Q&A with Jenny Peterson, Author of "The Cancer Survivor's Garden Companion"

Jenny Peterson is an Austin, Texas-based garden designer with her own firm, J. Peterson Garden Design, as well as a writer, author and speaker. She specializes in designing, writing and speaking about gardens that enhance the quality of life, heal from the inside out and help to create balance and wellness. Jenny Peterson is a cancer survivor. In her book, "The Cancer Survivor's Garden Companion," she shows other cancer survivors, with gentle empathy and humor, how they can create a haven for healing in their own backyard - with a bonus of well-grounded guidance on diet, exercise, mental focus and spiritual renewal. Read on for more information about this book and find out how to win a copy, courtesy of St. Lynn's Press!

1. How does your book help someone affected by cancer to cultivate hope, healing and joy in the ground beneath their feet?

My hope is that people will begin to understand all the different levels of healing that can be had in the garden apart from simply being good exercise and growing health food. From taking your yoga/meditation/prayer practice outside, to be being exposed to beneficial soil bacteria, aromatic plants, Vitamin D through sunshine -- the garden is a Master Teacher in health and balance. 2. Your book features several survivor spotlights where cancer survivors offer their best tip. What is your best tip or advice? My best advice is to get outside every day even when (especially when) you don't feel like it. Breathing in fresh air with light on your face is almost magical in how transformative it is. On my worst days, just sitting outside with my coffee cup eased my difficult emotions, and on my best days, my garden helped me to give thanks and feel joy. 3. What are some easy things that a home gardener can do to make their space more therapeutic? My top 3 easy things would be 1) create a small seating/gathering area to create memories with friends and family 2) grow aromatic plants (lavender, rosemary, roses, lemon thyme) because scent is almost instantly uplifting and soothing, and 3) create a personal "nook" just for you to relax, read, meditate/pray, have alone time. 4. Those diagnosed with cancer may be tempted to abandon their garden entirely due to a multitude of reasons, such as feeling overwhelmed or having newfound physical limitations from cancer treatments. How does your book help people approach gardening in a way that keeps it enjoyable, attainable and manageable? I felt the same way when I was in treatment, so I recommend that people scale back and focus on "just one thing" -- the biggest thing in their garden that gives them enjoyment. It might be their vegetable garden, their houseplants or their porch/deck area. Also -- ask friends and family to help keep the rest of the garden alive while you are in treatment or recovery -- it won't do your spirits any good to look out and see a dead garden! 5. In your book you discuss how your friend Rebecca, a fellow cancer survivor, said she was "tired of cute saying and writings that make [cancer] sound like a walk in the park" and added that you "better write a different book". How exactly is your book different? I think my book is different because I strive to be real -- I'm not a fan of simply providing inspirational sayings, nor am I a proponent of simply white-knuckling my way through difficult times. While we all have times when we do both, my goal for myself and my readers is to strive to be real -- acknowledge the difficulties while simultaneously actively looking for the beauty, because it's always there. Life is very messy and not always pretty, but there is always beauty. You have to train your mind and your heart to recognize it. I worked very hard to make sure this book offered that balance. 6. What's in your garden? I have a really ugly vegetable garden (I have pics in the book to prove it!) that gives me healthy food, I have an awesome fire pit area that has large flat-topped boulders for chairs, a yoga deck with surrounding tropical garden, and lots of animals. We currently have 2 dogs, 4 goats, 5 ducks, and over 20 chickens.

To connect with Jenny Peterson, please visit her blog, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest!


Swipe to scroll horizontally
WIN A COPY OF "The Cancer Survivor's Garden Companion"!To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Thursday, March 3, 2016 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:Is there someone in your life that you would like to share this book with?Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See Rules for more information.)

UPDATE 3/24/2016: Congratulations to Bill Davis, the winner of the Cancer Survivor's Garden Companion book giveaway!

Shelley Pierce

Shelley Pierce was a writer for Gardening Know How, contributing to hundreds of articles for the site.