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  • Jennifer Jewell


Valley Oaks in the Canyon.

Lessons in Campsite Entomology & Observation: My sister Sabrina, my mother, and me.

Paonia, CO circa 1967

"Will you sign this book for my daughter to be?" This was asked of me at one of my first big public appearances for The Earth In Her Hands when I spoke for the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon in lat January. While the woman, a 20 - 30 or so year old working gardener woman was not sure if she was pregnant, let alone whether she was carrying a girl, she wanted to have my book for her daughter-to-one-day-be.

It was such an honor to be asked this - such a responsibility to consider what words I would want to choose to send out to a future child - no matter their gender. What do I want to say to this future child about the importance of living and working in relationship to plants? About holding up the voices and journey stories of inspiring women making their lives in this way right now? The actions and work of these very people are embodied messages of effort and intention and hope for us now, and for the future. "Dear Daughter...."

Taken at their least literal and their most universal - like gardens, or gender - the idea of being a mother and being mothering are not about female exceptionalism or about gender or about the decision to procreate or not. To mother is the chosen act of creating, and then nurturing/supporting, and protecting.

My mother was born on April 27th 78 years ago - she died on April 14th 22 years ago. April is full of emotions around mothering for me. I miss that gardener who (as Julie Moir Messervy so beautifully notes) was my very first landscape, the gardener who grew me into the gardener I am. I am grateful for her mothering ways - which continue in their own ways to this day.

Little me in my mother's arms Paonia, Colorado circa 1968

At her memorial service in her garden in Beaufort, South Carolina, I read The Envelope, by Maxine Kumin:

"It is true, Martin Heidegger, as you have written, I fear to cease, even knowing that at the hour of my death my daughters will absorb me, even knowing they will carry me about forever inside them, an arrested fetus, even as I carry the ghost of my mother under my navel, a nervy little androgynous person, a miracle folded in lotus position.

Like those old pear-shaped Russian dolls that open at the middle to reveal another and another, down to the pea-sized, irreducible minim, may we carry our mothers forth in our bellies. May we, borne onward by our daughters, ride in the Envelope of Almost-Infinity, that chain letter good for the next twenty-five thousand days of their lives."

I recalled these words - and their inherent sense to me - when I was asked to sign my book, another of my babies, for this yet-to-be-born daughter. The mother-to-be-someday and I actually talked about the amazing fact of women being born with all their eggs in them, how these eggs experience on some cellular level our whole lives with us until they meet their match and become in time and due process, a baby. How some part of us pre-conception, in some strangely simultaneously abstract and tangible way experienced our mother's whole lives before us with's a profound concept.

In the chaos and contraction of the pandemic, I did not think about being asked to write a note to a not-yet baby again until a week or so ago when I received an email request from an architect in Texas requesting signed books for herself, her twin 9 year old daughters and her 7 year old daughter.

She wrote: "the books for my daughters may be a little for the future as something to take with them from how they were brought up.  But I think they love experiments and are starting to understand biology and the benefits of taking care of our earth.  We walk around the yard almost every evening exploring the natural wild flowers and plants that are our lawn/not lawn!"

At a time when books might seem like an indulgence, and inspiration might feel secondary to survival - the universe (and this kind woman) presented me - AGAIN - with the question - the honor and the responsibility: What do you want - what do you have - to say to the future?

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

Me and my two human babies - Loveland, Colorado circa 2004

When I sign my books - given the time and space to do so - I often write: "The earth is in all of our hands - bring your joy and take good care." In the introduction to the book I wrote: "These profiles of women doing current and innovative work in all things horticultural...often represent larger issues or shifts in our world. Their work illustrates how the many challenges of our world can be met through cultivating an interdependence with plants. It is a rebirth in many sectors. And like all birthings, this one is being sung, screamed, crooned, whispered, hummed, and rocked into existence by distinctly female voices."

These are the words I want to send forward for the future- and like declarative magic spells in fact conjuring the future. I want to say them to the past as well - I would like my mother to hear or read these words, I would like my little person self to read or hear these words, I would like my daughters and all of our children to read and hear and know these words to be true...."The earth is in all of our hands - bring your joy and take good care....the many challenges of our world can be met through cultivating an interdependence with plants."

So for all of you mothering folk out there - no matter your gender or the form of the babies you have chosen to nurture - I want you and someone you love to have this book and send it forward into the future. If you live in the US and you're on Instagram, and you'd like a chance to win a copy of The Earth in Her Hands (and another, more practical hands-on book The Kitchen Garden Revival, by Nicole Johnsey Burke) then head to Instagram for a giveaway opportunity today Thursday April 30th through Friday May 1, 12 pm Easter.

Here 's what you do: On Thursday April 30th -

1. head to Instagram

2. For 24 hours only - 9 am ET 4.30.20 to 12 pm ET 5.1.20, (for US recipients only), like the post announcing the giveaway

4. Tag someone you think would also love these books!

5. Spread the love! Inspire a girl/woman/human in your life to keep growing!

Nicole and I will each pick two winners by random drawing from our posts and send each of them a copy of each of our books! What could be better - just in time from Mother's Day - than two great gardening books at this great time to be gardening?! I hope you enter and GOOD LUCK!

If you don't want to enter the Mother's Day Giveaway on Instagram, please know you can always order the book from your favorite local bookstore, from other online book retailers - or signed for Mother's Day by me from the book page on

Here's to the future we grow together, keep gardening.


and the Cultivating Place Team


I took part in a wonderful recorded panel discussion for the Natural History Museum of LA County about The Earth in Her Hands with three of the women from the book, Carol Bornstein, director of the Museum's Nature Gardens, Mia Lehrer, landscape architect in charge of the design for the Nature Gardens (among many other fabulous projects to make LA more livable for all lifeforms), Lauri Kranz of EdibleGardens, LA and author of A Garden Can Be Anywhere, and moderated by plantsman Richard Hayden.

I think you'll enjoy it! Watch it here:


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


And unsigned: at 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....)






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Me. Bio photo by Eddie Altrete 2019.



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