top of page
  • Jennifer Jewell


Valley Oaks in the Canyon.


I am essentially a homebody. I always have been. At this stage of my life, I generally travel for family if for anything. And even then, I miss home. I miss my small garden. On journeys of any length of time, I tend to have bad dreams and anxiety in the last few days of the trip that something has happened to the garden and its resident plants in my absence - not enough water, too much water, invading rodents - that kind of thing.

Now, most of us are homebodies - by mandate rather than by choice. And to have even a small garden is an outlet, a resource of fresh air, vigorous activity, and directed action that is a greater privilege than it's perhaps ever been in most of our lifetimes.


Ironically, one month ago today, my book The Earth in Her Hands, celebrated its publication day here in the US, and John and I were traveling by plane to the East Coast to start off the eastern leg of the book tour - to meet people in their places and talk about the messages of the women in the book: their work in community, and environmental and cultural care - their roles as leaders, having started from being firmly rooted in their own places.

The novel Corona virus Covid-19 was already a small concern, but seemed manageable with good hygiene protocols, hand sanitizer, and the standard common sense of flu season. We had wonderful, warm, welcomes meeting readers, listeners, donors, and new audiences (see photos below) at the annual conference of the Ecological Landscape Alliance, Long Hill & Sedgwick Gardens under the care of Trustees of the Reservation, Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum, Blithewold Gardens & Arboretum, and finally, on March 13th at the New York Botanical Garden, in conversation with the author Jamaica Kincaid.

It was a whirlwind and by the time we got to the date in New York, the NYBG had determined to record the conversation as opposed to having the 150 person live audience. Driving into the city on my own the night before and driving out to the garden in the Bronx in the early hours of Friday the 13th, Ms. Kincaid coming in from a family funeral in Antigua, rainy and cold, the governor of California having just issued stay-at-home orders for all citizens over the age of 65 (the mandate for ALL residents would come as we flew home the next week), was surreal at best.

I was supported the entire way by John, by family on the east coast, by friends and colleagues at each and every garden location. On that final morning in NYC, I was blown away by the solidarity and showing of women who bolstered the importance of the conversation with Jamaica Kincaid going forward: Christin Geall (on her own book tour and trying to make her own way home with classes and talks canceled), showed up at the garden and crafted a lovely bouquet for Ms. Kincaid; Marta McDowell, came in to the city to 'just be with us', and Lisa Whitmer, Barbara Corcoran, and Carrie Rebora Barratt at the NYBG showed incredibly resourceful and creative thinking on a dime to make the whole event possible - AND safe. It would be an understatement to say I felt the power of the garden community like never before on that day.

We knew at that point, that the best thing for us to do was make our way home, which we were able to do on the 18th.

It would also be an understatement to say I was sad at the postponement of many dates on the book tour (please watch, for new dates for later this summer and fall being announced almost daily on the Events page), and that I was worried and scared - as we ALL are, I know - as we traveled with the increasingly alarming reality unfolding for the world. It was scary and worrying.

But in meeting the hundreds of people we did, in clasping hands (when we could), in walking garden and arboretum grounds in the last hold of winter, in looking into one another's faces, in watching audience members nod in agreement, applaud in affirmation, and alternately laugh and tear up with me in conversation after talks about the meaning of the podcast, the meaning of the women in the book and the messages of caring for and partnering with our plants and our planet for the better of us all - I was enormously cheered. Just as I found hope in the year of writing the book, I found hope in how the intersectional power of gardens and gardening resonates NOW more than ever in our world.

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


I wrote last month that "How we lead the way forward from our best gardening selves can make all the difference in the world."

I would never have wanted anyone to come to gardening as a result of tragedy, or worry, but it seems many are - and to them I say: welcome. There's plenty of room and time right here for you. The garden welcomes you, the gardeners already here welcome you, the plants of this planet welcome us all and remind us we are in fact at home wherever we might be.

And so it would seem that while I thought I was "traveling for work," I was still really traveling for family, rooted in and right at home - a homebody same as ever.

In these times of anxiety and and seeming up-rootedness, lean into the season best you can, lean into the plants (and the vigorous activities of the garden) to clear your mind and energize your body, all of the benefits - food, fragrance, therapy, fresh air and the companionship of the more-than-human, will meet you there.

Hoping you are staying safe, sound, sane - that you are washing your hands on balance with getting them good and dirty in the garden.

Together - we really do feel more rooted, and grow with greater vigor.


and the Cultivating Place Team

PS: Even as events were being postponed rapidly in front of us this past month, I had the honor of being a guest on several radio programs across the the country, in case you are interested, here the links:

The Earth in Her Hands has also been featured in several publications worth looking out for:

Martha Stewart Living

The English Garden

Garden's Illustrated

The American Gardener


The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants is being published March 3, 2020 in celebration of Women's History Month.


And: 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....)







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 listener-supported co-production of North State Public Radio.

To make your tax-deductible listener contribution – please click the donate button below.

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

Or, make checks payable to: North State Public Radio - Cultivating Place

with Cultivating Place in the memo line, too

and mail to: California State University, Chico

400 W. First Street

Chico, CA 95929-0999

Me. Bio photo by Eddie Altrete 2019.


bottom of page