Archives For Urban Gardening


A Brief Review of
The Curious Garden.
Written and Illustrated by Peter Brown.

Hardback: Little, Brown, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed By Chris Smith.

For the last couple of years, I have been starting to explore what an urban naturalism might look like here in Indianapolis.  Unbeknownst to me, in New York City, Peter Brown was at the same time fleshing out a similar vision in the form of a picture book, The Curious Garden.  This little volume, published earlier this year and filled with Brown’s own rich color illustrations, traces the story of a young boy, Liam, whose home city begins as a dull, dreary place, “without gardens or trees or greenery of any kind.”  In contrast to most of this city’s children who spent their days cooped up inside, Liam loved to be outdoors, splashing through the rain and exploring the urban terrain.  One day, in the midst of his explorations, Liam stumbles upon an old elevated railway bed that is no longer in use (which, as Brown notes in his afterword, is loosely based on NYC’s High Line).  Liam finds that up on this railway bed, there is the very tiniest in-breaking of color, in the form of a few wildflowers and other plants.  He feels compelled to begin nurturing these few plants, and as he cares for them – a trial and error process – they begin to spread along the railway, thus beginning a process that will ultimately transform the city out of its dreary darkness into a vibrant green and multi-colored locale.  Brown has taken a minimalist approach to the text here and much of Liam’s story is told simply and creatively through the illustrations.  In reading and re-reading The Curious Garden, I was struck by Brown’s idea that the transformation of the city is already at work in nature and that our job as humans is to seek out these burstings forth and to nurture them as they expand.  This fruitful combination of attentiveness and diligent care provides a solid foundation, I believe, for the practice of an urban naturalism.  The Curious Garden is, by far, the best book for children (of all ages) that I have found this year, and with time it will undoubtedly reign – with Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, Robert McCloskey’s Make Way For Ducklings and a handful of other books – as one of the finest ecological picture books of all time.


Restorative Commons: Creating Health and Well-Being Through Urban Landscapes

Foreword by Oliver Sacks.
Edited by Lindsay Campbell and Anne Wiesen.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been picking my way through this excellent book, which seems to be right in line with the “urban naturalism” that I’ve been exploring for the last year or so. ( )

I mention it here because it is a valuable resource that will be of interest to many of our readers and because it is also FREE! (either in print or as a PDF e-book)

This new book “explores human health in relation to the urban environment drawing attention to sites and programs that utilize restorative design, foster civic stewardship of natural resources, and promote resilient neighborhoods.”

From the introduction by Lindsay Campbell and Anne Wiesen:

“Parks, community gardens, building exteriors, rights-of-way,
botanical gardens, urban farms, vacant lots, public housing campuses,
and closed landfills offer unique opportunities for restoring social
and ecological function in the public, urban sphere. These fragments
of the commons must be considered as individual and unique, and
simultaneously as parts of a larger system. Even a jail’s yard can serve
as a restorative space for the inmates and staff. Cooperation with land
owners, developers, designers, building managers, and tenants will be
required to work creatively at the critical junctures where public meets
private urban land: including apartment and office building interiors,
front yards, and rooftops.  Humans are unique in that we actively
participate in creating conditions for our own health through the design of our buildings, neighborhoods, and cities at a
global scale.
innovative design is a key approach for building Restorative Commons.”

You can read (or browse) the full book in PDF here:

And, as I did, you can have a printed copy sent to you
(Federal tax dollars doing a good work here!):
( Click “Order a printed copy of this publication” )

— Chris Smith


The NY TIMES reviews

As all good, enduring stories are, “The Curious Garden” is a rich palimpsest. Echoing the themes of “The Secret Garden,” it is an ecological fable, a whimsical tale celebrating perseverance and creativity, and a rousing paean, encouraging every small person and every big person that they too can nurture their patch of earth into their very own vision of Eden.

Read the full review:
Peter Brown.

Hardcover: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $14 ] [ Amazon ]

Scot McKnight Reviews Dallas Willard’s

This is a good book, and one that puts together many of Willard’s ideas and proposals. The unifying theme of the book is that “knowledge” of Christ can be claimed as a genuine, intellectual, and responsible form of knowing in our world. That theme, however, takes on different forms in this book and different styles of presentation.

To begin with, Willard openly complains about how “knowledge” and the pursuit of truth and acquiring wisdom have dropped from the agenda in universities and therefore in society. He’s right and I like this point very much. He makes the point that too many argue that, and Christians succumb to, the idea that Christianity is “faith” but not “knowledge.”

Read the full review:


Dallas Willard.
Hardcover: HarperOne, 2009.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]

Craig Blomberg Reviews NT Wright’s

[Wright’s] light-hearted, semi-popular, and somewhat polemical style will no doubt annoy his detractors because over and again, in a variety of ways, he basically insists that they just don’t “get it.” But if those detractors don’t at least qualify or moderate some of their criticism of Wright after reading this volume, they will demonstrate the accuracy of his assessment of them! But let’s let Tom put it in his own words: “Nothing that the Reformation traditions at their best were anxious to stress has been lost. But they are held in place, and I suggest even enhanced, by a cosmic vision, a high ecclesiology generated by Paul’s high Christology and resulting in a high missiology of the renewal of all things, and all framed by the highest doctrine of all, Paul’s vision of the God who made promises and has been faithful to them, the God whose purposes are unsearchable but yet revealed in Jesus Christ and operative through the holy spirit, the God of power and glory but above all of love” (p. 219).

Here, then, is a must read indeed for anyone who cares about what the gospel really is, about how to understand justification in Paul, or about how to glorify God for his amazing plan for the cosmos from creation to consummation.

Read the full review:


NT Wright.

Hardcover: IVP Academic, 2009.
Buy now: [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]