Happy Valentines Day! It is mid-winter, official spring is 5 weeks away, our days are still quite a bit shorter than our nights, and the temperatures remain wintery - enticing us to stay in more, or at very least come in from our outside work earlier than we might in the heady height of spring or mid-Summer.
It is a more cerebral season in my house with knitting projects in process, perusing (and sometimes making) interesting hearty stew recipes, and a good deal of reading to be done – books, seed catalogues, garden journals, and garden writers at work in this world. The garden world as a whole seems to take this season as one well-adapted to gardeners' continuing education and community building, a Winter -Term in the year-round, life-long school that it is to be a "Gardener." It is a season full of botanic garden lecture series, region wide flower and garden shows, conferences and symposia all starting up just in Advance of Spring (almost as if to help tide us over). The Wisconsin Garden and Landscape Expo is February 8 – 10, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show (which is always epic) in Seattle is Feb 20 – 24th, and Connecticut Flower & Garden Show is Feb 21st to the 24th, the famed Philadelphia Flower Show is March 2 – 10th. All of these events are all FULL of green plants, plants people, speakers, demonstrations, floral displays, plant and seed sales and show gardens to bolster your creative imaginations at the end of this wintery and contemplative season.
I find gardeners and naturalists to be remarkably ardent self-directed, life-long learners and thought I would take a few episodes to dive into that a little bit.
For this first episode in this casual exploration of the many ways that gardeners gather, learn and grow together – we head to Wave Hill in New York, a public garden and cultural center in the Bronx scenically overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. The mission of this now public garden is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts. Beginning its life as a country house estate in the mid-1800s, the house and grounds was deeded to the city of New York by its owners in 1960 and it remains one of 33 city owned cultural institutions. It is well known for the beauty of its site, its remarkable planting and plant collections - and its annual educational offerings.
Louis Bauer is the senior director of Horticulture at Wave Hill and he joins us today to share more about the garden and its programs. Wave Hill's 28 acres of gardens and woodlands are a vast education in themselves, and the garden staff supplement the gardens’ educational opportunities with twice weekly guided tours, with weekly family programs, and with their annual winter lecture series underway now.
"The garden staff is actively working in the garden 365 days a year, so there’s always a gardener here, anyone's who’s really curious can find a gardener to ask question and get an answer."
Louis Bauer, Senior Director of Horticulture Wave Hill, Public Garden and Cultural Center
As I mentioned, I find gardeners and naturalists to be remarkably ardent self-directed, life-long learners and doers. How people learn and where and why their motivation to learn – whether more about a particular subject or a wholly new skill, is sparked is something I find fascinating.
Some of us learn best by example, as apprentices or students in practicums, others of us by reading/research and then trial and error, still others of us learn by teaching, and others learn by listening and thinking and then trying. Whatever way you learn best, I want to encourage us all to follow your internal inclinations and curiosities and dig in yourselves – attend a lecture, check out that book from library or attend that class at your local nursery on winter pruning of fruit trees or how to plant bare root trees or roses; sign up for a symposium and gather with your planty people – it’s a healthy dose of winter chlorophyll supplement we all benefit from. What’s your best learning method? And what do you have lined up in the way of continuing education this winter season? Let us know by sending us a note: cultivating Place @ gmail.com, or make a comment on the weekly social media posts at Instagram and Facebook – we’d love to hear and to share your thoughts forward!
And join us again next week as the conversations continue and we’re joined by Nancy Goldman of the Hardy Plant Society in Portland, Oregon. There are so many ways people engage in and grow from the cultivation of their places.
THINKING OUT LOUD this week..
Thinking out loud this week of Valentine’s Day - I know, I know, it’s a contrived and now overwhelmingly consumer driven holiday, but I’ve always enjoyed its call to connect us more intentionally with those we love – to consciously choose to say out loud – I love you.
When the girls were small, I always made some small offering – little felted-wool heart things, or handmade construction paper treats. One year, I sprinkled sturdy red-glass heart stones all along the gravel pathway in the vegetable garden around a central birdbath and out the other side for them to discover and wonder what garden fairy had brought them in the night.
This intentionally paying attention to the things that bring positivity and joy, noting the people, places, actions and character traits we value - expands these things in this world – especially in a world and at a time when there’s plenty to bemoan and feel cynical about.
It doesn’t matter if it happens on February 14th only or if it’s part of your own weekly or daily spiritual work. It doesn’t matter when it happens, it just matter that it happens. And I’m happy to tell you: I value you here listening and growing with me, more than you can ever know.
When I first started working in public radio – 11 years ago now – the first critical comment that the station and I received from a listener in response to one of my episodes nearly slayed me. At the time, an established radio journalist at the station reassured me with: "don’t worry – you’ll almost NEVER hear from the people that like what you're doing, it’s the critics that speak up."
Thank goodness, this has not in fact been my experience – you plant-y people slay me quite regularly with kind words of affirmation – not to say you don’t and shouldn’t have words of constructive feedback and input – but you as a group are incredibly generous with your words of appreciation. Every time I get such a note – it makes all of the work of this program worthwhile – so thank you. From the heart of my garden – thank you.
Curiosity. It's a good word, a good urge to feel come over us – don’t you think? It’s kind of a word of the moment, I know, but thinking out loud here, I think there’s good reason for this. Our days and weeks are full of work that has to be done, whether we really want to get it done or not. This is true at our desks, in our homes, and in our gardens, but I find that when something sparks my curiosity in any of these arenas, then the whole task has new life. Having two late teenage daughters, one of whom is in college and one of whom is applying as we speak, I am struck as ever by just how differently we all learn – just how differently our intelligence’s express themselves and feed themselves. Not dissimilar to the Japanese perspective on how many seasons there, based on observing my daughters, their friends, my gardens and its many beings – I know there are 1000s of ways to learn, and to express your own bright light. Right now, spurred on by seeing this educational series start to coalesce, I’m curious about how you learn – what the best modes of learning have been in your life over time. Is this something you’ve paid attention to or observed? Specifically of course I am interested in the ways in which we learn about gardening and plants, learn to value them, learn to respect their ways? Learn cultural and environmental literacy through them and with them? I am super impressed that New York City has 33 such cultural institutions to which just about anyone with a library card has free admission and a whole world of learning by seeing, doing, listening and absorbing is opened wide.
For me the best teacher is almost always mother nature, (although my daughters are in the running there) and the best classroom is the garden or other outdoor arena – what about you?
Speaking of ways we share positivity forward – if there’s one thing you could do for Cultivating Place this Valentine’s Day to show your love: we would love it if you told a friend about the show. Tell your best friend, your gardening group, your neighbor out there shoveling snow, the people who work down at the nursery and are sorting through their primroses as we speak. Share this experience with them! Help them subscribe to the show on their phones, or show them our Instagram account. Along with sunlight, watering, and healthy nutrients born of this planet that carries us all, word of the mouth is the very best way for podcasts to grow.
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