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  • Jennifer Jewell


Photos Courtesy of Frailty Myths, All rights reserved.

Uli Lorimer is director of Horticulture for the Native Plant Trust in Massachusetts. His work as a native plant and biodiversity advocate is informed by years of work in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Native Flora Garden, in the woodland garden at Wave Hill in the Bronx and even earlier at the US Botanic Garden.

IN our conversation, Ulis shares more about his work in the New Jersey Pine Barrens while at the BBG, and about his transition to and work for The Native Plant Trust - including information about their ongoing native and rare plant plant seed bank!

Uli and I met just after we recorded this conversation during the annual conference of the Ecological Landscape Alliance in Amherst Mass where I was the keynote speaker, and now these long weeks later Uli reports that the pandemic has not only brought people to gardening, but to an increased interest in native plants, the climate, and an understanding that among what we deem essential at this time – biodiversity and a wholistic resilience are key.

His is a garden life journey in which he navigates with plants as his landmarks and it's earth day everyday.

"Another privilege that comes to mind is the ability to bear witness to the intimate details of spring ephemerals, the strutting and cackling of the new resident pair of wild turkeys and the emergence of fresh leaves.."

Uli Lorimer, The Native Plant Trust - Garden in the Woods

Uli sent along these plant recommendations for us try:


Caltha palustris - marsh marigold - a denizen of swamps and wet low places and an early bloomer

Aquilegia canadensis - wild columbine  - finds its home on rock ledges and steep slopes, forest clearings and roadsides. A delightfully complex flower!

Packera aurea - golden groundsel  - a fine groundcover and spring blooming aster family member! Bright and cheery like a sunny April day


Pycnanthemum tenuifolium - narrow leaved mountainmint  - well behaved, drought tolerant, and a pollinator magnet.

Monarda punctata - spotted bee balm - towers of hot pink to pale gray bracts interspersed with pollinator friendly spotted yellow blooms. The foliage has a great aroma when crushed.


Solidago odora - licorice leaved goldenrod - a well behaved early flowering goldenrod with pungent anise scented leaves

Symphyotrichum cordifolium - heart leaved aster -  a stout late bloomer with dozens of pale blue flowers per inflorescence.


Uli corresponded with me this last week, to follow up with me on how life at the garden and home has been since the shut down. He writes:

" I agree completely, it seems like the ELA conference was last year given how time is moving these days. I really appreciate the opportunity to add a coda to our conversation through the lens of the pandemic. Let me begin by saying that I too feel incredibly fortunate and privileged to not only have my health and that of my family, but also a full time job that considers what I do as essential. This whole situation has provided a new perspective through which to look at family, home life, work, and what is important in the world. The journey has not been easy, in fact I feel that I am working harder than ever before. With child care closed, my wife who works part time, and I are juggling my 40 hour weeks with her 20 hour week and the 24/7 needs of our 2 year old son."

                  "Despite the demands on my time, I find the moment spent in the garden that much more meaningful. There is a consistency to the movements of nature that is comforting, and the revival of spring says that we will get through this in the end. Another privilege that comes to mind is the ability to bear witness to the intimate details of spring ephemerals, the strutting and cackling of the new resident pair of wild turkeys and the emergence of fresh leaves without an adoring crowds of members and visitors. It seems almost unfair to turn away folks at the gate and then go for a stroll through the 45 acres and see no other humans." 

      "As I am sure you are aware, the pandemic has many many people to turn their attention to gardening, both seasoned veterans and those new to it. This renewed interest coupled with news of the environment healing itself with less human activity has driven a lot of attention our way. Our online class registration is up 25% over this time last year and our retail pre order sales have topped $100,000 already and we haven't even scheduled the first customer pick up. In this sense I feel especially proud to be part of an organization that reaches so many in our community and whose message of resilience is being widely accepted. I am incredibly grateful for my staff and colleagues who are all tackling this new challenge with good spirits and creativity. The reach of this organization is so much bigger given the size of the staff and that is a testament to the passion and drive that we all put into the work. One of the biggest reasons I love what I do is because I believe that the work has worth and value. Not only is it personally gratifying, but I am leaving something better for the planet and for future generations to embrace and enjoy. "

Join us again next week when Cultivating Place kicks off the month of May - with two-episodes focused on ROSES – we’ll start off with a visit to David Austin Roses in conversation with Michael Marriot, head rosarian. Join us!

There are soooooo many ways people engage in and grow from the cultivation of their places.





Thinking out Loud this week...


Ok So thinking out loud this week –

If April remind us that both poetry and earth day are treasures to hold with us every day – then May reminds us of the mother’s among us. In this very first part of our conversation, Uli credits his mother and his grandmother with inculcating in him a love of the natural world – in the garden and beyond. The mothering instinct for our people, our places, our plants – it is not to be underestimated and whomsoever mothered your love of plants, your mother, your father, a teacher, the plants themselves – now’s a good time to say thank you! Here’s how.

For one day only - Today – Thursday April 30th starting at 9 am Eastern and going through 9 am Friday May 1st, I’m teaming up with Nicole Burke of Gardenary for a giveaway of our two books on INSTAGRAM ONLY - The Earth in Her Hands And The Kitchen Garden Revival – two inspiring books in thought, word, and deed – ready to mail out in time for mother’s day.

Here’s what YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Go to Instagram and like today’s GiveAway post

2. Follow BOTH @cultivating_place and @gardenaryco on Instagram

3. In the comments, Tag someone who inspires you and who you think should win these books too

4. THEN - Spread the love by sharing the post or tagging other people you think might like to play along for a chance to win - Inspire a girl or woman in your life to keep growing - in thought word and deed.

Nicole and I will each choose two winners from our page by random draw and both they and their tagged inspiration will receive their copies of the two books in the mail just in time for mother’s day! What could be better than two great garden books at this inspiring time to garden! (The giveaway is good in US only…)

The journey stories and role models in the The Earth in Her Hands reminds us over and over how we are all nurtured and mothered by this planet and by smart caring women the globe over - every mother and grandmother, daughter, aunt, niece, and nurturers of people and plant babies will be inspired by the power of just 1 human to grow a positive difference in our world.

I loved when Uli mentioned early on that he’s a person who holds plants as wayfinders - as landmarks. A person who might give directions like: turn left at the big old oak, or just past the grassy meadow on your right.....

His life and his work emphasize the importance of observing & appreciating them, studying them, and collecting data from which we can all draw real conclusions and craft intelligent plans of action. Herein lies the importance of plant science, and scientists and the groups who support and organize them. They are essential right now while decisions are being made about our world that will have ever greater impact in the future.

In your life, in your days, What are your landmarks? I’ll tell, though it’s no secret – that gardens – my own and other peoples’ are among the greatest landmarks of my life. They are the floristic surveys of our individual lives. Their functions are not the same as the urgently needed scientific floristic work in the field by the smart caring likes of Uli and the Native Plant Trust – but our gardens are relatives of these larger floristic regions – for better or worse. Our gardens are the among the actions we take that inform us and those around us, the actions we take that shape the future. In relation….

So – how’s the future of the world family looking from your floristic survey?

There’s No time like right now – starting right where you are – for beauty, for food, for habitat, for joy – to put your garden to good work - together we grow better.




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