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Did you know Doug Tallamy + Catherine Zimmerman are teaming up?



Learning to integrate native plants into our food growing system!

2015 is the year to learn “how” to make changes + add more “native plants” into our food growing system.

I wrote the below post last year + lately; I have been busy working with various people in our community, to create a place for us and nature to exist. Please forgive a repeat of a previous post. I will visit your sites as soon as I am inside long enough to sit at my computer. The next two weeks I am busy getting plants to people and meeting with other eclectic gardeners to make plans in our local community. I found this above video of a project called “HOMETOWN HABITAT” by Catherine Zimmerman which just became available this spring. Please watch Doug Tallamy  speak about nature and our gardens. My goal this year is to stay true to my “Eclectic” nature in life, but now the challenge is to integrate Dog Tallmy’s ideas to our urban potager and inspire others to do the same. Please watch his video and visit her site for it is something we all can do in the heart of the city, right where we live

Check out Catherine Zimmerman’s   The Meadow Project (here)

I am staying true to myself again this year + may be making changes. I will continue to integrate some of these ideas into my “eclectic garden” or “urban potager” as I affectionately call it-


Eclectic Gardners reach over the fence and lets start working together to make this a better world…2015 here we come!!!!


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 basic 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 for a special exchange program with the Iowa Arts  Council + it’s sister city in Japan. We went to Des Moines to meet with many other artist 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 whom I have become over the years.

Well, those experiences in the arts were wonderful, 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  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 endeavours 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 + 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 good 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  changing. Not because I preached or shamed them, but because they wanted to change.

May 17th butterfly monarch old and new 031

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


 reach over the Fence where ever you are!

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

47 replies »

  1. What a lovely post, Robbie. I consider myself eclectic to the point of eccentric when it comes to most things in life. Heading off to school to learn something that would have made my head revolve just thinking about it prior to attempting it has taught me that we need to be willing to get outside our comfort zones to discover new things about ourselves. Being ‘eclectic’ really just means being willing to embrace new ideas and things other than “the norm” (whatever that is). Whenever someone pulls something new into the equation there is always going to be a bru-ha-ha (what a great word!) from some “old schooler” who is terrified of change and who tries to rally the troops around them to “oust the interloper who would be king”…human nature and endemic any place where three or more people are trying to do something “together”.

    I find that the anonymity of being able to comment without being face to face with someone else allows people a degree of outrage and indignity that they would otherwise keep in check if they were within shirt-fronting distance of someone with an opposing view. Like anything else, the older we get, the more we have crammed into our poor long suffering craniums. Not everyone chooses to go the extra mile and listen to other people and consider what they are saying might just be something new and dynamic and age doesn’t necessarily mean a willingness to learn and adapt. There are WAY too many old curmudgeons who are set in their ways out there who make life a living hell for anyone on a committee who is trying to change the status quo. It would seem some people make it their life’s work to “NOT ROCK THE BOAT!” ;).

    I agree that some things can become invasive but again, if they are food, does that matter? If you have a plethora of plum trees or invasive sweet potatoes and someone could harvest the leaves/roots/fruit and eat them, surely that is a better outcome than some tough old poisonous weed? I am also going to add here, that but for the introduction of “invasive species” most first world countries wouldn’t have been habitable. I, for one, can’t see Australia attaining a population of 23 million (or whatever we are…) living on foraged witchetty grubs and the odd Warangal spinach leaf. People need to stop being so very prissy and protective of their opinions (which, at the end of the day, IS what they are so strenuously defending) and be willing to concede that life is eclectic.

    I must admit, when I firest read the title of this post, not knowing who the heck Doug Tallamy and Catherine Zimmerman are, I immediately got a vision of them dancing like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I think I might keep that vision a bit longer…Catherine Zimmerman is wearing a LOVELY diaphanous frock! 😉

    • As always, Fran-you just seem to know exactly what I am trying to say! Very good point about people would not be able to survive on just food from their local ‘foraging” true!
      I am feeling guilty sometimes that I have to pick food over something that could provide habitat for my growing space. We have ravines, creeks, woody areas that run through our city area. We also don’t use up the farm land to grow more food when we grow more of our own close to home!
      I was sitting on a committee meeting for our new “demonstration” community garden in our city the other night. I found it interesting, for I was one of the oldies-the others were in their 30’s + early 40’s. I hope it works that we call can be open to new ideas, I know I am eager to learn from others-I am an eclectic at heart + it is in my blood!

      I was thinking of you today as I spread out “chicken wire” around my crops of “cool season veggies” which the little critters want to munch on! They usually leave it all alone after the other stuff greens up around us, but before everything comes in-they munch on MY VEGGIES! I am the chicken wire queen-but it is working for they are not getting to my veggies! I tried netting last year, but it tangled all the critters up in it and I felt badly when they were choked to death-YIKES.

      I like Tallamy ideas + Zimmerman but he lives on 10 acres which means he has a bit more space to devote to native plants etc. Those of us that live on less than 1/3 acre ( including house, driveway, sidewalk, etc) have to make choices for we can’t do it all:-) So, I try to do what I can:-)

      • If you add some flowers, some herbs, some native species (even better if they fall into the “flowery herb” category 😉 ) and have a few rocks or logs or at least a bit of space with a nice shrub in it you are doing your bit for happy critters. I completely get you and the chook wire. It aint fancy but it works! When we dealt with the feral cat problem we had here (we had 21 cats at one stage!) the pests that they used to deal with in the background have started to breed up. We leave chook food in the coop and Steve has been noticing rats when he locks the chooks in at night as well as seeing that they have moved into his shed. I was peeling potatoes the other evening and looked up to see the “bird on the windowsill eating cheese” and it was a rat! I stood there looking at it and it was looking back at me with cheese in it’s paws. I tapped on the window and it kept eating it’s cheese. I tapped again, it kept nibbling intently whilst watching me inside! It was only when I opened the window that it figured it might take a mouthful of cheese and make a run for it! Earl got in on the act and chased it down the deck but that goes to show how cheeky they are. They ate all of my ripe tomatoes :(. Oh well…back to the drawing board!

      • YIKES-FRAN-a rat that bold. Oh MY!!! I just got your comment, I am so far behind with getting to my blog. We worked the past few days on the yard creating mulch out of our yard waste so we can put it back in the beds. We worked for hours + now it is snowing-perfect timing.
        You just got the possum problem solved- it always is something new:-(rats can sneak through small holes. We have mice, chipmunks, and squirrels but I have noticed fewer since the hawks and owls hang out in the trees. I was stunned one day when a hawk dove between my husband and the dog playing catch. They did not even see “it” for “it” was that quick-wow-they are efficient. My resident cats take care of the mice if they sneak in the house-they don’t last long. 21 WOW!
        Yep, our pits do take care of the little critters. Poor old punk was unable to keep up with the critters this fall and winter. Last spring she took out a nest of rabbits-sad to watch, but I do have to admit she( mama rabbit) did not put a nest in there this spring. Chance chased and “mauled” a chipmunk. I guess, he has taken the new role of watching the pests!

      • You are bound to have less time Robbie as now you are getting to your “busy” season and we get to have a rest and comment on all of your posts that you don’t have any time to post ;). Chance is just carrying on from Punk. Now that Punk has gone he knows that it’s all down to him now. Enjoy that lovely time you are having in the (almost) sun ;). We are beavering away steadily at college and had to give an oral presentation today. Did ok. Found a rat tail and a few gizzards on the driveway…looks like the feral cats are back on the case! 🙂

      • You are so right:-) I remember seeing your mounds of manure to shovel last fall-LOL. I was sitting inside as the garden was saying good-bye + had a lot more time. Now I really don’t find myself near a computer that much until too late at night + just not keeping up with blog posts for everyone + myself.
        School will keep you busy,too:-) Well, I would say your 4-legged guards of Serendipidity Farm are keeping the enemy at bay! leaving you evidence of their work-so cat like:-)

      • You just reminded me…it is just about time for the huge oak trees next door to dump their load and that means raking and a HUGE pile of oak leaves for narf! Looks like I won’t have to join that gym this month 😉

      • -I know what you mean-if you garden:-) why in the world do you need a gym membership-GO OUTSIDE and work!
        I sweat in my clothes “twice” yesterday and it was 38 degrees! Feels like summer-LOL

      • Hopefully you have a glorious summer Robbie and by the end of it, you have had a fantastic time sharing your garden with friends, family and your neighbourhood 🙂

      • Stevie-boy and I can’t believe how very tired you can get just sitting in front of a computer all day! I literally fell asleep at about 6pm yesterday. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and Steve woke me up at 7pm and said “go to bed!” All we had done was sit in a lecture theatre watching a presentation and presented an oral talk ourselves. How do people do this day after day!

    • I have watched several videos of his lectures on You Tube. His research is spot on! I am trying to integrate more natives into my landscape, but I do have some of my “fun” plants!

    • Pauline, as I write a response to your comment ( I am two days late) + I DO need to slow down, I am so aware of it this year. You just seem to read between the lines:-) Can’t fool you:-)

  2. You always ‘hit the nail on the head’ Robbie. We can learn so much from each other if we could only learn to listen without first jumping to conclusions. Happy Gardening and Happy St Patrick’s Day!

    • I feel you are “spot on” often,too! Happy Belated St Patrick’s Day-yum-we had ours on Tuesday + it was YUMMMY! I helped my husband cook it since I am not the expert with that meal:-)

  3. Yes I agree with you, an eclectic open minded approach to gardening and that transfers to life in general. It will be really interesting to follow the diversity within your garden too. Great post Robbie.

    • I am making more changes this year, I do enjoy the diversity of people, insects , birds and others:-) I can’t wait to see what visits this summer!

    • gardens do draw us outside:-) which means we meet our neighbors..sometimes, I need to plan my day for if I go out front-it takes me twice as long since I visit with neighbors and people walking!I don’t mind:-)

  4. Thanks for this great post and the links, Robbie. Doug is a great speaker and his work is so important (as is all of ours as well, every gardener on board with using native plants is making a difference). I’m excited for you with your involvement in the group. Also loved seeing all your monarch photos again. Let’s hope their numbers will increase this year and beyond. 🙂

    • I sure hope they are plentiful this year, too. I am hoping to have more than 5 visit my garden this year! My fingers are crossed:-)

      • Thanks again for the links to Dr. T. I watched a lecture of his on YouTube last night and it was excellent. I’ve written an article for our local town newsletter and plan to do a WP post as well. This is an important cause to be involved in – thanks for sharing & spreading the word!

  5. We can’t make anyone change. We can simply influence them to make the change themselves. I’m pretty eclectic in both my classroom and my garden. There’s more than one way to walk the dog. Just doing something one single way feels so limited. Love the photos of the tithonia and the monarch.

    • Love your comment- “more than one way to walk the dog”-so true:-) Have you ever tried the shorter tithonia? I am this year:-)

    • I tho ught of you when I read this article!I am envious of you seeing him for a second time:-) Please fill us all in again on his lecture. Does he have any fun plants?
      I watched several of his lectures and he moved to 10 acres, so he does have a bit of space to spread out. I do have to keep a few fun plants-LOL

    • awww-Hi Carol:-) I need to get over and visit you!-I have been so busy outside, inside + just not near a computer these days:-( I answer comments + try to keep up, but often I find myself so behind on posts of everyone- You are one of the best story tellers + I admire your wisdom filled blog posts:-) I will make sure, I get over there this next week. Just busy growing more + well you know spring is in the air!

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