Senses and Seasons, published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company.

Slow Gardening is a practical book with a few simple guiding themes and a lot of tips, anecdotes, design strategies, and methods. Felder gives suggestions for gardeners of all kinds, from organic vegetable growers to “turf snobs.” The common thread is how to make gardening easy and fun, regardless of how much time and energy you want to dedicate.

After an introduction to the Slow Gardening concept, the book delves first into garden psychology, which Felder immediately addresses with three key points: 1) Don’t sweat the small stuff. 2) It’s all small stuff. 3) If you can’t fix it, flee it, or fight it, flow with it. I really enjoyed the Gardener’s Bill of Rights, which includes the right to garden at any hour, day or night, the right to plant too many tomatoes every year, and the right to as many wind chimes as we can afford – bird feeders too.

The main content of the book is divided into three sections. “Carving Out Your Space” includes details about garden styles, lawn design, edging, structures and hard features, and container gardening. “Plants – The Real Deal” discusses all aspects of choosing and using all sorts of different plants. In addition to a myriad of tips, techniques, and perspectives, this section also includes lawn care, seed saving, and a lengthy discussion about pass-along plants and societies. “Nuts and Bolts: Universal Garden Practices” digs into many important gardening concepts, including weather and climate, soil, compost, irrigation, mulching, planting, tools, pruning, pests, and plant propagation.

Given the focus of Slow Gardening on savoring the garden experience, there is something to be said for savoring the book itself. Every page is lit up with colorful pictures as well as little snippets with highlights, tips, and often humorous anecdotes. I often open the book to a random page, read for five minutes, put it back on the coffee table, and walk outside with tool in hand. The writing style is classic Felder Rushing and I found myself reading it with his voice in my head, like it was a book on tape or a Friday morning radio broadcast. Felder lays out simple and concise ideas and doesn’t get too in-depth on any particular topic, often recommending local sources for detailed information. He occasionally repeats the same information, but in different contexts, as each chapter brings a different perspective.

As Felder suggested to me, Slow Gardening is not focused on low input or sustainable agriculture. However, the book addresses a core tenet of permaculture, the importance of the relationship between people and place. Permaculture is a design science that addresses all aspects of sustainable human settlement; at the top of every list of permaculture principles is observation and interaction. Slow Gardening offers both the tools and the mindset to enjoy your garden or landscape and cultivate a practice of observation and learning.

Benjamin Koltai is a gardener and permaculture designer who moved to Lafayette County in 2011. He runs a garden design company, Mississippi Ecological Design ( and works part-time at The Garden Center on University Avenue in Oxford. Benjamin designed and manages the learning garden at Willie Price Nursery School at Ole Miss. He serves on the boards of the Oxford Community Garden and the Oxford chapter of Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi.

Check out Felder Rushing’s website

Buy a copy from Chelsea Green Publishers

or Listen to Gestalt Gardener online

About the Author

The Local Voice is a bimonthly entertainment guide and newspaper based in Oxford, Mississippi, covering and distributed in North Central Mississippi, including Oxford, Ole Miss, Taylor, Abbeville, Water Valley, Lafayette County, Yalobusha County, and parts of Panola County, Marshall County, and Tupelo . The Local Voice is distributed free to over 255 locations in North Mississippi and also available as a full color PDF download worldwide on the internet.

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