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  • Jennifer Jewell


A Kyoto Garden with carefully pruned trees and shrubs for open yet naturalistic views. Photo courtesy of Leslie Buck.



In the realm of gardenways and traditional garden design being inextricably interwoven with a culture, for me, the history of gardens and gardening tools and techniques of Japan stand out. I am not alone in this and this week on Cultivating Place we’re joined by Leslie Buck a gardener and professional aesthetic pruner who at the age of 35 hit the pause button on her successful Bay Area business and went off in search of an aesthetic pruning apprenticeship in the famed gardens of Kyoto.

Her new book out from Timber Press, "Cutting Back, My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto", recounts her experience journeying in search of an apprenticeship, finding it and expanding as a gardener, a thinking, a writer and a person.

On garden viewing: "Along the wall facing the garden, she showed me how two separate horizontal lengths of sliding shutters, one on top of another, opened to allow a view to the garden...She opened the lower section and showed me how the guests, as they entered the room, could see a hint of the garden...This low opening made me think of a flirtation....As I (sat down on a floor cushion in front of a table), I could see a bit more of the garden.....The she slid open the remaining shutters, inviting me into a full conversation with the garden."

In her three months overseas, Leslie learned about the nuances of Japanese Gardens, Japanese Gardening dress code and tools as well as finding the heart at the center of any garden = as a viewer and as a gardener. She observed that the Kyoto gardens she experienced were planted with at least ninety percent native plants, which developed in her an even greater admiration for the native plants around her no matter where she was. She was taught never to prune an old, diseased, or weak plant. "If I see a weak tree, such as a camellia or lemon with yellowing leaves and burned edges, I tell the client we must first nurture the plant before we can do any strong pruning."

Through wind and rain and ice, she learned as much about herself, her own cultural understandings on the roles of women, of gardens and of how we communicate, as she did about her art and craft of aesthetic pruning.

Join us!

To learn more about Leslie follow her on Instagram @lesliebuckauthor or Facebook, or at

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