top of page
  • Jennifer Jewell


Valley Oaks in the Canyon.

The circularity of the Moon and Her Cycles

I have been reading and thinking about the concept of circular economies. Which is fascinating.

And nothing short of the most pragmatic and obvious (almost cliche?) form of common sense. What comes around goes around - you reap what you sow - give and you shall receive - karma - wherever you go, there you are.

And here we are: full circle of one month, one cycle of the moon, one full playing out of the seasons, and finally the calendar year. On the leading edge of 2021 having finally crossed the threshold out of 2020, a year which pushed many to new and newly seen edges of their own circles - some of these edges grievous and unforgivingly brutal, some breathtakingly illuminating and transformative.

Any moment in seasonal time allows for a view into this circularity - this continuum on which there is no one beginning or end. December and January, though, can be especially resolute - vivid even - in their culmination of one full circle and their inauguration of the next.

The circularity of the sky, the weather, the trees.

It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this that I say or write something along these exact same lines (or circles) over and over again throughout the garden, the writing, the podcast year. And it is certainly not original to me. It is an elegantly simple observation: Plants and ecosystems are the original circular economies with the myriad lives, soils, weathers, and waters of their places. They offer us this every day of every season of every full circle.

I keep re-realizing - as John and I walk, as we begin pruning back the roses and the Romneya, as we gather seeds, cook, plan, rake, and turn the compost - the garden at its best should be an excellent circular economy.

Plants collaborate and cooperate and reciprocate. They root, leaf, bloom, grow and seed their hearts out with determination, joy, color, fragrance and a flamboyance of scale almost unparalleled in order to produce their abundance of seed/fruit/spores. They take what they need, they give all they have, they let go of what they do not need when they no longer need it and all of that too is put back into the circle and to good use by others. They waste nothing. If it is the very last thing they do, they make sure the circularity begins again for all.

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

The circularity of the stages of life - in a nest.

Which brings me to the concept of Providence - and its sister concepts of to provide, to provision, to be provident. The layers of meaning in this word's connotations and denotations as glossed in the OED include "foresight; anticipation of; in preparation for the future; prudent management; the foreknowing and protective care and government of spiritual power specifically that of Nature or of the divine."

The concept of Providence seems so directly related to the generous and wise Circularity of Nature: looking and seeing ahead. Preparing and providing for the future. Prudent management. Protective care offered freely - over and over again.

By the grace and providence of Nature - may our gardens and we gardeners learn all the lessons we can in each cycle we are privileged enough to contribute to and benefit from. That's my greatest continued hope for this next cycle of Cultivating Place, for all of us as gardeners (new and longstanding, vegetable, fruit, flower, habitat or sanity gardeners): to keep listening, to see ever more, to be engaged, encouraged, and empowered to embrace our own power of agency in growing - ourselves and our world.

A heartfelt thank you to all of you who wrote, messaged or DMd or commented on 2020s episodes that resonated with you and the perspective offered to you by these many conversations - these weekly views into how others grow their gardens and worlds and what we can learn there with them.

There are too many to name but Paulette, Brad, Susan, Caitlin, Tom and Yukie come immediately to mind as responders. The CP conversations with Jamaica Kincaid, Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed, Melanie Falick, Joe-Joe Clark, Marta McDowell, Elaine Ingham, Johanna Silver, Ira Wallace, Matt Hall, Wambuii Ippolito, Kathryn Aalto, Michael Marriott, Uli Lorimer and Hort & Pott came up as resonant over and over again from all of you.

Both Nina Veteto of Blue Ridge Botanic and Clare Hughes of ThinC Design offered me deeply thoughtful long form responses for which I am immeasurably grateful. British-born and based listener Clare , who has been working in the US of late, offered me the particularly profound gift of her overview insights into our collective meta-gardening/quantum gardening endeavor. She laid out larger threads running together through this last full circle of the Cultivating Place conversations and I wanted to share them with you - because they contextualized for me with renewed vigor the importance of talking in this exact way about exactly what we do and what it can mean.

Here were some of the threads of great value to Clare in the last year of listening:

"1. Generous New Perspectives on the United States of America: Listening to CP sometimes feels like a botanical road-trip across the USA, in the company of some of the best botanists, horticulturalists, designers, gardeners and writers....As a British person recently living, and still working in the US, I have relished the perspectives your guests have shared with me. They and you have helped me create a whole new relationship with this vast country, at a time when it is easier to feel fear and distaste than hope and joy for the future....2. Rooting in My Own Soil I’ve always suffered acute Wanderlust, desperate to be in Japan or San Francisco or Provence, always hungry for ‘otherness’. I’ve lived abroad for long periods and been lucky to travel, but my own life circumstances, reinforced this year by Covid, have led me to want to spend more time at home and to find joy and satisfaction in ‘hereness’....So many of your guests have embraced their own cultures, finding purpose, identity, and joy in the layered complexities of plants, their meaning and the profound role they play in communities. I am constantly delighted by your capacity Jennifer to draw out the stories of seeds and plants and landscapes and I’m deeply inspired to cherish my own plant culture having heard your conversations with Jamaica Kincaid, Wambuii Ippolito, Amber Tamm, Owen Smith Taylor, Chris Bolden-Newsome. These last two really woke me up to my seed-blindness, and I loved the others’ expression of plants as carriers of community, of family, culture, separation and renewal. I am usually in tears during these kinds of conversations…3. The Culture of Gardens & Landscapes

I’m fascinated by the different ways gardens and landscapes manifest in different ‘national’ cultures across the world and have loved your conversations with Tucker Fitzpatrick, Bettina Mueller, Camilla Jorvad, Rebecca Burgess. They set me thinking about how and why these differences manifest and these stories and explorations nurture my own creative thinking around how to be meaningfully local in a world that is now so firmly global. 4. For the Love of Plants: Thank you for just the sheer pleasure in learning about plants through your conversations with jaw-droppingly interesting people like Joe Joe Clark and his secret life of Lilies, Max Gill on his floristic region, Camilla Jorvad and Cristin Geall and, closer to my home, Clare Foster’s cut flowers, Michael Marriott’s roses and Philippa Craddock’s highly sustainable and generous creative practice with floral design. 5. Joining the Dots: Weaving the Big Picture Listening to the broad range of subjects you explore helps me bring together elements that had seemed fragmented, perhaps even conflicting in terms of time, attention and skill, and to see them all as parts of a greater whole. Your ability to synthesize the detail with the bigger picture encourages me to join all the dots in my own life and to connect what I do with a bigger effort of caring for the planet and each other. ...weaving all these cares and actions and intentions and ideas together, interlacing them with conviction that plants and gardens and landscapes grow us all into better human beings."

Thank you, Thank you, Clare - you showed me threads I had not seen myself. There's always more to learn and see, right?

So here's to another cycle of such growing conversations and all that they provide to us.

Happy New Year gardeners - thank you for being here growing together.



and the Cultivating Place Team


I am really stoked to be a speaker for the 25th anniversary of Plant-O-Rama, a horticultural fair and extravaganza put on by NYC's Metro Hort Group on January 26th. Day Passes for the event are on sale now. Other speakers include the visionaries Leah Penniman, Margaret Roach, Signe Nielsen, Adrian Benepe, and Midori Shintani.


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....)


Circular Economies




SHARE the podcast with friends: If you enjoy these conversations about these things we love and which connect us, please share them forward with others. Thank you in advance!

RATE the podcast on ITunes or wherever you get your podcast feed: Please submit a ranking and a review of the program on Itunes! To do so follow this link: iTunes Review and Rate(once there, click View In Itunes and go to Ratings and Reviews)

Cultivating Place is a co-production of North State Public Radio.

To make your listener contribution – please click the button below.

Thank you in advance for your help making these valuable conversations grow.

Or, make checks payable to: JewellGarden

with Cultivating Place in the memo line

and mail to: Jennifer Jewell, Cultivating Place

PO BX 37

Durham, CA 95938

All contributions go to the production of Cultivating Place and its educational outreach efforts and endeavors. Thank you for the value you find here and your support of it!

Me. Bio photo by Eddie Altrete 2019.



bottom of page