May 5, 2020

Book Giveaway - Jennifer Jewell's 'The Earth is in Her Hands'

Jennifer Jewell

Jennifer Jewell's 'The Earth is in Her Hands' offers readers insight into the backstories and inspiration behind 75 of the most extraordinary women in the world of plants today. You can find it wherever books are sold online or order it at your favorite independent book seller. Also, leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a book giveaway here on Mother's Day (see below for details).

With Mother's Day fast approaching, books remain an easy-to-order and welcome gift for any mom, grandmother, sister or aunt who loves plants. Oh, by the way, it's a great gift for any guy, too. 

 Jennifer Jewell is well known and valued as an award-winning public radio host. Her weekly program and podcast reach many of us in our cars and kitchens, where we listen to her calming voice as she interviews a remarkably diverse range of influential and always interesting plant people from around the world. 

 Many of us have been impatiently waiting for this book  'The Earth In Her Hands - 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants' (2020, Timber Press), as there is no book that I know of that covers such a subject - unless they focus on the classic, early writers usually from the UK.

Such compendiums often focus on the 'classic' garden writers we know and love already - the Gertrude's, the Vita's and the Chatto's, (and they're in here too, but often listed as 'influencers' to these contemporary women who are cultivating or nurturing our plant world.). 

You will recognize some of the women featured in the book lke Erin Benzakein of Floret Farm, but many may be new to you.

What makes this book unique is just that - they are contemporary women. Young or experienced, and best of all - not all of them are gardeners or garden writers. These women are from all aspects of the plant world. They are the seed collectors, the landscape architects, the botanists, and explorers. They are the botanical artists, nursery owners or designers we all should know if we don't already.  I can't think of a book like this.  It's a valuable addition to anyone's plant library or to keep on the bedside table as each bio is about three pages long.

Timber Press has done a remarkable job with the design and quality of the book, from the artful cover to the page layouts. No surprise that Jennifer's writing is as thoughtful as her language is on her radio/podcast - would we expect anything less? Each of the 75 profiles deep-dives into the lives, passions, and influences that led to each woman owning a part of the plant world. Anyone interested in a career with plants will enjoy it, as well indeed anyone already in such a career or life passion.

Francis Palmer, a talented potter and gardener is featured as well. So fun to read the back-story and vision for such icons from our modern gardening world.

Why women in plants, you ask? (It's OK, I asked the same thing, guys). Look, it's crazy even to think that some people react this way today, but it's a strange world that we currently live in. But, yes - I'll be honest, I too had some second thoughts about getting this book (I bought my copy last week because I am friends with Jennifer, but---I did wonder if this book was really written for me? 

Short Answer: Yes, this book is written for any plant person regardless of one's gender. It's a book about entrepreneurial confidence, creativity, life-passions, over-coming irrational fears and expressing one's talent with joy. Each will take away something different from it.


Full disclosure, Timber Press is currently sending me a comp book to review, so I will offer that up as a giveaway here - just leave a comment below and kindly subscribe to my Instagram account @matt_mattus and I'll use a randomizer to choose a winner on Mother's Day - contest closes at 6 PM EST.

But if you are wondering still if this book is for you, (and if you are a man) then think about this:

All horticultural societies were virtually all-male clubs until around 1900. 
Some didn't allow women until much later. I'm not preaching; these are just facts we sometimes never think about - careers in science, botany - even an education beyond high school was predominantly a male opportunity. Women were relegated to flower gardens and maybe a kitchen garden, yet throughout history, it was women who tended the fields in tribal cultures, men just hunted and then watched TV.

And how about this...pre-20th century most plant species were named after men (thank you Carl Linnaeus), and most of these guys were elite, wealthy white guys. The only plants named after women were basically some 'varietal names' like Mrs. Willmotts Ghost, Valerie Finnis this or that or Beth Chatto's poppy.  I could go on, but you get the picture.

I appreciated that some featured plantswomen are global.

Granted, it was a different time, but from a woman's perspective, while we 'guys' just moved on from all of this -- women and girls, especially minorities or people of color have had few north stars to look up to for guidance or inspiration. In fact, all they had were those paintings of white plantsmen - you know - guys with beards posing with donkeys on an expedition or painted while seated in chair looking pensive. I know this because I sit on the board of a 275-year-old botanical society and botanic garden, where there were rooms full of these white guys with beards on the wall - (we moved them all down to the cellar to make a point for a while.). I think a book about contemporary women and their many contributions to the world of plants has been a long time coming.

As Jennifer states in her intro, "Compiling this list [of 75] has felt akin to mapping mycelia pathways between collaborating organisms in the soil of a forest." Yes. Precisely. That's a thread in this book that connects so many life stories. Each feature profiles a plant person by describing her work, her plant (favorite plant), her plant journey (life story), and then what I find most interesting, 'other inspiring women'.  It's like a 300-page interview with someone interesting.

One feature I liked was called 'Her Plant Journey', so if you've been wondering what drives people like Debra Prinzing and her Fast Flower movement, this is the book to get.

This book could have easily been ten times as long if she included every woman from the world of plants! But the web, the ecosystem that exists shows through, and should assure each of us that anything to do with plants offers endless career and life opportunities, many not even invented yet.

This book then is for everyone. 

The dreamer, the plantsperson, the philanthropist, the plantsman and plantswoman, the inventor. Jennifer has collected ( and clearly had to carefully edit it down to 75) of the most interesting people that will inspire anyone to boldly grow - perhaps where no man has gone before?

Happy Mother's Day


  1. Looks like something lovely I would like to read...Thanks for the heads up ;-)

  2. Hi Matt, there's no reason why I should be restricted to your books only. I'd like to register and have a chance to win this book. However, please note that I live in France and postal fees might be too much for this. In such case, just don't pay attention to my message.

  3. What a beautiful premise for the book, would be a lovely gift!

  4. Hello Matt. First time visiting your blog that I found on the NARGS website. I live on Vancouver Island, so like Ludo, if the postage to Vancouver Island is too much, never mind. Thank goodness for gardens during this COVID crisis!

  5. Oops forgot to put my name - Donna

  6. I've had this on my wishlist and would love to win it. Thanks!

  7. I'd like a chance to win. I've been intrigued by it since Dee and Carol reviewed it on their Gardenangelist podcast.

  8. Great book to read, even we are into same field these inputs will help our website Setgreen.

  9. Jennifer IS a Jewel: I've been wanting to get this book--thanks for the heads' up!

  10. Well think generally women are better gardeners. Think statistically percentage wise, there are more women than men gardeners, from what see in our local gardens. This may be interesting book. Godbless.

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