The Kinfolk Garden

How to Live with Nature


By John Burns

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  1. Hardcover $40.00 $50.00 CAD
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 27, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

“In this gorgeous, aspirational work, Burns, editor-in-chief of Kinfolk magazine, collects ‘stories about nature as nourishment’ along with photographs from homes across the globe to inspire people to bring more nature into their own abodes. . . . Expertly evoking a mood of understated luxury, this stunning spread will have design junkies drooling.” —Publishers Weekly

A gardener with a secret oasis on a Parisian rooftop. An artist making faux flowers to brighten Manhattan apartments. A family of ranchers rewilding the American outback.

Anchored around the idea of nature as nourishment, The Kinfolk Garden explores lush gardens and plantfilled homes around the world and introduces the inspiring people who coax them into bloom. Through visits to friends old and new, the Kinfolk team learns the secrets to a good garden, and what good a garden can do for our self-care, creativity and communities.

Though many of the people we meet along the way champion the idea of following natural instincts rather than a set of prescriptive garden rules, there are practical tips throughout the book that offer advice on everything from growing your own produce to foraging for artful arrangements to simply keeping your houseplants alive a little longer than usual.

The Kinfolk Garden is an invitation to engage with nature—to care for it, create with its beauty and cultivate new relationships around it—and offers inspiration and guidance to anyone looking to bring a little more greenery into their life.


editor in chief

John Burns


Harriet Fitch Little

Editorial Assistant

Gabriele Dellisanti

book design

Staffan Sundström & Julie Freund-Poulsen

Creative Director

Staffan Sundström

Production Manager

Susanne Buch Petersen

cover photography

Sarah Blais


Courtesy of Rijksmuseum

Selected Contributors

Sarah Blais

Sarah is a photographer based in Paris. She received the British Journal of Photography’s Female in Focus award in 2019.

Zoltán Tombor

Zoltán is a photographer in New York and London. His work is part of the collection at the Hungarian Museum of Photography.

Alexander Wolfe

Alexander is a photographer based in Cape Town. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Vogue Arabia and Monocle.

Melissa Mabbitt

Melissa is a British freelance gardening writer. She holds a qualification in horticulture from the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society.

Rodrigo Carmuega

Rodrigo is a fashion and portrait photographer. Born in Buenos Aires, Rodrigo has been based in London since 2012.

Lauren Boudreau

Lauren is a Californian florist and stylist based in Copenhagen. She gathers her materials and design ideas from local nature.

Darryl Cheng

Darryl is the founder of House Plant Journal and author of The New Plant Parent, both offering advice for indoor gardeners.

Amy Merrick

Amy is a traveling writer, floral stylist and the author of On Flowers: Lessons from an Accidental Florist.

for full list of credits see page 351

“Gardens are artworks that escape the control of their maker.”

abderrazak benchaâbane

part one


Nature always finds a way to thrive. Meet those who are making it their mission to tame its wild spirit with tender loving care.

muğla, turkey

fem güçlütürk

In 2014, Fem Güçlütürk left the PR company she’d founded to retrain as a botanist in her retirement. In a quiet corner of Turkey, she discovered that caring for a busy greenhouse and garden was a conduit to caring for herself.

“This is the part where people say, ‘And they lived happily ever after,’” says Fem Güçlütürk, speaking from the home she shares with her husband, Sezer Savaşli, in southwest Turkey. Since trading city life for a plot of land remote enough to lack reliable phone service, Güçlütürk has found that her days now follow the circadian rhythms of her plants. The PR executive–turned-botanist rises at six a.m. (“Even the dog doesn’t wake up then,” she says) and studies permaculture and edible gardening. After breakfast, she heads into the garden and remains there, weeding and pruning, until sundown. “I live in a vegetative state,” she jokes.

Born in Ankara and raised in Istanbul, Güçlütürk has always cultivated an unconventional path. She worked first in bars—a rarity for women in the 1980s—before cofounding a public relations firm. Despite achieving success, she found herself increasingly disillusioned with the relentless consumerism that accompanied urban life. “Growing up in cities, we’ve lost our connection with nature and found ourselves in a huge global story of consumption,” she says. When she stopped wanting to attend her own events, she knew it was time to quit.

In 2014, Güçlütürk announced her next iteration as a botanist. Always interested in plants, she had started to attend gardening school and run a home shop in Istanbul; three years later, she’d relocated to Muğla, a province that boasts a rich and diverse habitat. Celtis australis, a tree native to the region, shares its Turkish name, Çıtlık, with the nearest village. “The tree has its place in mythology,” says Güçlütürk. “They say that if you eat the tree’s berries once, you can’t leave the place, which is true! I really don’t want to go anywhere else.”

Before she relocated to Muğla, Güçlütürk was a voracious explorer, touring the world on her motorbike. But since she “designed her own heaven,” she’s loath to leave it. Instead, from the glass-fronted house that she and her partner created, she observes the eclectic gathering of shrubs, trees and perennials that pay tribute to her travels. “When I look at my garden, I see all the places I’ve visited softly merge,” she says.

Only on Labofem—a YouTube channel that she launched to share her deepening knowledge of botany with other Turkish green-thumbed enthusiasts—does the outside world intersect with Güçlütürk’s new existence. Here, interested viewers seeking advice on their own plants can peruse videos where she counsels on everything from selecting the right planters to identifying common wintertime ailments, and watch short, snappily edited films that chronicle Güçlütürk’s activities at home.

“YouTube is where I go to share my experiences,” she explains. “The [viewers] don’t judge me for my hair or makeup—which I don’t have anyway—they just listen to what I say. I play the role of an entertainer and, while entertaining, I can help them look at their plants.”

There are reciprocal benefits to this online community. Often, a question is posed that Güçlütürk must research to answer. “Both sides are winning: They listen and I listen,” she says.

Güçlütürk rotates her selection of indoor plants according to the season (“If I don’t limit myself, I would have much more,” she says). She finds each one a suitable spot—like a high ledge for the fishbone cactus (Epiphyllum anguliger), pictured above right, since it is best displayed as a hanging plant.

In the winter, the temperature of the greenhouse drops and more of her “precious and small” plants make their way indoors.

“I live in a vegetative state.”

When Güçlütürk began to study botany, she says she had to donate 1,000 novels to a secondhand bookstore in order to make more room for her plants. “Now, I have only books about plants,” she says of the stacks of reference books on “local flora, deep botany and ecological mindfulness” that fill her shelves.

Güçlütürk takes a walk every day in the woods near her home and fills her notebook with illustrations of plants and flowers she sees along the way, looking them up in her books when she returns home. She also uses her notebook to keep track of the flowering patterns in her garden so that she can redesign and give the garden an “experimental new look” as certain plants fall dormant.

mallorca, spain

ask anker aistrup & mar vicens

Some outdoor spaces require careful maintenance to thrive. Others—like the boulder-strewn Mallorcan grove where Ask Anker Aistrup & Mar Vicens sensitively restored The Olive Houses—are best cared for by being left entirely undisturbed.

High in the Tramuntana Mountains of Mallorca lie two tiny houses made from slabs of local stone. Set between millennia- old olive trees and a scattering of craggy boulders that jut up from the fertile ground, the houses are scarcely visible, which is precisely how owners Mar Vicens and Ask Anker Aistrup intended it.

“The project is reminiscent of a cave—man’s first home,” says Vicens. A Spanish architect whose grandfather built a home on Tramuntana when the area still lacked access to electricity and running water, Vicens spent her childhood clambering over the mountain’s rocky landscape. For Danish- born Aistrup, accustomed to flat terrain, the dramatic topography was intriguingly unfamiliar. Before the duo embarked on construction, they decided on two rules: They would not cut down any olive trees, and they would not move the rocks.

Vicens and Aistrup cofounded the studio Mar Plus Ask in 2015. Their projects have spanned family villas in Valencia to converted industrial office space in Berlin, all of which are underpinned by a core tenet: designs intended to last. “We try to think of things we do on a scale of at least 100 years,” says Aistrup, who points to the protected status of historic architecture across Europe as an example of the cherished role that buildings can assume if built with care. The Olive Houses, as they coined their Mallorca venture, were a response to this proposition. How could they create something new that would live for years to come within an ancient landscape?

The Pink House—lit by a skylight and housing only a bed and a fireplace—was built around a large chunk of rock whose craggy gray bulk rests against soft pink walls. “The feeling with the natural skylight and the rock is that it makes you look at nature differently,” says Aistrup. “It brings it into another setting.”

A nearby toolshed was converted into the Purple House, in which a simple dining and kitchen space, as well as a small bathroom, can be found. A frameless window opens to a vista of more olive trees.

“When you’re inside, you see the trees very clearly,” says Aistrup, who explains that they deliberately selected the paint tones—light pink and deep purple—to complement the shades of green found on their leaves.

Since The Olive Houses were completed in 2019, Vicens and Aistrup—who are partners in life as well as business—retreat from their base in Valencia and stay there often with their young daughter. They have also offered it to other creative professionals in search of a quiet hillside on which to think. “I think people fall in love with it because it’s raw and wild,” says Vicens. “We come here from our terribly domesticated lives and can finally take a big breath of freedom.”

The olive groves of the Tramuntana Mountain Range are a part of Mallorca’s cultural heritage; for centuries, olive oil has been at the heart of the island’s economy and life. The most common variety of tree in the area is the empeltre, which produces a black olive with a slightly higher-than-average level of acidity.

The couple poured the Pink House’s cement floor between the site’s existing rocks. Smooth and rough in equal measure, the design blurs the boundaries between inside and out.

The dusky pink-and-purple palette that the couple selected for the property’s stucco walls was chosen to complement the matte green underside of the olive leaves found in abundance around the buildings.

“We come here from our terribly domesticated lives and can finally take a big breath of freedom.”

To reach both houses, visitors are forced to meander and turn through the huge rock formations and ancient trunks of the landscape. The stone terrace walls and the couple’s gentle trimming of the olive trees are the sole signs of human intervention.

tangier, morocco

umberto pasti

The vision for Rohana came to Umberto Pasti as he dozed under a fig tree twenty years ago: a garden filled with all the flowers endangered by Morocco’s industrial sprawl. Today, the twenty-five-acre (10 ha) site has become a botanist’s mecca.

Umberto Pasti believes the light of northern Morocco resembles that of Italian Renaissance paintings. “It’s a marvelous light, but one that knows no mercy: its brightness is absolute,” muses the writer and horticulturist, who splits his time between Milan and Tangier. “The light from a dream.”

It was in a dream twenty years ago that Pasti envisioned what he calls his “combat garden”: Rohuna, where he rescues wild flora threatened by Tangier’s unbridled industrialization. That day, he had been looking for plants in the Moroccan countryside and had fallen asleep under a fig tree when the idea to rescue rare flora struck him. Pasti, who had inherited some money from his father, acted as if he were possessed, he says, buying the land, and promptly employing people to help. “Usually, making a garden is a long process, but in the case of Rohuna I already knew what I wanted to do.”

But Pasti had done his homework, too. He had fallen in love at first sight with the coastal city of Tangier a decade earlier, during a holiday, after heading north to flee the socialite scene in Marrakech. Having missed the exit for the town, he arrived at a giant field of Iris tingitana, a bright blue flower native to the area, which is becoming increasingly rare. “Before the sea, there was this other sea of flowers,” he recalls. He decided to stay. The first home he bought there would include his first garden—a courtyard oasis, as is traditional in Morocco, which he replanted with fruit trees, roses from Italy and exotic plants from Asia and South America. By the time he started working on Rohuna, he had been studying the local flora for years and had landscaped over a dozen other gardens.

An early lover of nature, Pasti kept thirty frogs and a pet snake in his Milan apartment as a child. For him, caring for nature is akin to loving life. At Rohuna—twenty-five acres (10 ha) of land which he hopes to preserve as a foundation—he originally had one strict rule: Only rescued plants allowed. He is more flexible now, but the garden is still full of endangered, even functionally extinct species—like the pastel yellow Iris juncea var. numidica


  • “What’s the antithesis of a Zoom meeting? Spending time with a book about plants and the creative people who live alongside them. The latest release from the Copenhagen-based lifestyle brand spans a Southwestern ranch, a Japanese landscape designer’s home, and a curvilinear hideaway built within a Mexican rainforest. There are practical tips for hopeful green thumbs, too.”
    —Vanity Fair

    “In this gorgeous, aspirational work, Burns, editor-in-chief of Kinfolk magazine, collects ‘stories about nature as nourishment’ along with photographs from homes across the globe to inspire people to bring more nature into their own abodes. Burns organizes the book into three main themes: care, creativity, and community, respectively illustrated by an Italian expat in Tangier whose garden is dedicated to flowers threatened by industrialization, a Tokyo landscape designer who’s filled his glass house with tropicals, and a Beirut-based entrepreneur whose latest enterprise is a guesthouse surrounded by produce gardens. Throughout are sidebars on garden-related tips ranging from the practical (caring for houseplants and selecting vases) to the twee (“how to talk to plants”). The photos, meanwhile, emphasize natural lighting and highlight spaces characterized by rough-hewn wood tables, hand-thrown pottery, handwoven cloth, and rough, pigmented walls. Adding to the aesthetic of understated chic, the featured homeowners usually sport stylish ensembles of chore coats, cashmere, and rumpled linen. Expertly evoking a mood of understated luxury, this stunning spread will have design junkies drooling.”
    —Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Oct 27, 2020
Page Count
352 pages

John Burns

John Burns

About the Author

John Burns is the editor in chief of Kinfolk, a quarterly magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Founded in 2011, Kinfolk delves into personal values and quality of life, and inspires its readers to approach life with intention, energy, and a sense of community. Burns is the author of Kinfolk Wilderness, Kinfolk Islands, Kinfolk Travel, and The Kinfolk Garden; other books in this series include The Kinfolk Table, The Kinfolk Home, and The Kinfolk Entrepreneur.

Learn more about this author