Creating Sanctuary: Book Review & Giveaway

What does the term 'sanctuary' mean to you?

To me, sanctuary means a place where I can be still. A quiet meditative space. My garden. The rolling English countryside. Sitting by the ocean listening to the waves – or on a mountaintop absorbing the sheer majesty of a vista.

Author Jessi Bloom offers a broader definition; "…any patch of land that brings you into proximity with nature – including your own backyard."

What is this book about?

"Creating sanctuary, every day, wherever we find ourselves."

We lead busy lives – often too busy. Career and family demands, as rewarding as these are,  often take a toll on our bodies and finding a balance is essential to our well-being. Finding sanctuary can be that first first step.

Who is this book for?

Prayer flags flutter in the breeze at Earth Sanctuary, Whidbey Island, WA.

I admit that at first I struggled writing this review. Some of the vocabulary Jessi uses is a bit "out there" for me since I come from a traditional Christian background. Yet I wanted to connect the dots between Jessi's journey and my own, highlighting our common ground. Jessi's response when I emailed to explain this was perfect; "I totally appreciate the feedback and my mom would as well, she being a very strong Christian had a similar reaction with some of the wording I chose. One of my aims was to be inclusive for all different beliefs systems and not just one.  I hope as you get further along you find pieces that resonate with you!"

Indeed I did – and believe you will too, regardless of your background or beliefs.

I see this book as being a wonderful personal resource to anyone who is grieving (loss of relationship, loss of career, death of a loved one), anyone who already appreciates the benefits of mindfulness, yoga, or meditation, or anyone who wants to live a simpler, meaningful life, respecting Nature's gifts that we have been entrusted with. You don't need to be a tree hugging, tie-dye wearing, modern-day hippy. I'm not. Yet I gleaned many wonderful practical ideas to incorporate into my own garden and into the gardens I design for others.

What will I learn?

A colorful Labyrinth Garden Earth Sculpture in Wisconsin – be inspired to create your own version using Jessi's suggestions

  • Five steps to creating your sanctuary garden
  • Fifty sacred plants for the sanctuary garden
  • Tips to help you care for your body, mind, and soul
  • Suggestions for daily practices and rituals that you may find helpful – practical "I can do this" lists

What I especially appreciated

As a designer who creates gardens to be experienced, not just observed, I enjoyed the section  'Imagining with All Your Senses.' This included a reminder on how colors evoke different emotional responses for example.

Clearly defining the entrance to ones sacred space by using some kind of portal or threshold also resonated with me. Whether it is an archway through which one passes, a cairn to indicate the start of a unique experience or a meaningful sign or quote.

Having designed a labyrinth for a school garden I also appreciated the various interpretations Jessi shared – and wish I had this book to hand a few years ago!

Who is the author?

For author Jessi Bloom, a letting-go ceremony involved burning documents

I've known Jessi for many years, our paths frequently crossing as speakers, designers, and authors. Yet it was some time before I realized the personal struggles she had faced and appreciated the remarkable journey she had traveled.

Jessi is a renowned ecological designer with a focus on permaculture and healing the earth. She knows first-hand the chaotic life of mom/successful businesswoman and the resulting health issues that ensued from constantly giving 100%. A painful divorce forced a critical revaluation and the realization that she had failed to create a sanctuary in her own life, to take care of her own basic needs.

Where can I buy it?

Available everywhere books are sold and online.

Enter to win a FREE copy!

Leave a comment below telling me why you would like to win Creating Sanctuary: Sacred Garden Spaces, Plant-Based Medicine, and Daily Practices to Achieve Happiness and Well-Being (Timber Press, 2018). Maybe it's for yourself? Or a friend? Or you're just curious?

One winner will be drawn on Sunday August 18th, 8pm PDT, by a random number generator and notified by email


Also included in this giveaway is Jessi's companion publication "Everyday Sanctuary – a workbook for designing a sacred garden space"

Rules aka the not-so-small-print

  • Only USA residents may enter to win (sorry!)
  • The winner has 48 hours to respond after which time a new name will be drawn.
  • Only comments left in this thread will be included in the drawing. Comments on images or on social media will not be entered.

And the winner is…

Ron Davis #10! Congratulations Ron – I have emailed you and you have 48 hours to claim your prize.

I must say that I was very moved by so many of your thoughtful comments – I wish I had more copies to give away.

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links


  1. Jennifer Cummings on August 6, 2019 at 2:54 am

    This book sounds like something I need in my life right now. I have been a traditional landscaper for 3 1/2 decades, evolving (too slowly at times) from a mowing, round-up using designer and installer who just thought 'Lets make this pretty!', into someone who is more concerned with 'What is this doing to our earth and our beings?'. And also be pretty. 🙂 I only wish I'd taken the intro and advanced Permaculture courses earlier in my career – things would have been a lot different. But here I am – trying to educate my clients about different thought processes, teaching my crews how to integrate permaculture techniques, and doing all this in an urban location where many just wants perfect lawns.

  2. Julie Anderson on August 6, 2019 at 5:50 am

    You got me with the words, “meditation, garden, sacred and nature” all in the same paragraph. AND the cover – beautiful.

  3. Cherylyn Anderson on August 6, 2019 at 6:21 am

    Every garden is a sanctuary that we create, gardeners passion to be part of the earth.

    • Kathy on August 8, 2019 at 9:46 am

      A garden meditation sounds like a wonderful book to have forever!

  4. Craig Hoffman on August 6, 2019 at 6:39 am

    With all the stresses in life and now the summer heat, there is a great need to relax and destress. My garden is a space that helps me do that. What started as a collection of "pretty plants' has become a series of spaces that I walk through and re-balance myself. This book would help with looking at spaces and emotions through another set of eyes. Thank you for the opportunity and putting the book on my radar!

  5. nancy mellen on August 6, 2019 at 6:41 am

    I am a garden designer who strives to create gardens for my clients that are so calming and beautiful that they never want to go inside. Unfortunately like Jennifer, my clients don't often listen when I create private areas for the hot tub, another for the fire pit, a secret bench overlooking the ocean, and nearer the house an area to entertain. Everyone needs a private place or a sanctuary to escape to even when entertaining. I wish my clients would think of their emotional wellbeing first and not money as they re-do the design so that the hot tub, fire pit, and entertaining area are all within a 750 square foot area. My clients need this book and so do I so that I can teach them more effectively and convincingly.

  6. Kim Hart on August 6, 2019 at 7:07 am

    The book looks lovely, as a gardner I am always interested in other gardeners outlooks. Sometimes I think I get tunnel vision and viewing someone else's ideas can put a different spin on the area I garden.

  7. CECILIA on August 6, 2019 at 8:43 am

    As I read the author's words "…a critical revaluation and the realization that she had failed to create a sanctuary in her own life, to take care of her own basic needs…" it occurs to me that I have been working on our landscape design and installation for three years now without being able to feel it as my "own."
    It surrounds a new house that was built on an acre parcel. We are on a hill and the soil conditions are a constant riddle. Deer stomping and nibbling has added to the frustrations. I want it to be my garden and not theirs! Deer have other places where to go and eat and live in plenty of unbuilt land around here. At age 72 & 74, it is our last house together but perhaps not the last garden I will create. I am facing losing a husband of 35 years to cancer and/or heart disease. I feel there has been so much we have not done and so many opportunities that were spoiled by mutual disappointment. I have been tweaking and "fixing" the landscape scheme for three seasons now. Husband digs holes; moves around the materials with the wheelbarrow; and argues about much with me. I keep trying to transform this into our refuge or sanctuary; but the concept has no graspable meaning to him. Yet, I sense that is the goal I need to achieve! I've explained much about private spaces; outdoor rooms; paths and destinations; and easy-maintenance design. We are gradually finishing the basic installation and making it all look "organized" and having a pleasant flow. We are so visible from this main access road and to the many critical eyes of the neighborhood! My own basic need is to feel "tucked in" and to have a safe space where I can feel "shielded" from the unavoidable loss of companionship. I need to feel like the garden I install and nurture is welcoming to me and thrives around our house. I sense that being able to create a space graced by consolement and soulfulness can also provide a shared harmony between plants, bees, birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and my agitated mind. Oh, I wish to read "Creating Sanctuary…"

  8. Susan LeRoy on August 6, 2019 at 8:44 am

    Creating "sanctuary" is what may be the perfect projects for two daughters whose lives are entering new chapters. For one, all children will be away in college this year. For another, a new mountain home is to be just that. Gardening is the best meditation exercise already for me. Christmas gifts!

  9. Ron Davis on August 6, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Wow, I love it that you find unique and special books like this to share with your followers. I am interested and would love to have a copy of Creating Sanctuary. I didn't win the drawing for Gardentopia, from a few months back, but purchased a copy and am reading it now in daily to learn and enjoy a little at a time. So, thank you again for bringing something like this…………a new and special book to look forward to having on my reading table.

    Ron Davis

  10. Dolores Gebhardt on August 6, 2019 at 9:46 am

    Gardens – the path to my soul, the food for my being, the love deep in my heart – sanctuary of life

  11. Cynthia Baudendistel on August 6, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful book that is so relevant in today's world.

    • Julie A. Neutzman on August 6, 2019 at 12:31 pm

      I would love to read this book and have more sanctuary in my own life.

  12. Edward Yemola on August 6, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    This book sounds like it will give me lots of ideas for my backyard. It doesn't really have a cohesive plan and I am ready to put some elbow grease to the job and get a little bit of sanctuary peace in my life.

  13. susan on August 6, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful book for creating peace in the garden.

  14. Cathi on August 6, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Nature creates sanctuary and then we humans either try to mimic or ruin it, depending on our perspective as to whom the land belongs to. In my mind, sanctuary in my garden is when the space calls to me to just be there in as natural a setting as possible.

  15. Lisa Melton on August 6, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Seeing the photo of the labyrinth garden made me realize that my life has become fractured and stressed to the point that all I see in my yard are the problems. I want to be reminded of why I need to be out in the garden again.

  16. Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening on August 6, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    My garden is my sanctuary…a place of dreams come true. I get lost in it for hours and all my worries disappear. This sounds like a wonderful book! 😊

  17. Ruth on August 7, 2019 at 8:04 am

    All to often I find myself paralyzed by overthinking, even in the garden – but when I finally let go and move ahead the results are good. I hope to be inspired by ideas and images in the book in ways that allow me to let go more, for the benefit of my garden and my well-being. 🙂

  18. Linda on August 8, 2019 at 9:18 pm

    I’m house hunting and you might say “garden-potential hunting” too. This book and another one of yours, Karen, is on my list. Wish me luck!

  19. susan on August 9, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Post cancer…reevaluating all aspects of my life requires a sacred space.

  20. Barb on August 11, 2019 at 8:01 am

    My garden is my therapy, this will fit right in.

  21. Carol Yemola on August 15, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    My garden is a bit jumbled. I want to designate spaces in it focusing on specific trains of thought. An area as a sanctuary would be perfect for relaxation and mental therapy.