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  • Jennifer Jewell


Syrphid fly on Eastern aster. Our gardens can be the habitat needed to bridge gaps for the beautiful and necessary insects, birds and other wildlife of our world. Photo by Sarah Foltz Jordancourtesy of The Xerces Society, all rights reserved.


The news goes from bad to worse when we’re talking about biodiversity, wildlife, and overall insect declines in our world in the past 25 years. In 2018, a German study spanning 27 years reported a more than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. 2018 also saw dramatic losses in populations of one of North America’s most charismatic insects, the Monarch butterfly, with an estimated 14.8 percent decline of Eastern Monarchs and a precipitous 86% percent 1 year decline in Western Monarchs.

There are big groups at work trying to understand and address these issues – and of course a lot of us on the ground wanting to do more. Cultivating Place has held many conversations exploring some of these habitat and species loss, degradation and fragmentation concerns, and how and where we as gardeners come into being agents of change for the better with our garden spaces and garden practices, but it feels more compelling than ever that we to continue to have these conversations and to go even deeper.

Starting (symbolically) today Thursday March 21st, our first episode after the Vernal Equinox and its annual renewal of light and above ground growth, this week we kick off an all new five-week curated series on habitat in our gardens - what it means, what it looks like, how we can improve it - through the lenses of people at work on the ground, in the lab, and in classrooms.

We'll learn in conversation with a leading Monarch researcher, a hummingbird gardener and researcher, a migratory bird garden horticulturist, bee advocates, and educators in urban environments looking to bridge gaps in knowledge, action, and measurable outcomes.

Today we start with an overview. We’re joined via Skype by Scott Black, Executive Director of The Xerces Society for invertebrate conservation and by Phyllis Stiles of BEE CITY and BEE CAMPUS USA - now an initiative of The Xerces Society.

Together these people and their work connect us as gardener conservationists from coast to coast -

"So, the Xerces Society protects the life that sustains us - that’s what we like to say - we’re really working to protect all of the animals - these really vital small sort of animals that people don’t usually think about that are the base of the food chain. It’s fascinating to me that we don’t think about these animals, yet they’re driving almost everything that we do. If you love to eat nutritious fruits, vegetables, nuts, you can thank a pollinator that pollinated those; if you want to see salmon in our streams or grizzly bears wandering around in our wilderness, you can thank an insect. Salmon need little flies to feed on when they’re young, and bears like to eat those salmon along with the berries that were pollinated. If you like birds in your backyard, you can thank insects."

Scott Black, Executive Director The Xerces Society

Follow along with the work of The Xerces Society and at Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA, and on Instagram @xercessociety and Facebook @xercessociety; and make sure to check out Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA information and news at, and on Facebook @beecityusa

Join us again next week as the conversations continue in this 5 part series on the many ways people engage in and grow from the cultivation of their places, when we’re joined by Dr. Anurag Agrawal, research scientist and professor at Cornell University. His book Monarchs and Milkweed, a migrating butterfly, a poisonous plant and their remarkable story of co-evolution is an education in itself.




Oh Happy Spring! Happy happy spring. I know it will be 110 degrees here and sunny for 150 days straight soon enough, but I love the arrival of Spring - and it was a FULL MOON last night to boot. Pretty sure this welcoming of the season is hard wired into our lizard brains from way back. Sunlight and green growth are the cues reminding us that there is sufficiency – that there is food, and life and constancy in the cycle of things. Speaking of sufficiency – and plenty – and sharing things out in the world – if you’re signed up for my A View From Here newsletter, you’ll know about the donor incentive that was running through yesterday – the Vernal Equinox herself.

Producer Sarah, said – why don’t you just run the offer through the end of the month? Make it a clear calendar date end? And I thought – yep – why not!? And so we are – if you make a donation of $30 or more in support of this program you listen to, learn from and love between now and March 31st – the last day of this month - you’ll get the donor bonus thank you of a copy of the Cultivating Place Theme Song. I think you’ll love it as much as I do!

AND if you have it in you and feel so called as to make a donation of $120 total as a one time gift OR as a year-long $10 per month donor, you will get the monthly audio bonus #gardenlifeloveletters. You’ll get the first one (with Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass) when I get word of your donation, and you’ll get the mid-month ones every month for the next year on the 15th of each month.

Arriving in your email inbox as little boosts of affirmation and growth right when you might need them the most.

Thank you for listening - thank you for donating. You very directly make this program and series like this one on our gardens as important habitat possible.

Ok, so some Thinking out loud here – you may have heard this story before but I want to remind you (and me):

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. They take their name from the now extinct Xerces Blue butterfly(Glaucopsyche xerces), the first butterfly known to go extinct in North America as a result of human activities.

At one point in our conversation when we get to the point of talking about ALL THAT WE AS HUMANS CAN DO to help turn this trend of destruction around – Scott says: "We can all make a difference with our actions - including the home gardener."

And you know me - I would say with emphasis - ESPECIALLY WE HOME GARDENERS can make a difference - we are better suited to this work of love and life than ANYONE!

And, I am not judging you, or yelling at you or rapping your knuckles – I am reminding ME and you along with me – about changes we can make. Easy ones. If 38% of all households report engaging in gardening, and the average household uses 3.5 POUNDS of pesticides each year – we can eliminate a great deal of this going into our soils our waters our air and our kids. If there are 40 million acres of chemically dependent lawn that COULD BE flowering, lively, loving plantings – we among the households that could commit to reducing whatever lawn we do have. If some enormous % of our public and private landscape plant choices is non-native, even small additions of more natives to each of our gardens will make a difference. We can do this. We can change our own ways and make an impact. We are the people BUILT to do this. I was raised using miracle gro – and osomocote and ROSE CARE systemic “food” which only later I understood was actually an insecticide and fungicide. Once I made the connection, it was a no brainer. Amanda Thomsen of Kiss My Aster shared this sentiment last week: At what point does our own well-being- AND the well-being our planet supersede what our neighbors think or our own expediency, or some empty value of outdated aesthetics?

I will continue to interrogate myself – and my garden. She – my garden -generally tells me the hard truths – with love.




Thank you to everyone who has contributed this year! We simply could not produce this program without your help.

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