• Jennifer Jewell

LUNAR NEW YEAR, with TAWAINESE AMERICAN PLANTSMAN ERIC HSU



In honor of Lunar New Year which begins with the new moon on February 12th and lasts until the next full moon arrives at the end of the month and the Festival of Lanterns celebrated with it, this week we welcome Eric Hsu, a plantsman of Taiwanese descent.


Eric is a well-studied and well-traveled horticulturist and researcher. For the past decade he has served as the plant information coordinator at Chanticleer, a world class public garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania. The more Eric has studied plants and the more he has traveled to learn from and about plants and plantspeople - in the US and Taiwan, in England, Scotland and the Australian island state of Tasmania – the more he has been intrigued by the plant journey stories of Asian American immigrants.


"Toichi Domoto said in his oral history that when you grow plants you can’t have hate in your heart, and I think when we are connected to plants they help to pass by our insecurities and our emotions in a way that helps us remember we are all interconnected."

Eric Hsu, Taiwanese American Plantsman


In our conversation Eric shares more about his own journey and his work unearthing and bringing to light stories about the many contributions of Asian Americans to what we think of as 'American Horticulture.' H also shares his insatiable curiosity and interest in learning about plants and their stories – from heathers in England and Scotland to understanding long range seed dispersal for plants in Tasmania

When Eric joined the the staff at Chanticleer ten years ago, he was able to begin collating and compiling more methodically his many collected stories about Asian Americans in horticulture here – from the Civil War, through to the atrocity of the internment era of World War II to today.


In all likelihood, no matter what kind of gardener you are, you know and love many treasured plants introduced around the world from any number of Asian regions, and often by Asian plantspeople - many of whom were well-known and incredibly successful in the US prior to World War II. Camellias, chrysanthemums, peonies, and hostas are just a few that bring me great joy. How about you?


With this in mind, Mark you calendars! On Wednesday March 24th from 4 – 5:30 pm Eastern, Eric will be part of the 2021 horticultural lecture series for Wave Hill Garden and present: Uprooted—The Untold Story of Japanese American Influence on Our Gardens. For Registration information go here: https://www.wavehill.org/calendar/2021-horticultural-lecture-series


You can follow Eric's work online at Plinthetal and on Instagram at: @plinthetal/

Join us here again next week as we continue our celebration of Asian Horticultural Stories and influence when we take a virtual visit to the Tokachi Millenium Forest in Hokkaido in Northern Japan with head Gardener Midori Shintani, one of the 75 women in my book, The Earth in Her Hands, as well as British garden designer Dan Pearson. Their new book Tokachi Millenium Forest, Pioneering a New Way of Gardening with Nature and its display gardens is available now.



RELATED EPISODES INCLUDE:


- FOR THE LOVE OF PLANTS: WAMBUII IPPOLITO


- GOOD MEDICINE, with SAYAKA LEAN


- LATE MIGRATIONS, MARGARET RENKL


Thinking out Loud this week...

I wanted to share with you all that I will be the inaugural speaker for the Southern California Horticultural Society’s annual Ruth Borun Lecture series on Thursday February 11th at 7:30 pm Pacific. It will be the first time talking about the integration of the newest book Under Western Skies, due to be published in late April or early May, with my work here on the podcast and the work of The Earth in Her Hands. For me it is a really nice integration of all that I believe in: how our plants and our places grow us as people. You can register for the talk at socalhort.org.


It is amazing to me that cultivating place is 5 years old and that more than 300 conversations have been hosted with this ethos at their center: gardens and gardening are powerful intersectional agents and space of possible positive change. It is great to feel and see and know this very ethos is growing here too, not just our places, and plants, and people. 


You can always keep up-to-date on events I am taking part in or horticultural happenings on the website cultivatingplace.com/events and I included links to all my upcoming virtual events in January’s view from here Newsletter which went out on Sunday the 31st. I generally try to give a heads up on such things over on my Instagram account, where more than 12,000 of you are now in conversation with me on all things cultivatingplace.


If you’re not with me there, pop in and follow along, say hi. It’s definitely the platform on which I’m most active with pretty much daily views on place, plants, plantspeople. And who doesn’t need a daily boost of green life?


I love how in any setting, the podcast, the book, and social media can connect us , but as Melanie reminds and the stories and lives charted in her book reflect- there’s no substitute for real hand holding of other people or the materials from which we each craft our lives.

I consider it a lot like holding each of your hands in acknowledgement and greeting each time I put my hands into the soil of my place over here - knowing that you are putting your hands in and on the soil of your place over there. It’s a long distance: "oh! HEY THERE! " It's me.....;)


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