Since the #campfire in my area broke out Thursday Nov 8th, I’ve had a hard time getting my head around what it is to lose your home and garden. Your garden life, garden tools, garden books….my daughter was evacuated from the Virginia coast earlier this fall in front of Hurricane Florence, my sister in Ohio just went through a destructive ice & snow storm. I know natural disasters and need are everywhere. We all help when and where we can, I know this too. Humans here helping the fire victims, humans at our border helping the caravan of refugees. We all help where we can. I’m here.
In the past 2 weeks I’ve been working w/ Denise Kelly of The Plant Barn & Gifts, and many other including Courtney and Chris Hunter of Magnolia Gift & Garden locally, to put on a winter open house and reception for gardeners who’ve lost their gardens (& all that goes w/ that). With the help of many, many people in our area and FAR beyond, we’re putting together #wintergiftsforcampfiregardener care packages for up to 200 gardeners & are planning another event in spring when (we pray) many more of these gardeners will be back on their land, or at least have access to garden space again.
Gardens of course are dynamic, living constructs and creations. They were never meant to be set in stone, and yet to lose one – especially in such a way – is a blow. A painful loss of a friend and companion, counselor and confidante. A friend of John’s, kitchen and home designer Mary Wanzer-Simmonds, wrote to him recently – post fire. 110 families she knew had lost their homes. She had helped to craft many of these homes and she wrote: "Other people can say: 'it’s just a house,’ but I know differently. All the homes with their special owners, where I have had the honor to come into their lives, to dream with and create with, are so important to my heart, and the homes feel irreplaceable. Even as much as we are told houses ‘are' replaceable.”
Something about this acknowledgment was so moving to me, and I could add gardens to the mix. Each garden is more than a place – it is more than something we can regrow. Our gardens hold our memories and our dreams. They embody and make manifest our past, our present and our future – the traumas and the achievements, the everyday activities no matter how mundane – all of these make us us. In the region burned by the #campfire – several nurseries, including Mendon’s, owned by successive generations and renowned in these parts, and at least three very active garden clubs and Master Gardener groups as well as a handful of plant and floral societies were affected by this fire. Many beloved gardens were lost. They might seem the last thing someone would think of as important, there are not likely to be insurance claim form line items for garden clippers, watering cans, garden books, precious collected pots, etc. But we garden people know differently. For some of us, our gardens are who we are, they are what nurtures our spirits, and they act as a springboard from our best selves to the larger work we’re called to do in this world.
We need to grieve our gardens when we lose them, we will remember them and hold them dear still even as new gardens might be germinating in their place…
We figure some people are dog people, some are old car or fiber or or fabric or computer or cooking people, etc. If every group helps their people, then the whole community heals a little more quickly…..We are plant people & we’re hoping the #WINTERRGIFTS for CAMPFIRE GARDENERS EVENT and effort will provide a little cheer & a kickstart to each of 200 + gardeners getting back to the dirt when & where they can. Gardening matters.
We’ve had a great response from the gardening community nationwide & so far ALL DONATED we have 200 total gift cards from Magnolia Gift & Garden and The Plant Barn & Gifts, 200 work gloves from Womanswork (NY), 200 new general interest garden books from Timber Press (OR), Storey Publishing (MA), and Firefly Press (MA) and Emily Murphy of Pass The Pistil/Grow What You Love (CA), at least 200 flower seeds from Floret Flower Farms and vegetable seed packets from many sources (Northern CA), 200 hand pruners from Corona Tools (So CA), other hand tools from Fiskars America, and 200 handled 7-gallon Root Pouch (OR) bags for the gardeners to keep their things in, and pot them up or use as utility buckets in the growing season.
We are soliciting cash donation to help underwrite half of the gift cards.
We know there are many more gardeners than 200 but it’s a start.
If you are a gardener and have lost your garden PLEASE JOIN US -
if you know a gardener who lost their garden, PLEASE BRING THEM.
Admission free - RSVPs required. IF you’d Like to DONATE in support - email me for details [email protected]
Jennifer Jewell, Writer & Host
Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden
Cultivating Place, a weekly public radio gardening program & podcast: cultivatingplace.com. Instagram @cultivating_place and Facebook @cultivatingplace.NSPR.