If you’ve dropped by the Sow’s Ear and spent some time on the deck recently, it’s a fair bet that you looked around and thought ‘Wow, this place looks downright magical!’
Me (Rose, in the big hat) and Jean Marie enjoying a beautiful day in the garden. Photo by Crystal.
The other day, I had the pleasure of catching up with Jean Marie, our garden fairy, a long-time friend of the Sow’s Ear and all-around top-tier human with an eye for color – whether that’s in plotting out a colorwork yoke sweater or covering the deck in greenery and blooms.

“It’s been kind of a weird year for flowers,” Jean Marie says, once I let her get a word in amongst all my enthusiastic praise of her container gardening skills. The long cool spring followed by a meteoric rise in temperatures has affected the grow season and supply chain, so “I had to work with what greenhouses had.” And that meant bringing in new plants she was unfamiliar with and experimenting with different color combinations. 

“It’s been fun!” she says. “A nice and unexpected challenge, and a change.”

Listening to her talk about how she chooses what to plant reminds me a lot of listening to her (and many others around here) musing about pairing the perfect yarn with the perfect pattern. It’s about color, or course, but it’s also about the texture of the leaves, the size of the blossoms, the height of the plant. It’s meditative and artistic and simply lovely to learn about how she chose to mirror the experience of beauty and color inside the shop with what she planted outside its doors, “to enhance already fantastic experience of being at the Sow’s Ear!”
Keep an eye out if you’re sitting at the table on the front porch – you may get to see the mama bird flitting in and out of that bird house!This year she took an advantage of an overabundance of mulch to create a whole new space within the garden, a sweet little shady spot to sit and enjoy the company of one of our garden sows. Her son, Eli, visited her for Mother’s Day and helped her move many loads of mulch all around the yard, truly a labor of love that we hope you can feel when you sit out there enjoying our little oasis.
“Everything’s been a little delayed because of the weather but we are really getting the payoff now. I have about two more pots to go and then I get to sit back watch them grow! And that’s the fun part, the rewarding part, when you forget about all the effort that went into it and just get to enjoy it.” -Jean MarieWe hope that you are enjoying your summer, and sincerely hope that relaxing in this little slice of verdant paradise is a part of that! Please join us in giving a warm “Thank You!” to Jean Marie for all she does in cultivating a tranquil, inviting space for all.
Photo by Jean Marie

And now let’s journey back in time a little bit…

Some of you may remember Alison – Sow’s Ear knitter, barista and gardener extraordinaire 10+ years ago.

(If asked to describe her I’d say, “She looks just like me only shorter,” which I’m entitled to say because a) she’s my little sister and b) it’s true, and I know that it’s true because many, many customers told me so over my first few months of working at the Sow.)

me and my famous sister, c2016

When I moved back to Wisconsin in 2015 I was more at loose ends than I’d ever been in my life, didn’t know what I wanted to do only that I wanted to be home and near my family again, and my brilliant sister said to me, “Why don’t you work at the Sow’s Ear, at least for awhile, while you figure things out.”

Well, that was seven years ago this month and here I still am, having figured quite a few things out. I credit the Sow’s Ear with being a wonderful place to land and a nurturing place to stay, and we should all credit people like Jean Marie now and Alison then and many others over the course of the Sow’s Ear’s 22 years who have given so much of themselves in the cultivation of this wonderful space. Jean Marie shared these photos with me from 2012, when Alison was the Sow’s Head Gardener:

And I dug up these photos from 2016, when Madison Vander Hill took up the mantle:

And so to everyone who has passed this way and left the Sow’s Ear just a little nicer than they found it, your love and attention is felt in this place every day. Thank you from all of us, past present and future.