Cultivating Place: Talking Open Days with Jennifer Jewell

cultivating_place_online_logo_1500x1500pixels_72dpiWhat else can you say when your favorite garden podcast asks you to be a guest? You say “Hell, yes!” and worry about the rest (you know, like how on earth will you be able to keep up with her previously impressive guests and wonderfully thoughtful interviews) later.

Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden is a weekly public radio podcast on gardens and gardening as integral to our natural and cultural literacy. Created and hosted by Jennifer Jewell, Cultivating Place airs on North State Public Radio.

Listen to Cultivating Place: The Garden Conservancy’s
2017 Open Days Directory, With Laura Wilson

Jennifer and I spoke about the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program, my since resigned position that I still volunteer with and advocate for, and about garden visiting in general – our own personal experiences, and what the public can take away from a stroll through someone else’s private garden.

I discovered Cultivating Place just as it launched in February 2016. Jennifer’s beliefs on gardens and gardening reflect my own, and I felt a sense of relief the first time I read her mission statement. Great! I never have to try and put that into words again – she nails it. Hurray! Now I know (of) at least one person in California who is just. like. me.

Cultivating Place is based on two beliefs: The first, that horticulture (“the art of garden cultivation or management” according to the Oxford English Dictionary) is a foundational element of our cultural literacy — on par with art, music, architecture, history, geography, social studies and literature. The second, that gardens and gardening provide a unique, and uniquely beautiful, bridge connecting us to our larger environments — culturally and botanically.”

To find out more about Cultivating Place visit the weekly program page on the NSPR website, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, and follow along on Instagram and Facebook for even more inspiration. You’ll be so glad you did.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post featuring highlights to look forward to with Northern California’s 2017 Open Days season. Meanwhile, here’s a peak at the three NY gardens I mention as my favorites in the interview…

GCOD.NY.AmyGoldmanFowlerGarden of Amy Goldman Fowler, Rhinebeck, NY (Open Days 2016)


Hyland/Wente garden, Millerton, NY (Open Days 2014)
View additional photos from this garden here.


Garden of Anne Spiegel, Wappingers Falls, NY (Open Days 2012)
View additional photos of this garden here.

A Fresh Start

GardenOn.SempervivumurnIt turns out moving cross country with a young family and starting a new job didn’t leave me with much of anything to give to a new blog project, and so 2016 saw very little growth here at Garden On! LOTS of garden exploring and learning, just no writing. This past January I resigned from my dreamy job with the Garden Conservancy Open Days program to focus on our little darlings (Sprout 1 and Sprout 2), and almost immediately felt a small spark of possibility …like maybe a reboot of Garden On could/should happen?

Then I spent three months thinking about this first post back. (Kiss of death for doing anything new.) So without further ado, this post marks a fresh start for Garden On! It already feels good to be back.

A quick note about the photo above. Last season this adorable urn planted with sempervivum (hens and chicks) lived as the centerpiece on our patio dining table all year long. It was sweet and small and stayed mostly out of the way. Then, last week I picked it up and set it on a table nearby without really giving it much thought (it was one of those pot moving days…) and POW! It was exactly what that spot needed. Suddenly the urn, the pot behind it, the table – the whole vignette came to life. I didn’t mean to do it.

I love these garden moments; both the thrill of making them by accident, and also the delight of finding a perfectly fitting composition of any kind (pots, rocks, plants, etc) when exploring a garden. So now I’m on a mission to pay attention to small, thoughtful details this season. Who knows if the magic can happen again – on purpose this time.

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Phyllis, the Amaryllis


Every new start has to begin somewhere, I just never thought mine would be in the Trash Room.

The first member of my new West Coast starting-from-scratch plant collection was a cast-off holiday plant someone was throwing out when we were in corporate housing. At first, I left it alone. I wanted my first plant acquisition to be special! But after a few trips to get rid of the gift wrapping refuse, I just couldn’t leave her there any longer. (Kind of like puppy eyes at the pound, I guess). And I’m pretty sure I’ll always remember this amaryllis from our first Christmas in California.

I couldn’t resist naming her, of course. Meet Phyllis.
(The tag claims she’s typical red, but I would swear her spent blooms – still attached when thrown away – look pink. Nice!)

Performance Anxiety?


Bring your kids plant shopping – it’s just as much fun for them as any other outdoor environment.

I don’t know what my problem is, but so far (Days living on West Coast: 5) I have been unable to make a plant purchase. And not for lack of opportunity. I met a cool succulent seller, Cody from Kaprielian Growers, at the Mountain View farmers market last Sunday who had a fun selection and great prices. Then, today, the kids and I went to check out SummerWinds Nursery, also in Mountain View, and left with an empty trunk.

GardenOn.PlanerideWhat the heck!?! Goodness knows I’ve racked up enough plant-buying points supervising and surviving a cross-country move with an infant, toddler, cat and husband. I also gave away my entire potted plant collection. And left my garden behind, not to mention friends and family. There are definitely many new garden buys to be had in the near future, but for some reason I just can’t get this party started. Please stay tuned, the curse is sure to lift any day now…

Have a local nursery or grower to recommend – please share in the comments below!


Adios, overwintering!

I was looking through past garden photos of my own garden – getting ready to share a nostalgic look back, and sort of giving them one last goodbye peek before we move in ONE WEEK – and came across this gem.


Guess I wont have to deal with this anymore, eh?

For the plant-crazy folk who garden in colder climates – like the Hudson Valley’s zone 5 – keeping tender plants alive from year to year is part challenge, part hoarder and all garden nerd. It connects us. It excites us. It impresses us! “Ooooh, your garage is heated?” “My, what a large and healthy brugmansia you have!”

Which plants come in when, what goes into the basement vs the garage vs the unheated shed – it’s all part of the advanced gardening game that allows us to maintain a diverse collection of larger and more varied specimens that no one could afford to replace every year.

And now I won’t have to worry about that. Ok! I guess. I can’t wait to see what seasoned gardeners dish about in our new, much warmer, home.

(Note the trowel frozen in ice inside the garden trug)

You Know You’re A Garden Geek When…


GardenOn.BillThomasFB…you are OVERCOME with giddiness because the Head Gardener / Executive Director of your favorite (and one of the most amazing) public gardens likes your Facebook post. For the non-gardening set, think getting a nod from your favorite celebrity – like Madonna, or maybe George Clooney?

Anyway, I’m psyched. Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, PA is a must see. An incredibly creative and dedicated staff of gardeners lives and works there, and I have yet to experience a more artistic, exciting interpretation of what a garden can be or how plants can be used. It’s mind-blowing.

Thanks, Bill Thomas. You made my night!

Photos are from my visit to Chanticleer in 2009. For more information about the garden, visit their website, and be sure to check out the new book from Timber Press “The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer” written by the Chanticleer gardeners and R. William Thomas, available online from Amazon. 



Chanticleer Garden
786 Church Road, Wayne, PA 19087
610.687.4163  |

Follow Chanticleer on Facebook and Instagram

Wild & Beautiful Ride


The Succulent Garden at SFBG, visited on my first trip to the Bay Area in September 2015.

Welcome to Garden On!, a new site for sharing what is going to be my biggest garden adventure yet…moving from New York to California, and learning how to garden in a whole new climate.

Follow along – it’s going to be a wild, beautiful, educational ride.