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Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto

By Leslie Buck

An absorbing read about the formative interplay of humans, cultures, and gardens.

Publishers Weekly starred review

At thirty-five, Leslie Buck made an impulsive decision to put her personal life on hold to pursue her passion. Leaving behind a full life of friends, love, and professional security, she became the first American woman to learn pruning from one of the most storied landscaping companies in Kyoto. Cutting Back recounts Buck’s bold journey and the revelations she has along the way. During her apprenticeship in Japan, she learns that the best Kyoto gardens look so natural they appear untouched by human hands, even though her crew spends hours meticulously cleaning every pebble in the streams. She is taught how to bring nature’s essence into a garden scene, how to design with native plants, and how to subtly direct a visitor through a landscape. But she learns the most important lessons from her fellow gardeners: how to balance strength with grace, seriousness with humor, and technique with heart.

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Media reviews

"Buck has as good an eye for cultural dissonance as she does for pines that need pruning.…​This is an absorbing read about the formative interplay of humans, cultures, and gardens."

Publishers Weekly

"The descriptions of the gardens the author tends while in Japan will transport readers; it is an armchair tourist’s treat to wander the temple gardens as she describes them."

Library Journal

"If you love losing yourself in natural settings, this memoir is definitely for you.…​The life lessons Buck learns away from her pruning shears will appeal to any reader."

Bustle

About the author

Leslie Buck

Leslie Buck is a garden designer and aesthetic pruner who specializes in natural design in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has over two decades of gardening experience, and a fine art degree from U.C. Berkeley and the Bordeaux School of Fine Arts in France. In 2000, Leslie studied with Uetoh Zoen, one of the oldest and most highly acclaimed landscape companies in Japan. Leslie has worked, taught, and volunteered in hundreds of private landscapes and as well as dozens of public gardens including the Portland Japanese Garden, Hakone Japanese Garden, Tassajara Zen Center, and Merritt College.

Read more about Leslie Buck

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