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Listening to the Story of Gardening with Jennifer Jewell

Category: Plant Ideas & Info, Presenting "The Curious Gardener"


The following is reprinted from the original article published last October in The Curious Gardener. Since then Jennifer has been “hard at work on a book for Timber Press – focusing on the current state of women working with plants – due in stores Fall of 2019!”  We featured Jennifer on hang tags on our gloves because we were inspired by her story.

Jennifer Jewell is a gardener and writer who takes as much pleasure in the ritual of gardening as she does in thinking, writing and talking about gardening. In her weekly public radio program and podcast, “Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden,” she explores the meaning of gardening with her guests. Her conversations are not about “how to” and “what to do when.” They hover about 30’ above the ground in a conceptual and always fascinating place. It’s a thinking gardener’s gardening program.

Gold Medal Winner

She originally created her interview format radio show on a local level for North State Public Radio in Chico, CA, where she lives. Two years ago the program expanded to a national and international focus and in 2017 she and her team won two Gold Medals from the Association of Garden Communicators (GWA), for Best Radio Talent and Best Overall Radio Program. This season the program goes into national distribution for public radio programs across the country on Public Radio Exchange (PRX).

On her radio show and podcast Jennifer interviews growers, naturalists, scientists, artists and thinkers. One of her core beliefs, stated on her website, is that “horticulture (‘the art of garden cultivation and management’—Oxford English dictionary) is on par with art, music, religion, architecture, history, geography, social studies and literature in informing our cultural literacy.” She believes that “the more we know about the many reasons that and ways in which people thoughtfully cultivate their places, the better our world will be.” To listen to recent interviews and download her podcasts, click here.

Jennifer’s Garden in Chico, CA

I asked Jennifer to explain in her own words what her garden means to her. Here’s what she wrote:

“I really like the mix of the small areas in my small garden that bring me happiness and meaning – the old climbing roses, the very happy native Valley Oaks (that are the signature tree of our environment here and so rich symbolically). My first year here I planted two native Blue Oaks in the front and then that winter two native Valley Oaks seeded themselves voluntarily in the back garden near the raised vegetable beds. It felt like a sign to me.

I also love my front mixed dry border which has non-native but DURABLE Iceberg Roses backing a native planting of Deer Grass, and native Salvias and Manzanitas. This marriage of the non-native and the native is perfect for me in my garden and the combination of the fresh green, bright white, dun colored grasses, and shimmering silver and cool blues of the Salvias was a combination I dreamed of – literally – visually prior to moving into the garden.

Finally, the statue of St. Francis in my garden is my daily reminder of appreciation/gratitude and spiritual well-being. He has a pot behind him of Scented Geranium and every summer it grows so voluptuously that it envelopes St. Francis and eventually I have to liberate him from the embrace!”

The daughter of a garden designer/florist and a wildlife biologist, Jennifer also spends time in the “field”- mountains, valleys, deserts and trails of wildland wherever she can get to it – “from whence comes most of my inspiration and love of what the garden is and can be,” she writes.

Jennifer has been a long time Womanswork customer. She says, “the deerskin gloves are my favorite favorite favorite gloves. They are durable and comfortable – in heat, in cold, in wet and in bone dry – I wear these gloves for everything.

And the label and logo make me happy EVERY time I read and recognize them. Words to live (and garden) by. Especially as the daughter of a strong woman, sister to two strong women and mum of two strong young women – 18 and 16.”

Stay tuned to listen to Jennifer’s program “Cultivating Place” on an NPR station near you, or download podcasts of all 80 + programs now. For updates, visit the “Cultivating Place” website where new station listings will be added.

More photos from Jennifer’s garden:

In a dry gardening climate, even a small water-filled birdbath adds to a sense of oasis. The squirrel is a replica of one from Jennifer’s grandfather’s southern garden in Camden, South Carolina.
Scabiosa and Lavender are among Jennifer’s favorite old cottage garden cutting flower favorites and fantastic offerings for the birds and insects!
All organic all the time, the various spaces in Jennifer’s small home garden multi-task to feed her and any visiting wildlife with food, color, fragrance, and meaning. Here edible Red Onions bloom in the west facing pollinator border, accenting native Penstemon, Yarrow and Salvia.

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