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  • Jennifer Jewell, Cultivating Place


FIRE SKIES - #CAMPFIRE, Butte County, CA 2018.

Right now the concept of lost gardens is very, very poignant – raw even – for me and my region. As a result of the recent California Fires, with close to 14,000 human homes lost in the #CAMPFIRE alone there were many, many gardens lost as well.

Gardens of course are dynamic, living constructs, and creations. They were never meant to be set in stone, and yet to lose one – especially in such a way – is a blow.

It is the painful loss of a friend and companion, counselor and confidante. A friend of John’, a talented kitchen and home designer Mary Wanzer-Simonds, wrote to him recently – post fire: 110 families she knew had lost their homes. She had helped to craft many of these homes and she wrote: "Other people can say: 'it’s just a house,' but I know differently. All the homes with their special owners, where I have had the honor to come into their lives, to dream with and create with, are so important to my heart, and the homes feel irreplaceable. Even as much as we are told houses ‘are' replaceable.”

Something about this acknowledgment was so moving to me, and I could add gardens to the mix. Each garden is more than a place – it is more than something we can regrow.

Reading the path and ways of the fire - messages in ash. Butte County, CA 2018

Our gardens hold our memories and our dreams. They embody and make manifest our past, our present and our future – the traumas and the achievements, the everyday activities no matter how mundane – picking up dog poop, squishing aphids on the roses you cut to bring inside – all of these make us us.

In the region burned by the #campfire – several nurseries, including the oldest one in our area Mendon’s owned by successive generations and renowned in these parts, and at least three very active garden clubs and Master Gardener groups as well as a bigger handful of plant and floral societies were affected by this fire. Many beloved gardens were lost.

Reading the path of the firefighters and first responders to the fire - a human narrative of heart and strategy. Butte County, CA 2018

They might seem the last thing someone would think of as important, there are not likely to be insurance claim form line-items for garden clippers, watering cans, garden books, pots, etc. But we garden people know differently. For some of us our gardens are who we are, they are what nurtures our spirits, and are a springboard from our best selves to the larger work we’re called to do in this world.

We need to grieve our gardens when we lose them, we will remember them and hold them dear still even as new gardens might be germinating in their place…

These are exactly the times when we as gardeners, nature lovers, and advocates need to continue to coordinate and collaborate. We need to deepen and expand our questions, our listening, learning - our individual and collective understanding and advocacy. We need to continue to grow together in order to continue to grow the gardens – large and small, natural and cultivated, figurative and literal – those standing and those lost – that we all love and find inspiration, solace, and hope in.

On Dec 16th, there will be an open house and reception for gardeners who lost their gardens in the recent #CAMPFIRE. We figure some people are dog people, some are old car or fiber or or fabric or computer or cooking people, etc. If every group helps their people, then the whole community heals a little more quickly…..We are plant people & we’re hoping the #WINTERRGIFTS for CAMPFIRE GARDENERS EVENT and effort will provide a little cheer & a kickstart to each of 200 + gardeners getting back to the dirt when & where they can. Gardening matters.

We’ve had a great response from the gardening community nationwide & so far ALL DONATED we have 200 total gift cards from Magnolia Gift & Garden and The Plant Barn & Gifts, 200 work gloves from Womanswork (NY), 200 new general interest garden books from Timber Press (OR), Storey Publishing (MA), and Firefly Press (MA) and Emily Murphy of Pass The Pistil/Grow What You Love (CA), at least 200 flower seeds from Floret Flower Farms and vegetable seed packets from many sources (Northern CA), 200 hand pruners from Corona Tools (So CA), other hand tools from Fiskars America, and 200 handled 7-gallon Root Pouch (OR) bags for the gardeners to keep their things in, and pot them up or use as utility buckets in the growing season.

We are soliciting cash donation to help underwrite half of the gift cards. If you'd like to help, please email me for details: cultivatingplace (at)

We know there are many more gardeners than 200 but it’s a start. If you are a gardener and have lost your garden PLEASE JOIN US - if you know a gardener who lost their garden, PLEASE BRING THEM. Admission free - RSVPs required. IF you’d Like to DONATE in support - email me for details.

May we lean into the coming Winter Solstice in our garden lives and beyond with all the courage, compassion, and clarity our gardens bring us daily - may they continue to teach us the innovations, adaptations, and resilience we all need.

Happy Winter Holidays to each and everyone of you.




Shop at Indiebound:

For each episode in which a garden book is mentioned, I will have Indiebound book links through which you can purchase that book in that week's episode notes. There were a lot this past month and there are a lot in December. :) By purchasing these books through these links at, you'll support independent bookstores, you'll help provide a fair price to authors, and for every purchase made with the link a small donation comes back to support the production of Cultivating Place. So Thank YOU!

Throughout DEC 3, Shop at

Use the code WW10 at checkout for your 10% off through Dec 3, 2018 when you shop at

For every purchase made (check out the leather gloves, the gauntlets, the Manswork gloves, which John swears by, and the t-shirts that my 19 and 17 year old girls love as much as I do), a donation will be sent to Cultivating Place, and ALL of those donations will go straight to support of #campfire gardeners in my area.

Keep your eyes out for a separate email about an upcoming WINTER GIFTS FOR #CAMPFIRE GARDENERS event. Coming soon...

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In appreciation,


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Life, in all her scrappy strength and resourcefulness, will always reassert herself - in fire, and after. Green shoots of regenerating plants above, ants (and gophers and fungi and microbes) below. Everyone has their role to play. Butte County, CA 2018

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