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  • Jennifer Jewell


We Are the ARK - art by Ruth Evans. All Rights Reserved.


Welcome to the North State Public Radio Fall Pledge Drive – which I thought was a good time indeed to revisit a Best of Program from Cultivating Place with Mary Reynolds.

The World is a wild – often wonderful place – and public radio helps you explore all levels of it! Enjoy.The idea of our gardens as habitats is not new to you or to me and my emphasis here on Cultivating Place; it’s no secret to any of you that I hold our gardens as powerful containers for ourselves - our bodies, minds, and spirits - for our children, our community of people, and our communities of planet mates – our companion plants, insects, birds, microorganisms, and so many more. As such our gardens are model teachers and partners in such learning to live in and with nature not opposed to it and its constant sustaining of us.

My guest today Irish landscape designer Mary Reynolds has cultivated a deep love of her place - in all its complexity and mystery. As a plantswoman and guardian/gardener - she listens to her place, and works in partnership with it in order to move forward towards a better world for all.

Mary is known as a nature activist and she often refers to herself as a Reformed Landscape Designer. She is the author of The Garden Awakening, and her early work in design led her to become the youngest person to create a gold medal winning garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. The story of this win and Mary's journey was the inspiration for the 2015 movie Dare to Be Wild. Ever evolving in her own relationship to plants and nature, Mary has recently launched a new initiative called We are the ARK – in which ARK stands for Acts of Restorative Kindness.

Mary joined Cultivating Place from her home in Ireland to share more about her journey and her goals and hopes.

“I really didn’t like designing gardens, and I knew there was something wrong

with the way we were working with land but I couldn’t articulate it, and it was only when I

moved back to the countryside, in the mountains in Wicklow, in a tiny little cottage and I walked

a lot in nature and I remembered the relationship I used to have and my understanding of plants and different energies all around us that we generally aren’t aware of or just don’t give any attention to….”

Mary Reynolds

In Mary's reformed view gardeners are in fact, or need to transform into, Guardians of the wild life and wild nature of the world around them. Woven together, the resulting nurtured garden/guarded spaces create a patchwork of hope for the planet.

"You’re very lucky if you’ve got land to work with because you’ve basically got a big magic pot

that’s like a universal post box that you can send your wishes and intentions out from, and once the

land is on connection with you it’s like a magnifying glass for all those intentions and wishes you have -

it’s like you’re knitting or weaving a magic spell in this land that you live in and that by allowing and supporting

the land to become healed and well and full of life you find the land is willing to support you back and create a really magical

and powerful connection."

Mary Reynolds

In Mary's We Are The ARK movement manifesto of sorts she writes:

"We are all becoming more aware of our climate breakdown but we seem less aware of the silent killer that is biodiversity and habitat loss which is happening at a staggering rate and is equally – if not more – potentially devastating.

“With climate change we might feel the impact in our every day lives, but with biodiversity it is not so clear, but by the time you feel what’s happening, it may be too late”.

"Cristiana Pașca Palmer UN Leader on biodiversity. Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Whether we realise it or not, plants and all the other creatures we share this planet with are key to our survival and continued existence on this beautiful planet. In basic terms they clean our water, recycle our air, pollinate our food crops and help us in a myriad other ways that we know about and ways that we’re only just discovering. The earth is struggling to provide food, habitat and water for all her life forms – including humans. We are not making her job easy…"

"For those of us that care about the living world around us and are aware of the challenges we all face, this is a painful and desperate time – but there is hope. We have waited too long for changes to come from our leaders and politicians. We cannot wait any longer. The change will come from the ground up – it will come from us."

"This is a call to step up and re assess our management of every individual tiny patch of the earth possible. It’s a call to the guardians of the earth to step forward and make themselves known, to raise their voices. We need to help the natural world and not hinder it. We have to invite nature and wildness back into our gardens, parks and every tiny patch of this earth we can. To create sanctuary, food and habitat for the creatures we are supposed to share this planet with and who in return will help us survive here within a truly natural and beautiful environment.

It’s up to each of us to re-wild our world, piece by piece until we have a patchwork quilt of sanctuaries that wraps its way around the globe.

We Are The Ark. We Hold The Seeds For A New Earth."

"Things are only hopeless if we do nothing, so let’s do something.......Let’s Build An Ark."

Art illustrations for the We Are The ARK movement by Ruth Evans,



On her website We are the Ark: Mary writes:

"An Ark is a restored, native ecosystem, a local, small, medium or large rewilding project. It’s a thriving patch of native plants and creatures that have been allowed and supported to re-establish in the earth’s intelligent, successional process of natural restoration. Over time this becomes a pantry and a habitat for our pollinators and wild creatures who are in desperate need of support.

All we need to do is to leave nature lead the way and support her to heal and thrive.

Allow the land to re-wild itself and protect it while it heals.

Stop cutting it back. Stop spraying it. Stop controlling it.

This is a call to arms of a different type. It is a front-line battle of courage, hope and individual action. We have got to wake up to how linked we are to the planet beneath our feet. Our health is mirrored perfectly in the health of the earth. What reduces our stress, reduces the earth’s stress and vice versa.

She gets sick, so do we. We fight to live, so shall she.

We must create the island oases in these deserts. These oases will be the seeding ground for our new story to begin again. They will be sanctuaries for as many creatures as we can fit into them, safe havens for the magic and abundance in the natural world.

They will become the Ark for the flood of extinction that is upon us.

We are the last frontier and the last generation with enough time left to save this planet, by the skin of our teeth. One person can cause such big change in this world, simply by inspiring change all around you.

One person, one patch of land, one decision at a time.

It’s up to us. Guide your land into becoming a thriving, living wild sanctuary for as many creatures as possible.

Wake up and don’t turn away. Nobody else is going to do this work. The system is broken, badly caught in a web of its own making. This is a different type of web weaving. It is a web of interconnected life, interconnected magic and hope.

We are weaving ourselves an ark."

I really loved the part of my conversation with Mary in which we are exploring intention with our lands – be they tiny gardens or sweeping wildflower meadows.

I love my little garden – a small city lot, but with enough space in front, in back, and a sliver along the sides, that I can get a lot of plants in.

When I think of these small spaces with which - or with whom - I spend a good amount of time and intimacy of a sort, at the same time that I consider Mary’s concept of intention in mind – how I hold an intention for the land and the land then holds that intention for me and reflects it back to me and for me – I’m moved.

That’s the only way to explain it – it tugs at my gut – in a good way. A responsibility and accountability and love kind of way.

Which is exactly my intention with Cultivating Place. If you are a sustaining donor of $10 a month or more to the program, you will have gotten your April GardenLifeLoveLetter this last week – all about what a gardener looks like from Amanda Thomsen. I hope it made you laugh – and think – the way it made me laugh and think. Well, actually it made me laugh through my nose kinda but it made me think pretty deeply about this concept. It’s for us all to think about and act on in my opinion - to plumb the depths of for our own improvement and the improvement of the horticultural world.

If you love and want more Cultivating Place in your life, you can always subscribe to our newsletter - A View From Here, which is the email update I send out around the turn of each month - a new one will go out next week. These viewsletters include botanical thoughts, plant information, upcoming event information with me or that I think you might be interested in, book or garden reviews, and more! These are ideas, events and musings I’ve been loving but haven't been able to feature on the show.

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Oh and hey – if there are things you’d like me to include, mention, talk about in these newsletter forums, please send me suggestions – I would be happy to consider them and add them as it fits.




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