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.

Jennifer Jewell

The impulse to garden is prismatic, right? It's about connection, about beauty, about plants, about productivity and self-sufficiency, about health and community. It can be political. It can be spiritual.

Is the impulse that draws people to cultivate their home gardens the same one that draws them to and grounds them in farming? When we say farm, what are the lines between small farms, family farms, and large tracts of mono-culture farming that we might place under an umbrella we’d call perhaps Big Agriculture — where the human it seems is more removed from any discernible connection to land and is more focused on commodity? This week we’ll explore some of these questions with Lundberg Family Farms. 

John Whittlesey

Flower gardens grow flowers, vegetable gardens grow vegetables, and, yes, butterfly gardens grow butterflies. This week on Cultivating Place we’re joined by Matthew Shepherd of the Xerces Society, a national nonprofit organization based in Portland, Ore., which protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. For more than 40 years, the society has been at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs.

Cultivating Place: Andrea Wulf

Jun 2, 2016

Ever wonder how a plant got its name? Or for whom it was named and why? Those are the sorts of questions that started historian and author Andrea Wulf down the path of her research. This week on Cultivating Place, we’re joined by Ms. Wulf, the author of multiple books exploring the ways nature, botany and horticulture influence art, science, politics, human culture and even the development of nations.

Jennifer Jewell

Salvias are among my favorite of flowers. Do I say that about a different plant group just about every other week? It could be. Let’s say then that this week, this time of year, salvias are among my very favorite of flowering plant groups. And it’s a big and diverse group, so you’re not bound to get bored with them any time soon. In my current suburban garden – small no matter how you slice it – I have nine salvias and counting. In some of our recent Cultivating Place conversations we have heard of the value of salvias for pollinators and habitat and the many native salvias in California.

Today we’re going to dig a little deeper into this well-loved cornerstone herbaceous perennial with Salvia expert Ernie Wasson.

Mia Lehrer and Associates

We all know that human development impacts nature, and that the most developed of human spaces — cities — without any nature in them, negatively impacts humans. Since the very beginnings of the fields of landscape architecture and public planning, there have been designers, builders, thinkers and dreamers who have worked to interweave nature — its sense of green, of refuge, or peace — into these otherwise very inorganic areas, for the benefit of both the ecological world and the benefit of humans. Think of Frederick Law Olmstead’s work in New York’s Central Park and many, many other urban parks across the country at the turn of the 19th century. To varying degrees of success, generations of landscape architects since Olmstead have carried the torch.

John Whittlesey / Canyon Creek Nursery and Design

This week on Cultivating Place, we’re joined by Dr. Gordon Frankie, professor and researcher at the University of California Berkeley and founder/director there of the Urban Bee Lab, research initiative on the lives of California’s native bees.

Co-author of “California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists,” Gordon loves bees! Since 1987, he has been studying bee-flower relationships in urban gardens and landscapes and educating on the ways in which home gardeners and public landscapes can help our many native bees as they suffer the consequences of lost, degraded or fragmented native habitat. His work can be followed at helpabee.org.

Jennifer Jewell

Nothing says place like the cultivation and caring for the plants native to your place. As gardeners we hear a lot about native plants. This is perhaps especially true in the past 20 years or so. And it is perhaps especially true in California, one of the 33 biodiversity hotspots in the world and home to an astounding number of native and endemic natives – meaning those natives that only occur in their specific locations here. 

Today we’re joined by two people who have been on a leading edge of the ever-increasing interest in California Native Plants for the home gardener for the past 35 years. In 1981 Sherrie Althouse and Phil Van Soelen were two young twenty-somethings who began the unconventional California Flora Nursery — one of the oldest native plant nurseries in the state, located in Sonoma County.

Do you have particular plant groups you like more than most? Because of family history or where you live, perhaps? The Geranium family of flowering plants rank right up there for me. And I’m not alone. This week on Cultivating Place we’re joined by Robin Parer — founder and owner of the specialty Geraniaceae Nursery, champion of all members of the Geraniaceae family. She is also the author of “The Plant Lovers Guide to Hardy Geraniums,” out now from Timber Press.

Sometimes flowers, gardens and nature speaks to us. Sometimes we employ them to speak on our behalf. What do our gardens and flowers say to the world? This week on Cultivating Place, we're joined by two people who cultivate hope and opportunity through flowers indirectly and directly in their lives. We speak with Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of the New York Times Best Selling novel “The Language of Flowers,” and Shelly Watson, founder and director of Bloomin’ Hope, a vocational floral skills program for women at the Jesus Center in Chico. Diffenbaugh is the featured speaker at an upcoming fundraiser for the Jesus Center in Chico on May 14

Courtesy Bill Thomas

This week, we’re joined by Dr. Bill Thomas: gardener, farmer, parent with his wife Jude, and Harvard-trained geriatrician and international authority on eldercare. In the 1990s he co-founded with his wife Jude a transformative philosophical approach to how we care for our elders — or ourselves — as we age, known as "The Eden Alternative.” The Eden Alternative challenges us as individuals and as a culture to reframe how we imagine life in elderhood — that we imagine it to be more like a garden and less like a prison.

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