Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden

Thursdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m.

Gardens are more than collections of plants. Gardens and Gardeners are intersectional spaces and agents for positive change in our world. Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden is a weekly public radio program & podcast exploring what we mean when we garden. Through thoughtful conversations with growers, gardeners, naturalists, scientists, artists and thinkers, Cultivating Place illustrates the many ways in which gardens are integral to our natural and cultural literacy. These conversations celebrate how these interconnections support the places we cultivate, how they nourish our bodies, and feed our spirits. They change the world, for the better. Take a listen.

Original Theme Music by Ma Muse, Engineer and Producer Matt Fidler, Executive Producer Sarah Bohannon.

Photo courtesy of the SPP.

I don't know about you, but for me the garden grounds me, at the same time that it liberates me. Being out in nature - in the garden or on the trail - opens my mind and heart, settles me down while simultaneously teaching me about and connecting me to nature, science and humanity. For some, the combination of grounding, expansion and liberation that can be gleaned from a greater understanding and connection to the natural world is crucial and valuable in even more immediate ways. 

Thomas Rainer is a “horticultural futurist fascinated by the intersection of wild plants and human culture." A landscape architect by profession and a gardener by obsession, Rainer is co-author of “Planting in a Post-Wild World,” (Timber Press 2015). 

Every garden has something to teach me – truly. About plants, about people, about space and light and place. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA – the result one dedicated gardener woman’s life-long curiosity and admiration for cacti and succulents as she gardened in a dry climate.

Jennifer Jewell

 

Some people garden for food, some people garden for beauty, and some people garden and farm for cloth. Sandy Fisher is a weaver and fiber artist who since 1980 has literally interwoven her artistic eye, her impulse to garden, her love of natural fibers and natural dye colors to create functional art.

Photo courtesy of Old House Garden.

 


Today is the Autumnal Equinox. If gardening at its core is an activity of optimism, then planting fall bulbs is one of its most profound gestures of hope wherein you plant something that looks like next to nothing and then some months later – perhaps when you might need it most — it appears out of the cold, damp earth and then — it blooms. 

Does simply removing your lawn bring you up to speed as a gardener? Have you noticed how when a lawn is replaced with a garden, some homeowners approach these new gardens with the same mow and blow management technique they afforded their prior lawns, while others seem to assume these are static installations and leave them to their own devices of overgrowth, weeds or death.

 

In the wake of the ongoing drought in the state of California, the state and many municipalities have offered incentives for homeowners and businesses to replace their thirsty lawns with native and drought tolerant “plantings."

Writer and activist Michael Pollan once wrote that when an American rips out his or her lawn, they become — perforce — a gardener. We’ll explore this idea from two sides, that of CalWater, a publicly traded water provider in Northern California which for the last two years or so has challenged water users to reduce their water use, and had offered financial incentives to homes and businesses who replace their grass lawns with drought tolerant gardens. We’ll also hear from a homeowner who took this challenge and experienced the life-changing event of becoming a gardener and garden lover.  


Landscape architects create outdoor spaces with intention and thought. While the effects are often unnoticed consciously, they are absorbed and experienced nonetheless — impacting us, our culture, and our understanding of place — historically and right now. Kelly Comras explores some of these ideas with us on Cultivating Place this week. 

Photo by K. Foster.

Dr. Peter Raven is one of the leading plant biologists in the world today, having begun his botanical and natural history journey falling in love with the plants and animals of Central California, the Sierra Nevada and under the encouragement and mentorship of many leaders in the field at the California Academy of Sciences beginning when he was 8 years old. Dr. Raven is President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Gardens, one of the country’s top three botanical research institutions. Dr.

    

It's late summer. The light is shifting incrementally each day now — tilting toward a new season. I notice especially in those transitory, crepuscular moments of dawn and dusk. The light is moving towards a new, quieter season in the garden and the colors of my garden are shifting with it. Some of the saturation is waning, other shades are deepening, bright giving way — very slowly, almost imperceptibly — to earthy.

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