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"gardening wisdom from the heart"


    I offer the following presentations, suitable for horticultural and garden groups, churches, synagogues, and the classroom. Tailored for Elder Education and special occasions. Basic fee, based on distance, plus expenses.


    Please contact me if you are intested in any of my presentations.

    To read reviews of my lectures,  



                         The first four presentations are drawn from SEEDS OF TRANSCENDENCE and are based

                         on the idea that when we understand the material world behind the text, we feel the presence

                         of the Bible as a living text. They are suitable for both plant and religious groups.




     This unique presentation, based on years of research into the Hebrew Bible for my book, Seeds of Transcendence: Understanding the Hebrew Bible Through Plants (Decalogue Books), traces the Leviticus solicitude for the stranger (Lev. 19:34) to the unwritten desert shepherd code of hospitality, as expressed in Abraham’s over-the-top generosity to strangers (Genesis 18:2). Leviticus and Deuteronomy spell out this concern in specific agricultural-based legislation concerning what is due to the landless stranger, orphan, and widow during the grain harvest. In this presentation, Jo Ann explores the ways in which these and related lofty laws work (or don’t work!) in the lives of real people in the village of Bethlehem during the extended period of the barley and wheat harvests, the setting for the Book of Ruth. The main emphasis is on the pivotal gleaning scenes which have a major impact on pushing the characters to fulfill the law and act with lovingkindness (hesed). 


                               NEW!     AGRICULTURE AND LAW IN THE PROMISED LAND

     How did farmers in biblical times become co-workers with God in turning the earth into a lush garden in very unfavorable conditions? Jo Ann examines the land's difficult features and climate, the strategies used to overcome their drawbacks, and the crops for which ancient Israel was famed throughout the region. To understand the deeper implications of the Israelites' phenomonal success story against all odds, she explore the agricultural-based laws that had a postive impact on shaping both the farmer's character and practices. These include the Bible's instructions for the way to treat newly-planted fruit trees, the laws of charity, and the idea behind the Sabbatical Year. Who knew that raised beds and selecting for superior fruit cultivars are practices as old as farming and horticulture itself and are an important part of the story, too.


                             NEW!     IN SEARCH OF THE BITTER HERBS OF PASSOVER:

                                                               A horticulturist's journey into the Bible

        An inspiring lecture for the Passover season. This is both a personal story of the author's return to Judaism on a backcountry farm in Canada, and the significance of her plant research for the way we understand the Bible. In an hour-long presentation, Jo Ann tells how five common weeds changed her life and led to her reading the Bible from what she calls 'the ground up.' This is an entirely new perspective that brings the pages of the ancient text to life and brings us closer to the biblical world.


                                                 WHEN YOU PLANT ANY TREE FOR FOOD



             A practical look at biblical fruit tree production and the significance of the Leviticus rule of orla, beginning with the types of fruit the farmer was likely to plant, how he was able to turn an unpromising land into a fruitful garden (what were the techniques he used?), to what can we attribute his phenomenal success in growing and breeding superior fruit cultivars? How did the farmer implement the law? And, finally, what is its ultimate significance?





     A popular PowerPoint one-of-a-kind, in-depth presentation based on years of observation and research for Seeds of Transcendence. All of the featured plants are shown growing in their native habitat. Their acquired symbolic associations, herbal uses, and ecological importance are discussed, with a focus on the growing season from winter to summer. From the bitter herbs of Passover to the Madonna lily, and from the cedar that grows in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows from the Wall, this is a garden you must see, a garden of history, spiritual vision, and earth-bound trees, shrubs, herbs and flowers, among them some of the world’s most beautiful plants. A plant-lover’s paradise in a wild and truly sustainable garden.


                                                NEW!    THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE GARDEN


    Planting the Bible is enjoying a resurgence of interest. There is a growing movement to create spaces devoted to growing the plants mentioned in the Bible in order to get closer to their meaning in the text and closer to the land that shaped the text, the theme of Seeds of Transcendence. The urge to see, touch, and smell the plants of the Holy Land in an American setting has been around for decades, but new, dynamic interpretations are opening up the possibilities of the way we think about Bible gardens, as Jo Ann shows in this fascinating PowerPoint presentation. Some gardens are elegant, others are more practical, some are for viewing, while others invite participation. Across our country, dedicated visonaries, gardeners and designers in public gardens, churches, synagogues, and institutions of all kinds, are changing the way we understand the term "Bible Garden." Did you ever imagine a Bible Garden where you actually press grapes for wine, grow wheat to make bread? Where ducks swim in ponds and peacocks strut across the landscape? The New American Bible Garden is a fluid concept based on changing needs and visions, growing conditions, and site possiblities. The American Bible Garden has come of age, rooted not only in ancient texts but in contemporary ideas and culture. Examples can be found from coast to coast (yes, you can plant the Bible in Zone 4!). Whether gardens are postage stamp or acres in size, simple or complex in design, plantings are visually interesting, often arresting, and the stories behind their creation are inspiring. 




     Garden fashions come and go but the cottage garden remains an ideal that many strive to achieve. But how to go about it? This PowerPoint presentation features two gardens and shows how they were shaped over decades, by applying the principles espoused in the Gardners' book Gardens of Use & Delight. Jo Ann shows the different elements that weave together to create a harmonious and charming landscape, one that depends for its success on garden shapes, fences, paths, edgers, hedges, accents, well-placed containers, and the choice of stalwart yet beautiful plants that need no fussing to survive among roses, perennials, herbs, and annuals. The emphasis throughout is on simplicity and softscaping. Of special interest is a kitchen garden where tomatoes share space with roses. The cottage garden has it all: an edible landscape that attracts birds, butterflies, and hummingbirds, that provides an affordable oasis for the weary, that lifts the soul, that is sustainable in the deepest sense of the term. If you want to create a cottage garden even in the smallest space, this presentation will show you how, every step of the way. 





     A PowerPoint presentation that explores the ways in which some of the most common and useful plants can be integrated successfully into the fanciest borders, used as impressive accents, planted in containers, and in striking combinations in a sustainable landscape. It is time to move beyond the concept of a stylized herb garden and allow herbs to reach their full potential as multi-use plants throughout the landscape. Here their aromas, ability to attract birds and butterflies and other insects, add a special dimennsion to any planting, attracting birds, butterflies, and hummingbirds in a garden that becomes the source of life and liveliness. From a long-time herb enthusaist: "Use them if you like, but no guilt if you don't!" Stand in the midst of your herb-inspired garden and experience the benefits of herb therapy directly in the garden.




    Based on decades of exploring the possibilities of growing roses in less than ideal conditions, this PowerPoint presentation shows that a surprising number of roses, many of them not well known, beat the odds by being both tough and beautiful, that can be grown without winter protection, don't require regular watering or heavy fertilizing to bloom prolifically and survive frigid winters unprotected. All are evaluated honestly in terms of form, color, scent, landscaping uses, disease and insect resistance (and the organic approach to deal with them). They are shown singly, in combinations, and in Jo Ann's own cottage gardeng setting. Pruning advice, maintenance, companion plants, rose crafts, and tips for dealing with the dreaded Japanese beetles are thrown in for good measure. These are the ultimate sustainable roses for the sustainable garden.





       This is a Powerpoint presentation based on Jigs and Jo Ann Gardners' book, Gardens of Use & Delight on which the lecture is based. It traces the evolution of the landscape as it was developed over three decades on a remote farm on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Here they learned to adapt to the three no's: no vehicle (except horse drawn), no running water, no phone, and miles to the nearest neighbor. All this, and a very sluggish cash flow. They amazed themselves by creating a beautiful lush landscape of fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs, and roses by the simplest means, overcoming difficulties of climate and soil. This is a sustainable landscape in every sense of the words. Each site is presented before and after, with a discussion in detail of how the area was transformed. The principles they learned can be applied to any garden, anywhere. This is a popular lecture, and is different every time. Since the presenters have been married 60 years, expect a lot of give and take and a few unplanned moments.






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