Jo Ann Gardner, Herb Gardening Writer
Name: Jo Ann Gardner
Occupation: Writer, Lecturer
Place of Residence: Westport, New York
Background and Personal History: For 30 years, Jo Ann and her husband, Jigs, maintained a hand/horse-drawn old-fashioned farm on Cape Breton Island where they produced butter and cheeses from a small herd of Jersey cows. Jo Ann developed a small business, Jo Ann’s Kitchen & Garden, specializing in dried herb flavorings, natural pectin jams and jellies, and flower seeds from her garden, selling mainly at local craft sales and at the farm.
Jo Ann’s property was the “no” capitol of the world: no plumbing, no telephone, no vehicle other than horse-drawn. Yet it was there on a bare farm with poor soil and a rough maritime climate that the couple created a lush, beautiful landscape of fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs, roses, and wildflowers about which they wrote in their book Gardens of Use & Delight: Uniting the Practical and Beautiful in an Integrated Landscape. Since 2001, they have lived in a renovated one-room schoolhouse with extensive gardens and flocks of poultry.
Jo Ann’s bare bones life has directly inspired her books, lectures, and hundreds of articles in American and Canadian publications. She has given presentations across the country and abroad and written a number of books, most of them still in print and in new editions. They are Old-Fashioned Jams, Jellies, and Sweet Preserves (originally The Old-Fashioned Fruit Garden); The Heirloom Garden; Living With Herbs; Herbs In Bloom; Gardens of Use & Delight with Jigs Gardner; Elegant Silvers with Karen Bussolini; and most recently, Seeds of Transcendence: Understanding the Hebrew Bible Through Plants. In Canada, Jo Ann’s essays on gardening and fruit growing have appeared in Garden Voices: Two Centuries of Canadian Gardening; Berries, and Favorite Plants from Canadian Gardening Magazine.
As Jo Ann tells her children, she was green when green was just a color. Life was tough on the farm but she enjoyed the challenge. Jo Ann milked cows, made cheese and butter, learned to handle a cross-cut saw in the woods, and became top hand in the hayfield where she built ton-loads of loose hay. She discovered that the skin freshener (herbs steeped in cider vinegar) she sold under her own label works very well in field conditions.
Jo Ann and her husband are regular contributors to the Amish-sponsored magazine, Farming: People, Land, Community and she writes for the food blog The Jew and the Carrot.
She is happy working in her cottage garden (her favorite type) where she enjoys having pots of herbs right outside the kitchen door to use at a moment’s notice. But she also plants herbs throughout the landscape for their scents, colors, textures, and appeal to birds and butterflies.
Jo Ann and her husband enjoy creating display gardens of herbs, vegetables, and flowers at her local county fair and an entranceway garden at her health center on a volunteer basis. It is one way she feels she is able to give back to a community that has been good to them.
Current Projects: Publicizing her new book Seeds of Transcendence about plants of the Bible, a project that took 6 years to write. Jo Ann gives presentations on similar themes whenever she is asked (Solomon’s Garden: Exploring the Biblical Roots of Holy Land Flora), as well as on related topics, such as The New American Bible Garden: Planting the Bible Across America, the Book of Ruth, and Biblical Farming. She also writes articles on biblical themes, most recently on the bitter herbs of Passover, a favorite topic, and she continues to write about the view from Jo Ann’s Kitchen & Garden where she has spent most of her life (when she was not in the barn or out in the hayfield). Jo Ann has not forgotten in-depth presentations close to her heart on herbs, cottage gardens (sometimes with Jigs), and hardy roses.
Other Fun Facts: Jo Ann has reached her 8th decade. Life is just beginning!
More Places to Find Jo Ann on the Web: