The Kinfolk Garden – How to live with Nature

Patricia Cleveland-Peck reviews this fascinating volume, edited by John Burns

The pages of this handsome volume offer some spectacular escapes from the enforced seclusion we have all been forced to accept; we can enjoy visits to 30 world-wide gardens and meet gardeners, florists, botanists and designers who share the idea of nature’s being nourishment and an excellent way of improving human well-being.

It also offers ways in which we can incorporate more nature into our lives even if we don’t have a garden, indeed many of the photographs show just a single flower in a vase, the simple essence of bringing the outdoors inside. For those of us who a lucky enough to have an outdoor green space, there are also a number of practical tips.

The title is the Kinfolk Garden, so who or what are the Kinfolk? In 2011 Kinfolk magazine was founded in Portland, Oregon, by a group of young Americans as a slow lifestyle magazine for young professionals. Later the operation was moved to Copenhagen where John Burns is currently editor-in-chief. It is now an internationally recognised brand selling a print circulation of 75,000 and 295,000 monthly online page views world wide. It has also published 3 books in this series,The Kinfolk Table, The Kinfolk Home and The Kinfolk Entrepreneur. The content has always addressed such issues as personal values and quality of life, with the aim of inspiring its readers to ‘approach life with intention, energy and a sense of community.’

I found one of the pleasures of this volume for me was that it introduced me to so many new gardens, gardeners and artists. Although I have written about plants and gardens for many years, this volume took me to less well known places to meet new individuals. A number of the settings were dry rocky landscapes, very different from the lush green lawns and rose beds of the traditional English garden.

The range is wide: the couple who built two tiny houses directly into a rocky site in an ancient Mallorcan olive grove; a man who filled a garden with endangered Moroccan flowers; a family rewilding the rugged landscape near Santa Fe; a French artist and ceramicist who makes tiny vases to display individual flowers; a farm resort in South Africa where guests can attend all sorts of plant-related workshops; a woman who has built a sisterhood around cannabis, a couple who founded a small urban farm on the roof of a Copenhagen office block roof top are just some of the characters featured.

One tiny caveat, as in many magazines featuring lifestyle, a whiff of pretentiousness can slip in. Sentences such as (She) “passes her time by arranging flowers… playing the piano or reading ( mainly Marcel Proust)” brought a smile to my lips which I am sure was not intentional. That being said, this book, promoting the belief that the power of nature is to nurture plus its underlying reminder that the health of the planet too needs care, is very valid and on trend at this moment when many people, forced by the pandemic to adapt a slower less frenetic way of life, are rediscovering the benefits of nature via outdoor landscapes and indoor plants.

The Kinfolk Garden is published in hardback by Artisan @ £30.00
ISBN 978-1-57965-984-4

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