Sue Stuart-Smith, author of THE WELL-GARDENED MIND--a huge bestseller in England and just released here in the U.S. Sue Stuart Smith is a renowned psychiatrist and avid gardener and THE WELL-GARDENED MIND: The Restorative Power of Nature (Scribner, on-sale July 7, 2020) is an inspiring and deeply-researched exploration of the healing effects of gardening, and the long-lasting mental health benefits that can come from immersing oneself in the natural world—advice that feels particularly urgent in these challenging times.
“In this era of virtual worlds and fake facts, the garden brings us back to reality.”
A distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener offers an inspiring and consoling work about the healing effects of gardening and its ability to decrease stress and foster mental well-being in our everyday lives.
The garden is often seen as a refuge, a place to forget worldly cares, removed from the “real” life that lies outside. But 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. Essential and pragmatic, The Well-Gardened Mind is a book for gardeners and the perfect read for people seeking healthier mental lives.
“[Stuart-Smith] delivers a thoroughly researched text based on her deep and wide reading about the history of gardening, her visits to many of the therapeutic garden sites she mentions, and her interviews with many people, professionals and patients alike...Full of surprise and wonder.”
—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review
“Wise, insightful, and eloquent, Stuart-Smith’s soulful and sensitive treatise on horticulture’s healing properties is a well-positioned book for the current age of anxiety, offering a personally relevant perspective on how to cope in troubled times.”
“This is a life-affirming study of the special pleasures of tending your garden and growing things…[Stuart-Smith’s] heartfelt arguments for the benefits of nature and gardening for our mental health are informed by research in neuroscience and the evidence of patients who have improved through therapeutic gardening.”
“Must be the most original gardening book ever”
—Sunday Times, UK
“A book so wise and comfortable that it merits a place alongside Christopher Lloyd’s The Well-Tempered Garden by the side of every bed…Her deep understanding of the human psyche makes this a perfect source text as well as an engrossing read.”
—Gardens Illustrated, UK
Drawing on her own research and that of other experts, as well as personal experience and anecdotes from history, Stuart-Smith illustrates how growing things and spending time in nature can literally be life-saving. From uplifting stories of improvement among psychiatric patients taught to grow flowers and vegetables, to extraordinary gardening initiatives in communities ranging from inner-city school districts to Rikers Island, to Wordsworth’s seeking solace in the outdoors and her own grandfather’s recovery from World War I, Stuart-Smith digs deep into the psychological benefits of growing plants—and argues that gardening can serve not simply as an “escape,” but as a critical activity to reduce stress and build self-esteem by re-connecting with the natural cycles of life and renewal.
SUE STUART-SMITH is a prominent psychiatrist and psychotherapist in England. She worked in the National Health Service for many years, becoming a lead clinician for psychotherapy. She currently teaches at the Tavistock Clinic in London and is a consultant to the DocHealth service in the U.K. She is married to Tom Stuart-Smith, a celebrated garden designer, and, over thirty years together they have created the wonderful Barn Garden in Hertfordshire, England.
More praise for THE WELL-GARDENED MIND:
“Combines observation, horticulture, literature and history…it is a book that builds, chapter by chapter… as a reference and an inspiration…there is much here to feed the soul.”
—The Times, UK
“The wisest book I’ve read in many years. You don’t have to be a gardener or own a garden to take immense solace and pleasure from this remarkable book. Dr. Stuart-Smith doesn’t presume to make absurd and extravagant claims, but everything she says about the mind (and I’ve learned so much in the way of the history of psychiatry and psychology, as well as practical tips for both mind and garden) has the ring of authenticity and truth. Hugely recommended.”