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  • Jennifer Jewell


Valley Oaks in the Canyon.

The dynamic life of the oak woodland floor: Turkey Tail, Oak Leaves and Acorns. Food and medicine for all.

Creativity has been on my mind a lot recently - specifically creative thinking. Thinking and problem solving and mindsets that work to proactively show up to any space or moment or challenge.

And in the course of my recent interviews - maybe all them? - but especially as of my early September interview with Julia Cerny about her work in garden education for youth (and their elder counterparts) in this particular Back to School season, I am continually impressed with the really creative thinking/responding/adapting gardeners in general bring to their everyday lives and tasks. Thinking and responding that actively reframes, adjusts, and re-creates how we see something and therefore how we move forward.

Now of course, this is not always the case, but I will stand by my general observation that gardeners of all people - mentored as they are in the school of the garden/nature - are accustomed to things changing, shifting, reminding us that we are not only NOT in charge, but we are not the biggest players in the game. HA! Far from it. Remind us that we always have a lot to learn.

With daily exercises in garden-based humility and perspective (fire, flood, plague, gophers, aphids, unexpected frost or heat, to say nothing of systemic racism and economic overhaul) we tend to allow for adjustments as we go, for accommodation and listening, learning and re-learning.

And so my current Cultivating Place series is focused on pulling out some really creative thinking gardeners - who have married their creative mindsets to their garden/nature/plant passion and have some great insights for us all.

The salvia of late summer early fall - smoky skies of California, 2020.

The first official episode in the series was Frances Palmer, a renowned potter and gardener, but you could easily reach back through September's episodes with Julia, with Dustin Gimbel, with Wambui Ippolito, and Camilla Jorvad in Demmark for many lessons on creative thinking as way of Garden Life. I have perhaps had more comments and notes on these recents episodes then I have for any string of episodes since Cultivating Place began back in 2016. (SEE below for your monthly links to the most recent episodes.)

Maybe because more than ever our collective consciousness is calling on all our resources - and most importantly it is calling on not just our hunkering down, but on our creativity in order to ward off debilitating despair?

In an interview coming up in mid-October with Sue Stuart-Smith, British psychiatrist and gardener, author of the new (and really really compelling/good) "The Well-Gardened Mind", Sue and I talked about which part of our brains are being activated when we garden and we both agreed it was both sides - an a great deal of both sides. Our gardens stimulate our right and left brained tendencies. Which right there should be reason enough to get out into your garden - not to "work" - but to play. To create.

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

Food for all everywhere - everything is in play in the creative cycle.

Interestingly, most gardeners I know are also quasi-artists or crafters of some kind - knitters, cooks, fine artists. Jamaica Kincaid turns to rug hooking, Lisa Whitmer of the New York Botanical Garden is a beautiful beader, as is Elizabeth Hoover, who is also a ceremonial (and joyful) dancer.

I knit and needlepoint, and recently I have taken to sketching and painting - not as a destination or final product kind of activity - but to simply rest my brain and heart. To force my brain and heart to go somewhere other than the keyboard or smart phone to recalibrate.

Introduced by Rowen White to the work of Anong Beam - of Beam Paints who handcrafts her own watercolors, inspired by the Indigenous paint and pigment traditions of her ancestors. I treated myself to a set of Anong's paints earlier this year, as balm when the shutdown came, and they sit on a central table in my living room with paper and brush and pencil ready at all times. So I can sit down (when I can't get out to the garden) and for 10 minutes (or 60) and rest my hands, eyes, and head in play - often with beloved objects from the garden or trail. The act of being there in slightly different relationship with a feather or a rose hip or other seed head brings creative thinking right back to the front of the house that is my head and we all feel a little better. And see a bit more fully - clearly - in order to keep going.

And keep growing more creative in a world that needs more creative thinking.


and the Cultivating Place Team


This month is busy with fun and energizing events joining many of you around the country for speaking events. If you'd like to know when and where you could join me in conversation: The calendar of events here on has all the dates and most of the links to register to each event. I look forward to connecting with gardeners like you all around the country.

Your listening, your sharing the podcast forward, and supporting the work, your being on this garden life journey together with me and this CP community is food, water, sun and soil for this garden of humans. Thank you - TOGETHER WE really do GROW THE WORLD BETTER.


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....)


Playing with Creativity.




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

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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.



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