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  • Jennifer Jewell


FOODSCAPING - with Brie Arthur. Photo courtesy of Brie Arthur, all rights reserved.


Judith Larner Lowry is the plantswoman behind Larner Seeds – Seeds for the California Landscape – Restoring California One Garden At A Time, founded in 1977 and still growing strong, based in Bolinas, CA.

Early in her career with plants, she knew she was dedicated to the imcreased use of native plants by home gardeners, and the diversity of plants available as well as the biodiversity provided by gardeners growing their plants from seed. After taking classes in Ornamental Horticulture at Foothills Community College in California, it was at a rare fruit tree conference that she met Craig Dremann.

It was Craig who told her she should start her own seed company, and he walked her through where to go and what to do and how to do it. He also told her to contact Gerda Isenberg, the founder and then-owner of Yerba Buena Nursery, the largest need a plant nursery in California.

Craig recommended that Judith tell Gerda that she was a seed collector and ask if Gerda had any requests. Gerda was 75 at that time, the same age Judith is now, and she offered Judith not only seed orders but also a position as the seed propagator for Yerba Buena and the mentorship and training that came with it. It was here that Judith's love of the native plants of California and the calling to work with native plant seed for encouraging and supporting the growing of native plants for gardening and landscape restoration became fully clear to her.

While at Yerba Buena, Judith was also working on getting her own mail-order seed company going, and after 8 years, she relocated to Bolinas to focus fully on Larner Seeds and establishing her own growing grounds, experimental and display garden for saving, storing, growing out and designing with native plants from seed. Her current 1.5 acre Bolinas headquarters is supplemented by 80 acres in Mendocino County where the team conducts wild seed collection.

On what was intrinsically interesting to her about seeds from the start Judith Larner replies: "the deep longing to know more."

Judith is the author of "Gardening with a Wild Heart, Restoring California’s Native Landscapes at Home," published by the University of California Press in 1999, as well as the author of "The Landscaping Ideas of Jays, A Natural History of the Backyard Restoration Garden," published by The UC Press in 2007.

Combined, Judith's seed work, writing, and advocacy have laid and continue to lay critical groundwork for the ecological gardening precepts we are hearing more and more about today, including from the likes of Dr. Doug Tallamy, whose best-selling book “Bringing Nature Home” urging far more planting of native plants in our home gardens to help offset catastrophic biodiversity loss, was also published in 2007.

If there is such a thing as an elder statesman, Judith is such an elder seedswoman, and she joins us this week on Cultivating Place to share more about her growing work journey.

Images courtesy of Larner Seeds; Bio Photo of Judith Larner Lowry by David Griggs, published in the Point Reyes Light, 2020. All rights reserved.

You can follow Larner Seeds online at or on Instagram @larnerseeds


you might also enjoy these Best of CP programs in our archive:

True Love Seeds, with Owen Smith Taylor and Chris Boldem-Newsome

JOIN US again next week, when we have our final in this extended seed series. We’re in conversation with Petra Page Mann of Fruition Seeds in Western NY state. She is a completely different but similarly passionate new generation seedswoman out to change the world – starting from seed. Listen in next week!


Cultivating Place is made possible in part by listeners like you and by generous support from the California Native Plant Society, on a mission to save California’s native plants and places using both head and heart. CNPS brings together science, education, conservation, and gardening to power the native plant movement. California is a biodiversity hotspot and CNPS is working to save the plants that make it so.

For more information on their programs and membership, please visit


Thinking out loud this week:

IN this midst of this month of good seed around the country and the world, did you notice that theme of surrendering control came up again this week in conversation with Judith? It’s perhaps an important thing to remember as we plan our spring and summer gardens – where can we make a plan and where can we leave planning to the plants and their other friends – the birds, and bees and butterflies and trees?

Worth thinking about…

And hey! I got some great answers to the seed questions of last week – but not enough to make a whole post – tell me – you out there listening and dreaming and gardening and scheming right now:

which are your favorite plants to grow from seed?

Which are your favorite seed suppliers?

Did it surprise you to learn that a majority of Johnny’s seed is grown outside of the US?

More thoughts on these topics please – I know your busy – but PEOPLE come on, it’s SEEDS we’re talking about here!

Send me a note….and many thanks to you who did – more on that soon!





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