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  • Jennifer Jewell

AESTIVATION (or how to spend the late summer): AUGUST, A VIEW FROM HERE 2020

Valley Oaks in the Canyon.

California native buckeye foliage going summer deciduous as an energy saving mechanism in the heat of late summer. Butte County, CA August 2020

It's a challenge for me and the garden to look August and September straight in the eye. I buckle a little and look sidelong or with shielded glances at the wildlands - they are tired, sleepy, dusty, and contracted in their late summer ways - holding on and holding back from putting too much out there. They know. We have a ways to go before the temperatures really drop, moisture really returns. Could be months. No, this is no time to flaunt resources, to be profligate with one's gifts.

Instead, the trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials are swiftly retreating into the most essential aboveground structures of themselves to wait out the dry and heat. Annuals and geophytes have long since disappeared back into the soil or the seed version of themselves. The plants of this place know enough to enter August and September - beyond the halfway mark between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox - conserving and calibrating carefully expenditures over incomes for the remainder of this season.

Summer dormancy is a lifesaving evolutionary mechanism for many summer dry plants the world over. While the use of the word aestivation to mean 'summer dormant' is reserved for use in zoology rather than botany - its Latin origins according to the Oxford English Dictionary literally mean: 'summer residence or spending the summer in a state of torpor or hibernation related to hot and dry conditions rather than snowy or cold conditions.'

And every time I see the curled, crackly, brown leaves floating silently one by one - the dusty earth beneath the buckeye or the chaparral clematis or honeysuckle, I think they are so smart and lucky to sleep through this bit of things.

A good, a dreamy, way to spend this fiery stretch of this season.

Late summer blooming roadside tarweed begins their flowering in late summer, taking advantage of less competition - dry and dormant grasses all around them.

In this week's episode of Cultivating Place, a sister podcaster known a Colah B. Tawkin, of the Black in the Garden Podcast, talks about the importance of building in 'seasons' to her production schedule.

Heeding the advice of a human mentor, she recognized early the importance of building cyclical seasonal breaks into her calendar – to allow for rest, rejuvenation, to avoid burnout, and loss of perspective - depleted overall resources over the long run.

Late summer is a seasonal stretch in which these selfsame lessons are being communicated and shared with us loudly and clearly from our wildlands and many of our gardens' plants – late summer is a time to go dormant, let go of excess, retreat into seed and rest.

Staghorn sumac in winter dress, photo by Seabrooke Leckie, all rights reserved.

Read the signs and messages from your garden and larger landscapes - they are mentors to each of us in their individual missives and narratives. Footprints in the soil - heading to the shady, berry laden riparian corridor.

Summer dormancy, like perhaps more easily recognized winter dormancy, is not to be confused with laziness or boredom or weakness or complacency or silence.

It is full of a life - a productively of its own: a cousin to sleep, or rooting or germinating or gestating along in the restorative though often invisible ways that allow our lives to refuel, restore and as Colah suggests "to give from a full cup."

Late summer is just such a needed dip in visible productivity as we transition from the height of summer to preparation for the next.

Rest some now in the heat of the late summer afternoons - scented with drying pine needles, lavender, and salvia; nap in the lazy buzzing-fly heat of the day, read a book, collect the quiet readying seed as they present themselves; rest open-eyed, flat on your back gazing into the warm summer evenings left to us looking out for comets, meteor showers, fireflies....the things that dreams (and we) are made of.

Rest a bit, and make ready. When you are ready – like gardener/ like garden - give and grow again from a well-rested cup of abundance.


and the Cultivating Place Team


In mid-July the CP issued a listener support challenge for 100 new donors in the second half of this transformative year of 2020. THANK YOU to all of you who stepped up - we are well on our way to meeting our goal! We have a ways to go, just like this season and year, but we are on our way!!

Your listening, your supporting, your being on this garden life journey together with me and this CP community is food, water, sun and soil for this garden of humans. Thank you!

After my own summer lull in progress, look out for quite a few virtual events with groups around the country this coming September and October. For the most up to date info check out


The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants


And unsigned copies from: IndieBound:; Barnes & Noble:; and Amazon:



(just click the live link that is the green title of each program to get to the audio file and listen in....)


For the birds (and the seasonal stories): thistle down, acorns and oak galls, black eyed susan

seeds of next summer.




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Me. Bio photo by Eddie Altrete 2019.



Maria Espino
Maria Espino

What an incredibly perceptive thought. Rest. As a farmer/gardener/Mother I am gasping for air by the time August rolls around. I have gifted, canned, dried, preserved, and prepared for the coming changes, yet the garden is still producing and I feel obligated to oblige. At the same time I am preparing for even a bigger harvest of an orchard, this alone takes all the energy I have. Watching cucumbers and squash grow beyond my ability to consume is defeating. Rest. I feel as if you have given me permission to focus on the next task without feeling guilty. Its ok, I can spend time with my kids and sit out an watch the meteor showers without the weight of the…

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