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Deep-Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners

By Augustus Jenkins Farmer

Foreword by Felder Rushing

Engaging. ... This treasure trove of homespun botanical advice will remind growers why they fell in love with gardening in the first place.


Augustus Jenkins Farmer (aka Jenks) started gardening in the third grade in a corner of the family farm filled with rocks, scrap metal, and crinum and spider lilies. He was free to dig, transplant, and design in any way he wanted by making do with what he had. Thirty years later, he continues to garden this way in his own gardens in Columbia and Beech Island, South Carolina. His style of gardening is in stark contrast to the gardening industry's steady stream of new products, new advertising, and new rules that create unneeded complexities that intimidate future gardeners and obscure the joy of gardening.

Deep-Rooted Wisdom is Farmer's antidote to this corporate-driven model of gardening. In it he shares the traditional skills and techniques he has learned over the years from generations of gardeners, like gardening with pass-along plants, harnessing the natural power of worms and mushrooms, saving heirloom seeds, and making handmade garden structures out of available materials. Along the way, he introduces us to a cast of unforgettable characters, like Yvrose Valdez, a woman from Haiti who uses legumes in lieu of fertilizer, and Bennet Baxley, who has a 20-acre yard filled almost entirely with scavenged plants.

This is garden mentorship at its best and most honest that shows us all a way back to a more joyful, simple style of gardening.

Media reviews

"Farmer's enthusiasm for sharing his and his mentors' knowledge shines through the text, and the color photographs are beautiful and useful."

Library Journal

"Engaging. ... This treasure trove of homespun botanical advice will remind growers why they fell in love with gardening in the first place."

—Carl Hays, Booklist

"Novice gardeners, veteran planters, and everyone in between can find something to enjoy inside the pages. ... Features practical lessons, oral histories, and DIY pointers."

Columbia Daily

"With a relaxed, Southern charm, ... Farmer invites readers into his community of plants, people, and landscapes, gently urging readers to adopt old gardening ways and adapt them to 21st-century life."

Publishers Weekly

"Farmer is a natural storyteller."

Somerset Daily American

"A delightful retro guide to simpler yet successful ways to grow and enjoy plants."

Carolina Country

"Jenks employs extensive scientific knowledge and methods in developing his approach to successful gardening. He brings the hard-won knowledge of dirty-hands gardeners you may never have heard of, and some other gardeners — similarly generous with their own earned wisdom — who enjoy world-wide reputations. ... The writing is beautiful, the ideas are substantial."

—Will Balk, Jr., Lowcountry Living

About the author

Augustus Jenkins Farmer

Augustus Jenks Farmer's vision for reflective, soulful gardening guided gardeners, craftsmen, volunteers, and scientists to create two lauded public botanical gardens as well as art museums, city parks, and private enclaves. His connoisseurs' nursery promoted the renaissance of the crinum lily, a forgotten, beloved plant of early American gardens. Today, he ships organically grown crinum lilies all over the country.

Read more about Augustus Jenkins Farmer

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