Skip to content

Eclectic Gardners reach over the fence and lets start working together to make this a better world…

Eclectic.….is selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles…… composed of elements drawn from various sources….including things taken from many different sources

I define myself as an “Eclectic” thinker,” therefore, I am defining myself as an “Eclectic Gardener” and I do not see myself as a “purist” of any single approach. To me, my urban oasis/potager is a reflection of my journey here on earth and what at the moment catches my eye….I respect others and their choices and love to learn from those that do not always think the same way as I do but have the fundamental core values to leave the earth in a better way….

Many moons ago I was dancing with 2 women in a company that we started after we all graduated college back in the early 80’s. We found ourselves teaching at local colleges and had somehow found time to create together. We were asked to participate in a unique exchange program with the Iowa Arts  Council and its sister city in Japan. We went to Des Moines to meet with other artists in the early 80’s that were in this exchange art program. We were all young and fresh just like my plants in the garden that start out each season new and unweathered…

While we were visiting with some Jazz musicians, a dancer in our group shared with the musicians, ” I LOVE  jazz it is my favorite music.” After her statement one of the musicians turned to me and asked, ” what is your favorite music”, and I thought for a moment and said, Well, I really don’t have a favorite music style/type, I LOVE all music. The musician said, ” Good, that is the way to be.”. I was thinking about this tendency for me to be “eclectic” in my tastes and it seems to define who I have become over the years.

Well, those experiences in the arts were beautiful, and it seems to have been something I have carried with me over the years. When I  changed directions from the arts to education while starting my family, I developed an eclectic educational approach, too! I never was defined by one educational philosophy. I drew from them all to achieve what I wanted to when working with kids.

The other night I was reading about “Native Gardner’s” vs. “Permaculture Gardner’s” and how the permaculture philosophy was introducing too many “invasive” plants…yadda yadda…and some of the people, on both sides, were being rather nasty! As I read the arguments from both sides on this blog, It made me think of my “past” creative endeavors in my life, and I thought, why do people have to get so angry at one another. Yes, we need to care about the environment, but do we have to believe our way is the only way to create a garden! It is important we listen and try to understand one another. It seems by working together we can share some of our approaches and maybe over time we can learn from each other.  And the statement” We can agree to disagree” seems to be a better way to coexist with each other.

To me, our outdoor spaces are “personal” and really a creative expression of an individual gardener. It is what they like, and we should not try to push our “likes” on to others. If we agree that chemicals are not suitable for our environment maybe we should agree to disagree on our plant choices or how we create our spaces…

I am exploring some new approaches to our Urban Oasis this next summer. I am trying some new companion plants in our Urban Potager and will be documenting the diversity In the process. I hope it makes others think about what they are doing, and sometimes I feel it does, for example, I have noticed fewer trucks spraying lawns and more people getting outside as I am outside often.. I share plants with neighbors while we have carefree discussions +  I do mention I grow organically. I don’t preach or shame them into feeling they have to change, or I won’t talk to them. Over the years,  I have seen them change. Not because I preached or shamed them, but because they wanted to change.

May 17th butterfly monarch old and new 031

A few springs ago, I caught these two souls traveling through my yard….it struck me as a juxtaposition of how our journey should be in life….the transfer of wisdom………

We all need to become a bit more accepting in our lives….maybe it comes with wisdom we attain with age that we finally realize being hateful + adamant does not create the needed change to leave a better world for those that come after us…..

Stand up Eclectic Gardner’s and Reach Over the Fence!


43 replies »

  1. What a great and inspiring post Robbie. You’ve really captured my own sense of gardening and life as well as your own. I think it’s so important to leave the world a better place than we entered it and you really are doing that with your attitude of involvement with your garden and with your neighbors with such equanimity and peaceful joy. That’s what helps people see a change is when they see others doing it and looking so Good to them as your work does. I’ve done all sorts of work in my life and have always tried to see the Big Picture of how things are all interconnected. I’ve been in the arts myself and in business and co-ops and a nonprofit I started where we offered classes to people in healing and transformation. I dig eclectic very much! Great post! Thanks so much for this and all your recent comments to me. I’m very grateful to you for your wisdom and kindness. You’re a great model of a wonderful blogger and a caring person! You live out your ideals so well…

    • Well now I can see the big picture of you in your reflects your spirit + your journey!! I was reading all about your wildlife sanctuary and I am so inspired by your beautiful space:-) I am adding more natives to my urban potager this year to invite even more native creatures to my city lot. I do have many of them mingled in, but the challenge this year will be to do it from seed-yikes-that means being VERY patient in growing some of these natives. They take a long time to germinate!
      I knew you were an “artist” since I could see it in your garden…I do think the garden does “reflect” a person’s soul:-) And I have heard often that gardeners by nature tend to be giving people… I believe it is our child like nature since playing in the dirt is one trait all gardeners share!

  2. I love you, I love you, I love you!!!

    My heart is singing along with your wonderful words and stunning photos……….. Yes, yes, yes! I share in everything you say – except for the dancing bit – how I should have loved to be doing that, but my 20’s were spent doing different things.

    I have never thought of ‘eclectic’ being a word one would apply to gardening until you clarified it – and it makes so much sense to me. My taste in music and literature has always been eclectic and I feel I am so much richer for it. And I agree with you on the teaching thing – while I worked from a defined understanding of child development, I borrowed left, right and centre and created a unique learning environment [which was once described as a ‘model classroom’ 🙂 ] Ah, those were the days!

    I love that you encourage change by example – if only the worlds ‘leaders’ could grasp this concept!

    Wonderful post Robbie, just wonderful! Did I mention I love the photos? Who needs paintings when they can wield a camera like that? xoxo

    • Awww…I am so touched:-) coming from such a great person- I love you, too dear ‘creative” friend! It is so neat to be in this cyber blogging “over the cyber fence” world that connects all our spirits from faraway places that we don’ t feel so alone. When I visit many of my “blog friends” I feel like I just sat down with an old friend and opened my heart + soul and they “heard my voice”….yes, we all have inner voices, and sometimes it is too hard to get it out when we meet people randomly, but in our “over the cyber fence world” we find our kindred spirits, so we can support and encourage each other! I loved your comment: ” while I worked from a defined understanding of child development, I borrowed left, right and centre and created a unique learning environment [which was once described as a ‘model classroom’ 🙂 ] Ah, those were the days!” Yes, those were the days…and from seeing your art work and reading your blog posts I have no doubt your classroom WAS a Model one! Funny you said something about “world leaders” I was so tempted to make some comments about our local politicians in Washington…but-tee hee—I held back! I wanted to say if they would just start gardening-“playing in the dirt” maybe they would be doing something physical and be too tired for their stupid games! Lol….thank you for loving the photos of my garden buddies…they are so beautiful:-)

      • I suspect Robbie, it is just because the DON’T ‘play in the dirt’ that they behave in the brainless way they do! Though having said that one of the worst PM’s we ever had – the one who started us off on this road to corporate-driven hell, grew prize winning flowers – I can’t remember what they were, I was struck dumb at the time – but now I suspect he just told the gardener what colours to plant ….. But of course I would never say anything either 🙂

    • I love those butterflies, but sadly I have not been seeing as many the past few years. I am working extra hard this winter to grow from seed more “native pollinator friendly plants” with my vegetables, herbs and other flowers this year. I can always find another spot to squeeze one in since I don’t mind a densely packed urban potager!:-)

      • I was learning recently that different plants release nectar at different times of day, let alone seasonally. It’s been interesting to try and notice if the butterflies like the Mexican Oregano more in the morning or evening compared to the Butterfly Weed in the afternoon or the… 🙂

        I’m doing the same again this year (I always mean to but often forget.) More wildflower seeds, “good bug” seeds in with the veggies, and continuing to let the herbs bloom and stay showy (often more for the bees than the flutters.)

      • That is VERY interesting:-) I have noticed they do appear in the garden at different times. This year, I too, will be paying more attention. You are right, I read some where that some flowers + pollinators have their own time clock. I often would find the humming birds would arrive around 2pm and dusk every day. They all had their time of day to visit:-)
        I like visiting your blog now since we are under snow and COLD COLD….I wonder if there will be warmer days(mostly on days like today!), but I have faith and this week I am starting a lot of my plants—but thank goodness I can stop by your blog and see actually “dirt’ and “green” and not only WHITE-lol

  3. How eloquently put Robbie. I am as of late, always double checking myself to make sure I am not coming off as too opinionated/rigid. I do try to reach over that fence more often. I love use and promote native plants but I also think there is space for all plants. We are simply vehicles of nature because nature likes to spread herself around and that is exactly what she is going to do. Plants have manipulated us to bring them to new places – why do we always think we are in control? I just planted a Kiwi vine because anything that can survive this climate and still provide fruit is five stars in my book. It may be invasive and it’s not native but I am a responsible gardener – at least I like to think so. Native plant followers may not like me for it, but I am sure the Robin who likes to nest in and around my front porch will love it! And I am sure I will be making kiwi jams in no time. I LOVE the Mexican Sunflowers you have so beautifullly posted here. They grew in my garden this past season, too, and the sight of those orange Monarchs on those deep orange blooms is perfection!

    • Kathy you said that just as eloquently:-) I started a few kiwi vines in my yard last year, so I agree with your 5 star analysis! I find it interesting how the animals seem to adapt to new plants that we try in our spaces. I’m just tired of all the fighting and arguing:-( I grew the shorter Mexican Sunflower last year and I am going to get back to my 7foot+ Mexican heirloom that the monarchs seemed to like a lot better. That day I took those shots I was climbing all over on top of Grandma Palms old stove,in our garden to get high enough to see the monarch. Those get MIGHTY tall, but that shorter one was just not the butterfly magnet my tall heirloomo mexican torch was!

  4. Hey! Stay on your side of the fence! haha just kidding. Loved the article. I’m no purist either. But I definitely am attempting permaculture an sustainable gardening. That doesn’t mean I don’t love looking at those ultra-manicured gardens and lawns, even though I think they’re wasteful. You have such great pictures. Here I am, sitting in below zero temperatures with snow for weeks now, so it seems a bit premature in my part of the country to see such beautiful butterflies. It makes me long to get out in our garden. Instead, we ordered 44 seed packets and dream for Spring. We let our milkweed grow in hopes the Monarchs will grow in numbers again. One of our fellow gardeners said they even started growing milkweed at their home garden but it was a mess, it’s so invasive and hard to get rid of. I guess a person has to get used to the looks of native plants to appreciate they aren’t invasive, they just don’t fit in the neatly trimmed and manicured lawn scene.

    • Lol:-) well, I am not on either side of the fence:-)…I am in the middle ( balancing on the fence-lol) reaching a hand to either side to get along and think about what they have in common not what they disagree about, and we will get the job done a bit more quickly to create a sustainable system.
      I believe the problem between “natural gardeners” vs “permaculture” purists is that both are trying to ‘better” the soil, plant life, biodiversity, and leave the world a better place. I don’t believe either of these “views” feels manicured perfectly groomed lawns are something to attain, it is just that they are arguing with each other about how to attain this goal. Their choices of plants are different, and how they want to display them in their space is where they are finding conflict.
      The Natural gardeners ( according to the site I was visiting) are upset with the permaculture gardeners and claiming they are introducing invasive plants into the landscape that will escape into the environment, for example, hardy kiwi fruit vines or perennial food sources that can become invasive….shoot, I have native plants + hardy kiwi + some perennial vegetables integrated in our sustainable yard.So since I am an eclectic gardener:-) \
      I am under snow, but spend time in the winter clearing out my pics and somehow my butterfly pictures fit the post:-)

      • Going full out permaculture, I don’t even know what that would mean, but from so much of what I’ve seen on video and pictures, it looks like one chaotic mess instead of mimicking nature (like a forest floor is beautiful but doesn’t look chaotic). I do like order, and see nothing wrong with it. That’s where the non-purist in me comes out where permaculture is concerned. I think it’s possible to use the concepts and still have a beautiful garden. Maybe my conceptions are wrong, I don’t know. A lot of gardening, no matter what type a person tries to follow, seems to be entirely one’s own discoveries of what works and what doesn’t work for each person. Just like some people have messy vs. immaculate homes, it’s going to be the same in the garden.

      • I believe you are right, and I totally agree about having a sense of order at some level. That is why I often claim mine is my “organized chaos”-lol:-) I don’t think your conceptions are wrong, you can have both. Check this poor guy out on this site–130-000-for-garden-that-others-feel-is-an-eye-sore-204718723.html
        I believe he believes he is doing the right thing, but he will be fined. I don’t know if he sees his stuff as a mess, but he is getting fined. It is another approach to food growing/sustainable gardening. I feel our gardens are an expression of us, but sometimes we have to considerate of others:-) He really does not seem like a mean soul, but people are mad.

      • Dunno if I’d call that permaculture but anyway! haha I sort of think he has a point. It’s also hard for me to fathom that due to his yard, creatures are getting in other people’s houses. One time I had a bag of sunflower seeds in the storage shed and rats got in there. But they came down to our housing area because new construction pushed them out of the areas they used to live. But if I had a yard like that guy’s, and rats got in the neighbor’s food stores, could they blame my yard for bringing in rats? Complicated issue. Homeowners association rules in the US are sometimes pretty ridiculous. You own your yard but don’t. I could go on about it, but won’t because the whole thing is silly on both sides. But ya, dunno if he considers what he does permaculture.

      • LOL..Oh no this is not permaculture he is practicing. He is using a new approach I have never heard of-
        “His actions, he says, come directly from the late Japanese philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka, who taught “Do-Nothing Farming,” or no weeding, no tilling, no pruning, no pesticides and no fertilizers” He is trying
        to do the right thing, and it is HIS interpretation of this mans method,and it may not even be what Fukuoka intended it to look like etc. Our city is very supportive of growing food on city lots , and lets people use unused land for growing food. I do not live in a HOA, but my parents do and it would drive me crazy having people tell me what I have to do and how to every time! Good points you made:-)

      • Have you studied Masanobu Fukuoka, who taught “Do-Nothing Farming,”? It’s part of the permaculture movement, but “do nothing” does not mean doing nothing. lol That guy is stretching his interpretation of Fukuoka’s work, silly guy. Fukuoka is up from before dawn until late in the evening gardening the land. I think he starts with meditation and considers all movement that comes a “do nothing” approach, meaning, not planning but letting things come to you. Not such a new concept really. When you see a bunch of weeds growing, you feel moved to reduce them (well unless you’re lazy like that guy lol). Forums always come down to whose interpretation and style is the “best.” I don’t read any gardening forums, but I’ve taken part in so many various forums over the years, I try to avoid them. People always pick on each other. I noticed that in the vegetarian/vegan debates, and now with raw foodist purists, there’s raging debates if you should eat honey, if agave nectar or cashews are truly raw….and if you eat those things, they rain down on you that you aren’t really a raw vegan. Yet they will order raw almonds from Africa to ensure they’re raw, ignoring local farmers and resources, while at the same time, advocating to eat raw and local. haha Nutty folks. Yes, let’s reach across the fence.

      • Oh my goodness,he is WAY OFF:-) You have to feel sorry for him since he sure believes he is doing the right thing,but has no clue…they said he was a nice guy and held no grudges towards his neighbors:-) but he is way off… No, I have not studied Masanobu Fukuoka or knew he was part of the permaculture movement. I’ve just read a few books + Gaia’s Garden– Home-Scale Permaculture. I studied the basics, but I tend to dabble and not be a purist.I grab what I find interesting and what will work in my space. I know what you mean about all the debates + “nutty people”. I’ll be putting a door in our fence, so we can share:-) no need to reach over, you are welcome anytime!

    • thank you…a monarch…they are so beautiful. I sure hope I can see more this year. The past few years, I have seen fewer and fewer of these as well as our swallowtails, in fact fewer butterflies period…makes one wonder if we need to start paying attention like we have to the decline in bees.

  5. Robbie
    What a great post – you are truly the change you wish to see in the world! I agree with you regarding the senselessness of an egoic “I’m right, you’re wrong” stance. It accomplishes little and if anything creates more problems. Gardens really do reflect their owners because they are creative endeavors, and as such, there is really no right or wrong way to be creative! Like you, as I’ve grown older, I’ve found it easier to see both sides of an argument. Though I often form my own opinion, I know that most of what we call ‘reality’ is an illusion, so depending on your point of view, that is where you tend to see reality and that can change by altering perspective! How often have we changed our minds? What causes us to change? More information! I love that you seek to learn different perspectives and that makes you a wise woman indeed.
    I love your photos – simply stunning. I loved the first one with the rear view, wings closed, but the 5th one made me want to scream it was so beautiful! The red/orange of the tithonia was reflected back up onto Madame Butterfly and it was perfectly captured – brava! (What camera do you use? Is that a macro lens?)

    • oh to be called a “wise woman” by another “wise woman” well, that is TOPS in my book! Your comment was so wise and I could not of said it any better:-) I am not afraid of change and more information means better understanding!
      As for the pictures I was not going to use the first one with the rear view, it just seemed “strange” ,but as I looked at it…it grew on me…the joy of digital. I have a canon rebel which I got a few years ago. I have not purchased a macro lens yet, but I really want one since it would be a lot of fun. I can get up close with my rebel in some shooting I am okay for some shots. I did purchase some cheap clip on macros +1 +2 +10, but did not use them shooting this butterfly. I think what is so neat about butterflies is they are such a get in a position and they make you believe they will not move and OFF They go….LOL!!!

    • lol…:-) thank you:-) The last few years I have seen fewer and fewer butterflies, but it might be I am not around at that time of day.I plan to keep an eye out this summer for my butterfly buddies!

  6. Hello! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.

    Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a
    marvellous job!

    • oh my that is very kind:-) Please send pictures and share, I love to hear what others are doing:-) It is an adventure and a lot of fun + WELL worth all the hard work:-) When I see the animals running around my property( not always when eating my food-lol), soil looking healthy, food growing + people enjoying hanging out in it, well, it is so worth all the hard work!!!

%d bloggers like this: