Episode 13: Featuring Poet and Author Camille T. Dungy New Jersey Artist Susan Darwin and Designer Claudia West

Episode 13 is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and Amazon

The WildStory: A Podcast of Poetry and Plants by the Native Plant Society of New Jersey

Hosted by Ann E. Wallace, PhD
Poet Laureate of Jersey City

Co-host Kim Correro,
Rutgers Master Gardener and Director of State Programs

Special Contributor Dr. Randi Eckel
Entomologist and Vice President of Membership NPSNJ

Do you have a question about native plants for Randi?

Listen to Episode 13 Here

In episode 13, Camille T. Dungy (0:03:00), a renowned poet, essayist, and memoirist, joins Ann Wallace in conversation about her book Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden, published by Simon and Schuster in 2023 and now out in paperback. Soil is a book that invites us into Camille’s native plant prairie project at her home in Colorado, but it is also about much more than that, taking us back to the year 2020 and making record not only of the story of a garden but of the context—familial, national, historical, ecological, social—from which it sprang. 

In Ask Randi, Dr. Randi Eckel (0:35:00) makes a special announcement about the 2024 NPSNJ mini-grant program. She then answers a question from Tom in Connecticut, who is on a tight budget and needs help choosing colorful native plants that will bloom throughout the seasons.

Ann then speaks with Susan Darwin (0:46:48), New Jersey artist and member of the Native Plant Society, who discovered us through the annual conference while working on her New Jersey 2023 series of paintings. Susan is nearly halfway through her 10-year location series, in which she artistically explores a different place each year. Her New Jersey 2023 exhibit, featuring 20 paintings from across the state, is currently on display at Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit and all are invited to attend the artist reception on the afternoon of Saturday, June 29.

To close out the episode, Kim and Ann talk with Claudia West (1:03:31), a seasoned professional in her field. Claudia is a landscape designer, grower, installer, and land manager. She is also co-owner of Phyto Studio and co-author of the highly acclaimed book Planting in a Post-Wild World, which has been a valuable resource for many gardeners.

Episode 12: Featuring Poet and Ecologist Dr. J. Drew Lanham, Nature Writer and Illustrator Marni Fylling and NYC Botanist Marielle Anzelone

Episode 12 is now available on Spotify,
Apple, Google, and Amazon

The WildStory: A Podcast of Poetry and Plants
by the Native Plant Society of New Jersey

Hosted by Ann E. Wallace, PhD
Poet Laureate of Jersey City

Co-host Kim Correro,
Rutgers Master Gardener and Director of State Programs

Special Contributor Dr. Randi Eckel
Entomologist and Vice President of Membership NPSNJ

Do you have a question about native plants for Randi?

In episode 12, we reflect on the nature that is close at hand, in our backyards, neighborhoods, and nearby wild places—as our featured guests invite us into the habitats they explore, celebrate, and help preserve—and share the joy those spaces spark.

First, J. Drew Lanham (02:49)—poet, ecologist, and ornithologist—speaks with Ann about his new book Joy is the Justice We Give Ourselves, and the lessons he learned from his grandmother about seeking out joy in whatever places we might find it, as a way of living and of being. For Drew, that joy is often found in nature, in communion with birds, trees, and other wildlife whose histories and journeys inspire curiosity and connection.

Then Randi Eckel tackles an Ask Randi (0:37:47) question from Maureen in North Jersey: How can we peacefully coexist with squirrels and bunnies in our native plant gardens? Good news! There are native plants that will help.

Kim talks with Marni Fylling (0:45:15) about her book Fylling’s Illustrated Guide to Nature In Your Neighborhood. It is a delightful guide to help you identify and understand the flora and fauna you may encounter right outside your door. Marni reminisces about her days exploring nature along the “100 Steps” stairway, which connects Jersey City Heights and Hoboken, NJ. 

We are then joined by Marielle Anzelone, an urban ecologist and founder of NYC Wildflower Week. Marielle, a double graduate of Rutgers University, has lived among the plants of the New Jersey-New York metro area nearly all her life. She discusses her time at Rutgers and the two professors who helped guide her career. She then offers important insights and reminders of the critical role native plants play in the ecology of the Big Apple.

11. Featuring Poet Ross Gay, Margaret Renkl & Billy Renkl

Episode 11 is now available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and Amazon

The WildStory: A Podcast of Poetry and Plants by the Native Plant Society of New Jersey

Hosted by Ann E. Wallace, Ph.D.; Poet Laureate of Jersey City

Co-host Kim Correro; Rutgers Master Gardener and Director of State Programs

Special Contributor Dr. Randi Eckel; Entomologist and Vice President of Membership NPSNJ

Do you have a question about native plants for Randi? Email:

In this episode, we reflect on the passage of time – as we hear from two authors who each created books that span the course of a single year, leading us into joy and sorrow, community and collaboration, nature and plentitude. 

First, poet and essayist Ross Gay (03:43) discusses The Book of (More) Delights. We reflect on the need for delight, and the ways in which we can stand in its light—as well as the human need to be in community, and to create abundance out of beauty. Ross also shares a pair of poems, written in collaboration with his friend and fellow poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil, from their collection Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens, first published in 2014, a project in which they commune through poetry and nature over the span of a year.

In Ask Randi, Dr. Randi Eckel (38:38) answers a question from Kathy in North Bergen about native trees and the importance of paying attention to species native to our county and eco-region. 

We hear from Kazys Varnelis (46:15), the new President of NPSNJ, about his woodland native garden in Montclair, NJ, his blog the highland florilegium, and the new mini-grant program currently being offered to volunteer organizations, schools, individuals, and groups working to create pollinator gardens and wildlife habitats in open community gardens and public green spaces in NJ. He shares how to apply. 

Special guests Margaret Renkl and Billy Renkl (1:04:22) discuss their collaboration as sister and brother on The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year, a book of weekly observations written by Margaret. Billy created 52 pieces of art, one for each week of the year, to accompany the text. We are invited into the rhythms of the changing seasons, as witnessed through the wildlife in Margaret’s yard, and of the passing years, through the writer’s keen eye, devotional gratitude, and reflective voice.

To close out the episode, we celebrate the publication of The WildStory’s co-host Ann E. Wallace (1:36:23) new poetry collection, Days of Grace and Silence: A Chronicle of COVID’s Long Haul–which in keeping with our unexpected theme for this episode—tracks time through poems, each one dated and presented in chronological order, through the early years of her prolonged illness and of the pandemic.

10. Poet Lauren Camp and Uli Lorimer, Director of Horticulture at Native Plant Trust

In this episode, Lauren Camp, (02.38) Poet Laureate of New Mexico, speaks with Ann Wallace about her recent collection Worn Smooth Between Devourings (NYQ Books, 2023), as well as In Old Sky, forthcoming in April from Grand Canyon Conservancy. We discuss the intensification of attention required for the desert landscape, the limits and opportunities offered by language, and the ways that a place can transform us.

We then hear from Dr. Randi Eckel (32.33) who answers a listener’s question about fragrant native plants for the garden in a new installment of Ask Randi. And Kim Correro speaks with Hailey Brock, (41.41) owner of The Nature of Reading Bookshop in Madison, NJ, discusses her store’s unique environmental focus on nature writing, climate change, and seasonal reading, as well as a new book club. Hailey is one of NPSNJ’s partners in Leaning Toward Light: A Celebration of Poetry and Native Plants, to be held at the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts in Madison on April 10th.

Then Uli Lorimer, (50.22) Director of Horticulture at the Native Plant Trust and author of The Northeast Native Plant Primer (Timber Press), speaks with us about working with native plants at Garden in the Woods, the importance of straight species, and efforts to increase the availability of genetically diverse and source-identified native plant seeds in the northeast.

9. Poet Adrie Rose and Land Stewards John & Susan Landau

February 13, 2024

In this episode, poet and herbalist Adrie Rose speaks with Ann Wallace (02:22) about her new chapbook Rupture, published last month by Gold Line Press. They discuss the pain Adrie experienced following a life-threatening ruptured ectopic pregnancy, along with other losses, and how poetry, nature, and native plants together allow space for the cycles of grief and healing.

Dr. Randi Eckel (34:51) provides information on the upcoming Spring Annual Meeting & Conference on March 2nd and answers Cara’s question about ways to use the overabundance of fallen leaves in her garden for a new installment of Ask Randi. 

Co-host Kim Correro—master gardener and director of state programs for the Native Plant Society of NJ—speaks with Michele Bakacs (43:40) on her work as a Rutgers Environmental Stewards Program (RES) coordinator. Michele reminds us to pay attention to our language and be culturally sensitive when discussing the invasive species mentioned in this episode. 

To close, John and Susan Landau (52:57), members of the Friends of Foote’s Pond Wood in Morristown, NJ, talk with Ann and Kim about the vital role of land stewards. They describe how restoring the natural ecosystems of Foote’s Pond Wood is only possible with the hard work and commitment of a wonderful volunteer community and guidance from Rutgers experts Jean Epiphan, with a special shout out to Michele Bakacs and Amy Rowe.

7. Poet Emily Hockaday and Elaine Silverstein, NPSNJ Vice President of Chapters

November 27, 2023

Poet Emily Hockaday speaks with Ann Wallace about her new poetry collection, In a Body, published in October 2023 by Harbor Editions. Emily discusses the layered ways in which new motherhood, the death of her father, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia—as well as science and ecology—have shaped Emily’s work, much of which she composed while walking with her child on the trails of Forest Park in Queens, New York. We then hear from Dr. Randi Eckel for a new installment of Ask Randi. In this episode, Randi answers a question from Gail about using cardboard as mulch to suppress weeds. 

Kim Correro joins the conversation to talk with sustainable landscape designer and naturalist Elaine Silverstein about rethinking the lawn. Elaine will further share her expertise in “Choosing, Planting, and Caring for Native Plants,” a workshop for The Native Plant Society of New Jersey, to be offered in January. Registration opens on December 4 at NPSNJ.org.

And to close out the episode, poet Theta Pavis shares “Growing Avocadoes in East Orange,” winner of the Seed Challenge that The WildStory ran earlier this fall, sponsored by Jennifer Jewell and Timber Press. Theta and two other winners each received a copy of Jennifer’s book What We Sow: On the Personal, Ecological, and Cultural Significance of Seeds.

6. Guest Host N. West Moss Interviews Jersey City Poet Laureate Ann E. Wallace and We Talk With Best-Selling Author Brie Arthur About Alpha-Gal Syndrome and More

November 4, 2023

Guest host N. West Moss, author of the memoir Flesh and Blood (Algonquin Press), joins us for the opening interview of today’s episode. West turns the tables to interview The WildStory host and Jersey City Poet Laureate Ann E. Wallace about her new poetry collection, Days of Grace and Silence: A Chronicle of COVID’s Long Haul, forthcoming from Kelsay Books in winter 2024. They speak about Ann’s isolation and turn to writing when she fell ill at the start of the pandemic and through her long recovery, but also about community and the presence of nature as a reminder of hope and resilience. We then hear from Dr. Randi Eckel, who offers suggestions for shady groundcover plants in a new installment of Ask Randi. And co-host Kim Correro joins Ann in conversation with Brie Arthur—a frequent contributor to the PBS television show “Growing a Greener World” and leader in the foodscape revolution. Brie the Plant Lady discusses her move years ago toward foodscaping and how you might visually blend food crops into your yard. Brie also opens up about the severe health impacts she has faced from tick-borne illnesses and the preventive measures that gardeners and nature enthusiasts might take to protect against Alpha-Gal Syndrome and Lyme Disease.

5. Migration with Poet Susan Glass and Don Torino, President of Bergen County Audubon Society

Poet Susan Glass, who has been blind since birth, speaks with Ann Wallace about the integral role birds have played in her life—and in her poetry—as she uses their songs and calls to locate herself, spatially and metaphorically, in the natural world. She also brings listeners into the creative process of completing her chapbook The Wild Language of Deer, published in 2022 by Slate Roof Press. It is a collection filled with delight, birdsong, and wonder. 

Dr. Randi Eckel announces what members can expect from this year’s NPSNJ Fall Conference, Hidden In Plain Sight: The Outstanding Natural Diversity of New Jersey on Saturday, November 4th, and answers a question from Cheryl about additional native plants she can add to her garden to support birds and pollinators.  

Co-host Kim Correro joins Ann in conversation with Don Torino of the Bergen County Audubon Society and author of Life in the Meadowlands. Don, who has spent a lifetime exploring New Jersey’s Meadowlands, shares his deep knowledge of the habitat’s birds, and the plants they depend on, and he reminds us of the steps we can take to protect the birds in our communities. 

4. Poet Christine Klocek-Lim and Jennifer Jewell on her new book What We Sow

Poet Christine Klocek-Lim talks with Ann Wallace about the ways in which her work engages with nature, whether she is taking us onto the trail with her or creating the sequence of persona poems in her new chapbook Nomenclatura, forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press. Christine reflects on the human history held within seemingly wild spaces, the precarity of life, and the communal element of being outdoors. We then hear from Dr. Randi Eckel for a new installment of Ask Randi. And co-host Kim Correro joins Ann in conversation with Jennifer Jewell, host of the podcast Cultivating Place: Conversations on Natural History and the Human Impulse to Garden in advance of her appearance at the Garden Futures Summit in New York City hosted by The Garden Conservancy on September 29th and 30th. Jennifer speaks with us about her new book What We Sow, from Timber Press, a book germinated in the early months of the pandemic, when the widespread seed shortage led Jennifer into a fascinating and moving reflection on the cultural, environmental, and metaphoric meaning of seeds.

At the end of the episode, we share a special creative giveaway offer of Jennifer’s book What We Sow! Write a short poem or memoir piece on your own seed or germination story. Think about the communal or generational connections held within the seeds and plants that you sow and pass on. Send your entry of a poem, no more than 20 lines, or a memoir, 150 words or fewer, to us at with Seed Challenge in the subject line by October 20th. Three winners will receive signed copies of What We Sow, thanks to Jennifer Jewell and Timber Press, AND they will be invited to record their pieces to air in Episode 6 of The WildStory. So have fun writing—we look forward to reading your work! This opportunity is open to all.

3. January Gill O’Neil and Edwina von Gal

Poet January Gill O’Neil speaks with Ann Wallace about her new collection, Glitter Road, forthcoming from CavanKerry Press in February 2024. January discusses her year as the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, and her immersion in the difficult cultural history of the south, as laid against its rich and fertile landscape. She also reflects on the ways in which the pandemic, which began toward the end of residency, allowed time for family, writing, and observation of the natural world. We then hear from Dr. Randi Eckel who will share news about NPSNJ’s upcoming season of webinars for a new installment of Ask Randi. And co-host Kim Correro joins Ann Wallace in the final segment for an important conversation with renowned landscape designer Edwina von Gal in advance of her appearance at the Garden Futures Summit in New York City, which is hosted by the Garden Conservancy on Sept 29. Edwina speaks about sustainable design and the Perfect Earth Project, as well as her Two Thirds for the Birds initiative, which offers an easy-to-remember strategy for incorporating native plants into our gardens.