A Garden Sanctuary Where Activism Blooms

Des Kennedy's spiritual & environmental journey on Denman Island, BC.

Summary: Des Kennedy has made a career of combining his passion for the earth and love of the spoken and written word. A former monk who left his order for an even greater calling, Des’s depth of knowledge on gardening has earned him a loyal Canadian audience for his writing, television and public appearances. Des reveals how he has managed to create a spiritual lifestyle which enables him to merge his passion for gardening and the environment with his public life as a humourist, writer and journalist.
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The Gardeners' Story: Des Kennedy is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, author and environmental activist who is widely known across Canada. He has lived for the past 30 years on Denman Island, British Columbia, and the gardens he and his partner Sandy have created on their island acreage have been featured in numerous books, magazines and calendars. For the past 20 years he has contributed feature articles on environmental issues, gardening and rural living to a wide variety of publications in Canada and the United States. For the past seven years he wrote a gardening column for The Globe and Mail. He currently writes a column for GardenWise magazine and contributes feature stories to Gardening Life magazine. Kennedy appears regularly on a variety of regional and national television and radio programs, having been featured many times on such TV shows as Harrowsmith, Country Life, The Canadian Gardener, and the Guerrilla Gardener. For the past eight years he’s been a weekly columnist on the national CBC television program Midday, contributing pieces on gardening, country living and natural history. He is the host and co-writer of a documentary mini-series titled Reinventing the World, broadcast on Vision TV in the spring of 2001. This series features five one-hour documentaries on Food, Work, Economics and Sustainable Cities and includes interviews with leading thinkers and activists on these topics from Canada, the U.S. and Brazil. A subsequent television series, Finding the Future, consisting of 13 half-hour programs in each of which Des interviewed a celebrated thinker/activist, was broadcast on Vision TV. Des’s one-hour documentary of Living Things We Love to Hate will be broadcast on Discovery TV in spring 04.

Kennedy is the author of three books of essays and two novels. The Globe and Mail described his first book, Living Things We Love to Hate, as "a howlingly funny, unbearably enlightening, relentlessly fascinating and endearingly charming collection of essays." About the second book, Crazy About Gardening, the prestigious American magazine Horticulture wrote: "It is a rare delight to discover a compelling new voice in garden writing, and Kennedy’s is a fascinating one." Crazy About Gardening was shortlisted for the 1995 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.

Kennedy published his first novel, The Garden Club, in 1996, which was shortlisted for the 1997 Leacock Medal. Author Jane Rule described it as "rich with local legends, yarns, gossip, political controversy all contained in the seasonal rhythms of rural life. A beautifully written, funny, hopeful book." In reviewing his last book, An Ecology of Enchantment: A Year in a Country Garden, The Globe and Mail stated: "With An Ecology of Enchantment Des Kennedy proves himself one of the best gardening writers in Canada." Maclean’s magazine featured the book saying it showed "Kennedy at his contemplative best." In his syndicated column, Allan Fotheringham described Kennedy as "the Dennis Rodman of gardening" who "writes like a dream."

His second novel, Flame of Separation, was released by Insomniac Press in spring 04. The Globe and Mail praised the novel’s "vivid imagery," and its "unfolding of a human mystery that has plenty of pleasing twists and turns" and eventually presents "something more subtle yet perfectly in line with Kennedy’s theme of the extraordinary dwelling within the mundane." The Vancouver Sun called it "a gem of a book" that exhibits "power and grace" and "an open-hearted novel the likes of which are too rarely seen."

Des has hosted two tours of "The Gardens of Ireland" and one of "The Gardens of New Zealand." He’ll be returning for a repeat tour of New Zealand gardens in February 06.

Des Kennedy is a celebrated speaker, having performed at numerous conferences, schools, festivals, botanical gardens, art galleries, garden shows and wilderness gatherings in Canada and the U.S. His humour, irreverence and passion for gardening and the natural world have made him a "must see" speaker in demand across the country. As well, Kennedy has been active for many years in environmental and social justice issues, including co-organizing the civil disobedience campaign in Strathcona Provincial Park in 1988 and getting arrested at Clayoquot Sound in 1993. He worked for several years in the 70s and early 80s as a land claim consultant for two Indian bands in north-central B.C. and was a founding director of a community land trust on Denman Island.

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