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  • Jennifer Jewell


Photos courtesy of Joe Joe Clark, all rights reserved.

As we ring in the New Year of this New Decade with the power of 2020 ours for the making, this week Cultivating Place welcomes gardener, naturalist, educator, and husband, Joe Joe Clark. Born and raised Vallejo, California to a garden loving mother, Joe Joe is a naturalist working on interpretation, public engagement and education, and nearly equal amounts of paperwork for the Napa County Open Space district taking him to both state and county parks in coastal Northern California.

Joe Joe is a lover of lilies and the wild spaces where they are found. With a joyful perspective born of his work and some surprising events in his own young life, Joe Joe invites our communal welcoming of 2020 to be one of presence and time invested in our love of the many splendors of our natural world – including all the lilies.

In our conversation, Joe Joe shares how at the age of 22, in January of 2012, he suffered a stroke while in college majoring in French with a minor in Biology. During his recovery, Joe Joe found a great deal of healing in the natural communities formed by some of most charismatic trees - coast and giant Redwood Forests, Oak Woodlands, and Ponderosa Pine and Doug Fir forests, along with their associated soils, climates, and other plants including the geophytic lilies… It was in fact during his recovery that he met the Lily family in California for the first time. He is now deeply involved with meeting more of them in their wild spaces, growing them at home, and educating and advocating on their behalf in his work and in his free time and on social media.

"My heart beats to the colors of pinks, purples and reds. My senses are intoxicated by the fragrance that they adorn to perfection. These lilies are my friends that approve of my adorations towards them."

Joe Joe Clark, Naturalist and Educator

In our conversation, Joe Joe walks us through the anatomy and growth habits of native lilies, as well as how he grows them in his garden - which is a several year commitment and project just to get to the blooming stage. His words and his actions speak of the importance of being really present in the presence of these "gems of the natural world" when and where we meet them. Good advice for us all!

He entered the new year/decade with this sentiment on Instragram, where you can follow his work @lilyboyjoy:

"Ready and I don't want to wait I know my glory's on the way There's time in life where there'll be tradeoffs I give thanks, I'm not afraid I'm not afraid (not afraid, not afraid, not afraid)" - August Greene This is how I feel about my stage of life right now; I'm always moving, growing, stopping, slowing, starting and recharging. But some things never change like the glaze of a lily staring right back at me - remind me not to be afraid! 2019~2020

Join us again next week when we head to our Nation’s Capital. A lot of news is coming out of Washington DC all the time, and while this year is destined to be particularly noisy on the DC news front, WE are headed there for the gardening news when we'll be joined by Kathy Jentz, founder and editor of Washington Gardener, a gardening magazine and information hub for gardeners of DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

I’ll be speaking at a symposium on Women, Horticulture & Diversity at the Smithsonian Institute and their Smithsonian Gardens on March 18th as part of my national 2020 speaking tour around my book The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants – so I thought I would like to get the lay of that gardening place in advance. For more information on this and my other speaking dates and locations make sure to check out .

With more than 26 dates around the country this coming year, I'm looking forward to meeting A LOT of you all in the places you Cultivate.

I’m in Sacramento, California at the Sacramento Perennial Plant Society on Jan 23rd and then up in Portland, Oregon for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon’s Winter Lecture on January 26th - SO, mark your calendars. Together we grow!



Thinking out Loud this week...


If there is one thing that I hope we all take from this conversation with Joe Joe Clark it is this: take time, make time to really and truly and fully love what we love – love what you find beautiful, healing, expanding and meaningful in your garden on your trails in this generous natural world of ours.

If you love lilies – then by all means FULLY love them; if you love your veg garden, topiary, bonsai, fragrant roses, or taking children or other adults on nature walks through the woods or along streams and pointing out the diversity and wonder of mushrooms, leaves, seed forms; if you love cooking with your garden bounty or crafting with gourds – whatever it is, give yourself the time for it.

There is never a better time than right now – today – where you are, where the world is – let your great loves meet up – there’s healing and growing to be done right there.

Joe Joe talks about this more at the end of our conversation, andI wanted to offer out this one word for you to consider as we embark on this newest freshest most hopeful of years: Presence.

This is among the greatest gifts offered out to us – demanded in fact, in that tough-love-a-mother-has kind-of-way – by our garden and nature love and ever deepening literacy – PRESENCE.

Without true presence in these spaces we miss everything – what’s in bloom, what’s needing being done and when, what the season is showing us, telling us - the sound and pacing of our own breath in and out, oxygenating us – our own blood pumping and hearts beating and the birds calling, the wind rustling the grasses and leaves.

Really being in relationship with our gardens requires presence, and the presence we learn and practice there can (and does I believe) inform and improve our presence everywhere – in our other works, in our other relationships.

It’s worth noting, I think and it’s worth being as deliberate as we possibly can with it and in appreciation of it.…as you walk to your compost, as you shovel snow, rake leaves, prune your dormant fruit trees, vines, and roses in preparation for the first flush of spring – be present and see what grows from there – mentally, physically, emotionally and creatively.

Together we grow.




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