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. With men dominating their closely confined craft for centuries, the numbers of Japanese women working within the inner sanctum of gardening are small; accepting an American woman was virtually unprecedented.
In 1999, the author was fortunate enough to obtain an apprenticeship for three seasons at Uetoh Zohen, a prestigious, long-established Kyoto firm. Buck, who had run her own successful pruning business in the San Francisco Bay Area for several years, may not have considered herself typical apprentice material, but, as her Japanese mentor in California noted, “In America you are some of the best pruners. In Japan, you are beginners.”