The New York Times

BOOK REVIEW: "My fantasies of moving to Kyoto were in full bloom when I picked up an unusual and entertaining memoir by Leslie Buck. Years ago, she left her successful landscape business in Northern California to apprentice herself to some master gardeners in Japan...."

Cultivating place PODCAST

NPR RADIO INTERVIEW: About natural pruning, landscaping and the influence Japanese gardens have on both.

The Washington post

ARTICLE ON CUTTING BACK AND AUTHOR: "Almost every tree and shrub in the garden can be improved by a knowledgeable pruner and ruined by an incompetent one.Deft pruning will make a plant more handsome but is done principally for practical reasons — to establish a strong single leader, to remove rubbing branches or to repair damage, for example....

CNPS Pruning Demo and Design Theory for the Native Garden

VIDEO: Natural pruning demo AND Lecture about how Japanese design can influence Ca. native landscapes design....

"Still Growing" interview/Podcast

Poignant interview on personalities/ethics of Kyoto garden craftsmen and walking towards out dreams. (interview begins 30 minutes into recording)....


INTERVIEW: Leslie Buck talks about post"Cutting Back” with Vas Sladek’s West Coast Landscape Professional’s Blog….

The monthly


Leslie Buck’s charming memoir Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto tells a surprising story of courage. Traveling to Japan with only letters of introduction and no job offers to seek employment in the country’s male-centric gardening industry, Buck’s two decades as a successful Bay Area garden designer with degrees in fine arts from UC Berkeley and the Bordeaux School of Fine Arts in France were like fallen leaves—blown aside or destined to become mulch—hardly impressive to her soon-to-be bossman, Nakaji. Remarkably, passion, persistence, and sheer luck landed Buck an apprenticeship with the renowned Uetoh Zoen landscape company. Courage displayed by her journey had daily application as she fought freezing temperatures, hunger, cultural discomfort, gender bias, Nakaji’s “Olympic level” shouting, bouts of home-sickness, depression, self-pity, and self-doubt. With impressive candor, Buck reveals her weaknesses: a tendency to over-ruminate about personal slights and physical challenges, impulsive assumptions made about other people’s intensions, and other forgivable acts.

Where Buck’s writing excels is in the vivid, sometimes poetic descriptions of Japanese gardens and gardening traditions. The memoir steps beyond the limitations of a personal account to become astute and appealing to readers not fascinated by the proper way to prune a Camellia in cultural conclusions she draws while observing social and horticultural differences between American and Japanese clients and gardens.

Trimming the “rank outline” of Camellias preserves their naturally undulating form, she writes, but allows light to penetrate the leaves, creating a dappled, shimmering effect on underlying moss. Similarly, working for three months under Nakaji’s cutting managerial style did not extinguish Buck’s luminescent passion for nature, gardening, and centuries-old traditions. The major mark against Buck’s memoir is the lack of illustrations. With her background and training, the small sketches she made and describes would be a welcome addition.

Cutting Back encourages reflection and marvelously endorses slowing down and taking risks without worrying about the inherent contradiction of yin-yang behaviors. Like a gar- den of native plants following an organic cycle, Buck’s writing ex- presses confidence that one life can end and a new, enlightened life will take its place. Courage,

it seems, has its rewards and is found unquestionably in nature and in good books. 'Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto' by Leslie Buck (Timber Press, May 2017, 280 pp., $24.95)


—Lou Fancher

Publishers Weekly

RADIO PODCAST: Leslie Buck discusses her new book, 'Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto.'....

California Monthly


The japan times

“For Leslie Buck, it must have been a plucky decision relocating to Kyoto at 35, a time in life regarded as well into middle-age in Japan; and arguably even more courageous, to join a team of all-male uekiya (gardeners and nurserymen) in a notoriously gender-tilted profession.....”