One of the great mistakes of supposedly practical people is to dismiss philosophy as the resort of impractical dreamers. Collins stands up for her subject, adamant that underlying all thought there is a foundation of philosophical assumptions. Behind every practical man there is a defunct philosopher, goes the saying.
The book is divided into four sections,each containing a few essays. Naturally, it begins with Plato. She takes Plato's simile of the cave, which is enormously significant in philosophy of knowledge, and adapts the discussion into an analysis of how we deal with problems of the complexities of dealing with pests in complex ecological systems. This is a clever and original application of a key element in philosophical tradition, and I am impressed.
Collyns then deals with the philosophical principles of how far we gardeners are entitled to rule our gardens, should we see ourselves as masters of our patch or should we go with the flow, accepting the power and mastery of nature. She looks at this through the lens of existentialism and also draws on Eastern religions, such as Zen Buddhism and Taoism. These seem to appeal to her. She also draws upon Islam's use of geometric design. Sadly, Christianity with its rich gardening tradition is overlooked. A separate essay deals with oneness with nature, and this draws upon the Taoist principle of balancing of various factors which is at the heart of productive gardening.
An important essay is on the progress of classification systems, known as taxonomies, in botany. While classification is at root a philosophical issue, much of the discussion is at the scientific level, but she does not draw upon rare plants for her examples she focuses on common garden plants.
Collyns gives a knowledgeable account of the progress of taxonomy from its Aristotelian origins,through the contribution of Linnaeus up to modern DNA based systems. This is an essay of significant value to thoughtful gardeners, but she does not overwhelm readers with technical complexity.