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  • Jennifer Jewell


Like 3 Magi: the wise beauty and majesty of a self-seeded Valley oak in my small back garden. Blessings from the universe bestowed.

I woke up this morning, February 1st, and thought: today Cultivating Place turns two. Two years ago this month, we (the CP team and North State Public Radio) aired the very first episode - a wonderful 30 minute interview with the Landscape Designer Bernard Trainor.

I remember being very, very nervous about listening to that inaugural airing - John and I sat in the car in an out of the way coffee shop parking lot in our town - it was a gray day, the oak trees bare, and we listened looking out - me anxiously. It was a long 30 minutes. I was so worried something would go wrong! But at the end, I knew, there was really no need to be anxious - Bernard's work, passions and conversation captured everything I wanted to kick off these CP conversations all about the rich and layered, personal and social importance of gardening. I remember being very relieved and quietly happy. This exact expression of what I, and most gardeners and nature lover's I know, hold dear, is a good path. It's my right path. And I'm certainly not alone on it.

Back to this morning, after moving into the day some and looking through my email - I came across the photo below. A birthday gift of sorts. A clip from the February 2018 issue of Gardens Illustrated placing Cultivating Place first in a list of their top 6 garden podcasts in the world. Almost as good - maybe even better on some important symbolic level - the gardener in the hat in the upper left of the collage, kneeling before her small raised succulent bed is my youngest daughter, Flannery, 16 years old and as happy in the dirt now as she was when she was 2.

Thank you Gardens Illustrated for this honor. Thank each of you for listening and chiming in, for reading and sending me notes, comments and suggestions - and for the overall great shared garden and nature love.

The other podcasts included in the GI line up were: On the Ledge, The National Trust Podcast, Growing Wild, The Sodshow and In Defense of Plants. All worth checking out if you're a plant podcast person!

A birthday gift of sorts - Cultivating Place turns two and is chosen as one of the top 6 garden podcasts in the world

according to the February 2018 issue of Gardens Illustrated. Wow.

I don't know about you, but I love a good genesis or birth story. The genesis of Cultivating Place, a listener and sometimes grant supported public radio program and podcast, goes back to 2007, when I moved to Northern California and approached North State Public Radio to say: You people need a garden program. The Program Manager at the time - a wonderful old NPR guy - Joe Oleksiewicz, said, OK, let's do it. From January of 2008 through January of 2015, I wrote and hosted the very locally focused and good fun 4-minute weekend gardening and often natural history related program In a North State Garden. In the summer and fall of 2014, NSPR leaders asked me if I would be interested in expanding the program to a half hour and broadening my focus. Working with then-News Director (and musician) Matt Shilts, and NPSR's then-General Manager, Beth Lamberson, Cultivating Place was born.

If you’re new to the program/podcast and the monthly newsletter – and there are a lot more of you in 2018 - welcome! My mission here is to illustrate the many, many different ways in which gardens and gardening are integral to our natural and cultural literacy. And to celebrate how these interconnections support the places we cultivate, how they nourish our bodies and feed our spirits. This human impulse to garden is our shared history and our future at its brightest. It makes a difference to our mindsets, to our families, to our economies, to our social communities, to our environments and to the mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing of us all.

Which leads me to the talented and inspirational Sarah Bohannon, News Director and Producer of Cultivating Place. Please see the smiling face below. A person without whom this program would not happen.

I want to make note here that my partner, the plantsman John Whittlesey, very surely walks with me on this journey – offering ideas, feedback, critique, constant encouragement and listening ears - over meals, on hikes, sitting and watching whatever our current Netflix program is, and always on car rides to hike, to visit gardens, to attend conferences.

Sarah is my primary partner on the project as a radio professional - a young and bright second set of eyes and ears and insights. And I could not be luckier to have her partnering with me. I first met her years ago when she was a student intern in the journalism program at CSU, Chico and it's no surprise she's now the News Director of the station, having taken over from Matt Shilts shortly after we went into production. Almost all of you who've interviewed with us know her voice, and now you have the smile to match.

Above: Sarah Bohannon, Journalist, NSPR News Director and Producer of Cultivating Place.

It takes a lot of work to put together the program weekly. And it doesn't go all right all the time. I am still nervous EVREY time I listen to a program air. When I am in clumsy in asking a question, when I make funny noises, when I feel I have missed asking an important question, I am literally crestfallen. I'm still on a steep learning curve for being an insightful interviewer - following an picking up on subtle cues given by another person as the right next question to ask is an art - and I just have to practice, practice, practice. There is always more to learn. In the past two years, the audio quality has improved noticeably, our editing and engineering has come a long away. If the guests and conversations and the love of gardening and its meaning in this world didn’t fill me up on all levels – it might not be worth the time and anxiety. But they do fill me up and it is worth. Each heartfelt moment of a history or a garden or an inner but universal insight shared has me nodding my head and thinking: there. That got to the heart of it.

And messages from you all – listeners from all over the world – make it doubly worth it.

This past week I had just such an email from CarolAnn Hook in Minnesota – she wrote: "I’m in Minnesota, watching the snow fall and dreaming of getting back into the garden…," although only in due time because as she went on to write, she fully understands the ecological AND psychological importance of winter. She also loves frogs and other amphibians, whose futures she's concerned about.

CarolAnn ended her message with “Please continue to make these programs; they are directly impacting my own choices and thinking.” Thank you CarolAnn, I’ll tell you what, I’m right there with you here. These conversations impact my own choices and thinking, too.

If you have something you’d like to share - send us an email or voice memo to:, or add a comment on Cultivating Place on Instagram or Facebook.

After all, the whole point of Cultivating Place is to have conversations about these things we love and that connect us all. Together we gardeners and nature lovers make a difference for the better in this world. I say this almost every week on the program and it's more true than ever.




In February of 2018, Cultivating Place, which kicked off today, the conversations with a Dispatches from the Home Garden - this time with Loree Bohl of The Danger Garden (she likes her plants sharp), followed by a visit to garden designer, educator and photographer Hunter Ten Broeck in Albuquerque, NM, sharing information on an upcoming Land & Water Summit there. We then have a Best of episode with Clare Cooper Marcus about the therapeutic power of gardens (and in this crazy flu season, I figured we could use reminding); and finally we chat with Claire Bandfield of A Pot Spot in Portland, OR about the making of her classically formed concrete planters.

In March, a Vernal Equinox Special is in the works - exploring how our gardens can serve as hope-chest like vessels for our cultural heritage and personal histories - and why this is important. If your garden works this way for you - maybe you'd send me a voice memo by email sharing your thoughts? We'd love it. Use the Voice Memo app on your smart phone and share your story with me at:




Above: The web of life - complex, magical, beautiful. A winter garden photo by me.

Do you listen to Cultivating Place as a podcast?

Please submit a ranking and a review of the program on Itunes! To do so follow this link: iTunes Review and Rate

(once there, click View In Itunes and go to Ratings and Reviews) Even more meaningfully, if you enjoy these conversations about these things we love and which connect us,

please share them forward with others whom you think may enjoy them as well.

Thank you!

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