Gardening as a Sacred Art

Jeremy Naydler

Out of print

Quick Look

  • Not to be confused with a gardening manual, this is a unique book revealing the deep connection between spirituality and nature
  • Beautifully illustrated with a host of photographs, paintings and line drawings
  • Naydler explores the historical belief that gardens were a sacred space

A unique illustrated history of how people have worked with nature.

234 x 156 mm
Floris Books
Philosophy of the Natural World
50 colour illustrations
128 pages
Publication date:
20 Oct 2011


This beautifully illustrated book presents a unique history of how people have worked with nature.

For the ancients, gardens served as the home of spiritual and divine beings. The idea that gardens were sacred places continued in the European Middle Ages.

Since the seventeenth century, however, nature has been seen more as a physical resource to be exploited. The change in gardening styles reflects this development, with the creation of grand garden terraces and landscapes, such as Versailles, which imposed human order and design on nature.

More recently gardening has become an art in its own right, enhancing nature's inherent beauty. Drawing on garden examples ranging from ancient Egypt to Monet's Giverny, Jeremy Naydler argues that gardening is best regarded as a sacred art, connecting human beings with nature and the earth in a truly spiritual way.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Tension Unresolved
Chapter 1: The Garden in Antiquity
The garden in ancient Egypt
The garden in ancient Greece
The Roman garden
Chapter 2: The Garden in the Middle Ages
The paradise garden
The medieval view of nature
The symbolism of the enclosed garden
Chapter 3: From the Renaissance to the Eighteenth Century
The birth of the perspectival consciousness
The formal garden revived
The landscape garden
Chapter 4: The Gardener as Artist
The nineteenth century
Gertrude Jekyll
William Robinson
Chapter 5: Gardening as a Sacred Art
The guiding light of Monet
The garden as icon


'A fascinating read for those of us who've ever wondered whether the effort we make to create gardens helps or hinders the process of connecting with the natural world.'
-- EarthLines

'This is a wonderful book … Gardening as a Sacred Art is not only a masterful summary of the history of gardens (from antuquity to the early 20th century) from the spiritual perspective but, more importantly, it culminates in a beautiful meditation upon how the gardener may steer the garden "towards becoming an icon", an image … Thus the main thrust of this profound and inspiring volume is to remind us that gardens are essentially sacred spaces in which we may work together with Nature … Anyone who is already familiar with Jeremy Naydler's work on what might loosely be called the philosophy if gardening will have high expectations of this book -- and they will not be disappointed.
-- Resurgence

'As a professional gardener himself and a scholar of symbolism and Geothe, Jeremy is ideally placed to write this book. The way we treat our gardens reflects our own attitude towards nature and the tension between feeling we belong to Nature but at the same time wanting to control it … This thoughtful book challenges the gardener in us to work as an artist and experience the sacred presence around us by being creatively engaged with the hidden formative forces of Nature.'
-- David Lorimer, Scientific Medical Network Review

'Gardening as a Sacred Art is an exceptionally well-referenced, delightfully illustrated and informative work. The message that the book conveys is that gardening, if done with due reverence for the Divine forces at work within the garden, can open a 'window to the spirit'. The task of the gardener, then, is to form 'a living bond’ with the garden's 'soul', whereupon the garden will once again become a sacred place in which to find healing,
peace and communion with the spirit.'
-- Rosemary Usselman, New View

'Jeremy Nadlers is a professional gardener as well as a doctor of theology and religious studies, but this is primarily a theological book. The fascinating conclusion is that a garden can act as an icon, a door through which we can glimpse the divine from our world … Dr Naydler explores the evolving relationship between the gardener-garden designer and nature. Our reverence for, versus dominance over, the wild landscape is the counterpoint along the journey … The theology stance does, though, add a richer dimension to that usually found in garden books … In this secular age, I welcome any book that, rather than looking at gardens as accessories, encouraged us to see them as places of communion in which to stop and listen.'
-- Jamie Cable, Church Times

'Gardening as a Sacred Art is a well-researched and interesting perspective on whether gardens throughout history were created in harmony with nature … enjoyed this book immensely and would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in garden history or designing gardens that have ‘soul’.'
-- Kim Grove (Garden designer), Garden Design Review

'Naydler suggests that "the garden calls to us from the future, where it exists as a still unrealised ideal". In his beautifully illustrated book, he resounds the call of the garden as a "necessary counterbalance and corrective". It's a welcome message towards resanctifying our world.'
--Nexus Magazine

'[This book] provides a most accessible history of the principles and values by which gardens have been shaped for three thousand years. Most especially it reminds us of what we lose when our senses are limited by a narrow and material reality … [I] will leave this delight to your discovery.'
-- Temenos Academy Review

'Gardening as a Sacred Art is a history of spirit as manifested in gardens from ancient Mesopotamia to modern Europe. Like the history of art, it mirrors the life of the communities in which they were created. Jeremy Naydler takes us back firstly to when gardens were not experienced simply as places of leisure but were integral to religious practice… Gardeners will love this book. Occasionally you look down the garden you have worked all day (or maybe it was Nature that worked you!), and you have that peace, that sense of the numinous that cannot be understood except by somehow knowing that it is vital. Our author has been so kind as to declare it for us: gardening is a sacred art.'
-- Self and Society


Jeremy Naydler is a professional gardener. He has been inspired by Goethe's writings on the scientific method, and is the editor of Goethe on Science (1995). He holds a doctorate in theology and religious studies, and is also the author of Soul Gardening (2006), a volume of poetry, and The Future of the Ancient World: Essays on the History of Consciousness (2009).

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