• Jennifer Jewell

FOR THE LOVE OF PLANTS, with HORTICULTURIST WAMBUI IPPOLITO



Wambui Ippolito loves plants – she has loved them since she was a young girl with strong land-and plant based family history going back generations. Born in Africa and of proud East African heritage, Wambui is a trained horticulturist, a garden designer, and lecturer based in Staten Island NY.


Having begun her working career in international democracy, Wambui decided to change course after having her daughter. She completed her horticultural training through the New York Botanical Garden's rigorous School of Professional Horticulture and she is now a highly sought after designer and lecturer. Among the horticultural topics close to her heart is that of uncovering and revealing the many contributions to American Horticulture of plant, food, medicine and land-care knowledge by groups and cultures long unrecognized – from Indigenous people’s on whose land we all make our lives, to people of the African Diaspora originally brought to the US an enslaved people's, to each subsequent wave of immigration from somewhere else to the US.


As for so many of plantspeople, Wambui's journey has been forged in some unconventional and yet highly relevant ways - including being a young girl visiting her great grandmother’s farm in the magnificent Rift Valley of East Africa, as a student of many languages, cultures, and a student of democracy.

Wambui joins us Cultivating Place this week to share more of her plant and garden journey and the tender and common ground she finds in what gardens are, which is as she says: "is where the magic" of being human "often happens."



"I AM WOMAN - Hear Me Roar! ....

Nature gives to us all in equal measure."

Wambui Ippolito, Horticulturist



Wambui was a speaker for the Garden Conservancy earlier this summer as part of their series, Gardens for a Changing World Series, speaking on Inclusive Gardens in Unconventional Spaces. She will be speaking on the horticultural legacy of the African Diaspora this fall for both the Northwest Horticultural Society on October 8th, along with previous guest, horticulturist Abra Lee, and on November 12, 2020 for the Ecological Landscape Alliance based in based Massachusetts. (click live links in the highlighted organization names to find more registration information!)


To follow along with Wambui's work you can find her on Instagram @wambuilovesplants/



Join us again next week when we head to the Danish island of Aero, where gardener, photographer and nature-based well-being advocate Camilla Jorvad. She and her family have spent the last decade slowly working to transform pesticide-exhausted monoculture farmland into chemical-free woodland, wild life corridors, flower meadows, hedgerows, and wild garden areas where nature thrives. Join us then!


RELATED EPISODES INCLUDE:



- BLACK IN THE GARDEN


- JAMAICA KINCAID, MY GARDEN (BOOK)


- PLANTING YOUR TRUTH, with ABRA LEE



THINKING OUT LOUD this week..

SO.....


Hey, it’s Jennifer -

It’s always good to have regular check-ups on our own mission statements, don’t you think? And how that personal mission statement or purpose is then reflected in how we spend our time, our money, our attention – in our relationships, at our work, in our homes, in our gardens. I recently had reason to do a little check up on my personal mission statement for Texas gardener Pan Penick who kindly asked me to contribute to a project. She asked me essentially what drives you, and I wanted to share my answer with you because I think it is so pertinent to what I find so expansive about this conversation with Wambui:

I wrote: I am a firm believer in gardens and gardeners as powerful intersectional agents for positive change in our world - from individual and communal health and well being, to community activism and social justice and environmental repair and healing. While I have long found as an experienced and life-long gardener that there is plenty of how-to garden information out there, there is less information and engagement around WHY and more importantly how to get the why of our gardens to have greater positive impact in our own lives as well as in the larger world. We - and the world – can fall back into the bad habit as seeing gardening and gardens as sweet, pretty hobbies - not necessarily economic, cultural and environmental changemakers/drivers.

In every person I interview and every word I write – my north star is striving to illustrate how powerful every single garden and gardener really can be to their people and plants and places in which they live and to encourage and empower every gardener – including you listening right now - to embrace, celebrate and set your sites on this power ever more intentionally every day and every season.


This week, amidst so many larger and colliding/intersecting urgencies of global cultural and environmental transformation, with another hard hard fire ash and smoke season here in California, I found myself turning to the small acts of caring in life like knitting, baking, reading, and tending for my garden like collecting seed from the late season basil and cilantro, seeding the next succession of carrots, beets, turnips before the new moon, cutting back, and watering for the short windows of time I could be outside even with a mask in our current smoke.

It occurred to me last night that what I was actually doing was searching for the comfort and hope of both creativity and the human scale - Embodied actions of care, solace, creation, and meaning making. In one of my longer stints inside due to hazardous air quality (and I am acutely aware of the privilege and good fortune of having a small house and garden in which to shelter right now) I picked up one of my favorite books of all time – Their Eyes Were Watching God, written by Zora Neale Hurston originally published in 1937. If you’ve not read it or not read it recently – make the time.

I wanted to share with you the opening lines of the second chapter – for some reason it really called out to me now and given its firm underlining it resonated with a younger me as well. It such a mythical tree of life kind of truth to it.

“Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, the things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches.”

Dawn and doom – each leaf one bit of the larger story of any experience and cycle.

Just a few days from the Autumnal equinox, it seemed a good perspective grounding for us all perhaps.

So thank you all for listening and making these paradigm shifting civil gardening conversations part of your life. Thank you for sharing them forward with others, for following along on Instagram and engaging inc conversation there, thank you for liking and reviewing the podcast on Itunes of NPRone or Google. Together we grow – better.

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