Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The 2010 Great Benicia Tree Science Challenge

Tapping into the Collective Brain Power of Benicia Youth: The Great 2010 Benicia Tree Science Challenge

If the equation above intrigues you, then consider participating in the Great Benicia Tree Science Challenge. The mission of this challenge is to tap into the considerable brain power of Benicia youth to help advance the city wide initiative to enhance and promote the Benicia urban forest. The City of Benicia and the Benicia Tree Foundation are joining together to challenge youth to identify tree species in Benicia. The participant who names the most tree species in Benicia will be eligible to win a fully loaded iPad!

This science challenge is open to students from 5th to 12th grades who reside in the City of Benicia. Students participating under the age of 16 must have a parent or guardian present at Arbor Day (October 16, 2010, @ 12:00 p.m.) in order to be eligible to receive the award.
In order to participate, all contestants must register at www.beniciatrees.org/treechallengeregister.  

How to Compete in the Challenge
Entries must be submitted via email to the following email address: beniciatree@gmail.com, and must include the botanical name of the tree in the email subject header. Only one tree species submitted per email.

Each message should include the following:
  1. 1 jpeg format digital photo of the tree attached to email - images must be identified by the botanical name.
  2. Name of the contestant submitting the entry (must be pre-registered at www.beniciatrees.org/treecontest)
  3. Geographic Coordinates of the tree in the following format:
38.057535,          -122.148056
Latitude,            -Longitude
The location of the tree must be within the city limits of Benicia!
  1. Botanical (full scientific) name of the tree using binomial nomenclature (Genus & Species).  Example:       
Clematis               alpina                     
(Genus)              (species)            

You may submit as many email entries / tree species as you are able. See an example of a correctly formatted entry at www.beniciatrees.org/species_example. Additional information about how to properly identify a tree or establish the coordinates of a tree are provided at www.beniciatrees.org/treechallenge.

The Great Benicia Tree Science Challenge will run 30 days from 12:01 am on September 15, 2010 to 11:59 pm on October 15, 2010. In order to receive the grand prize, the winner must be present at the Arbor Day Ceremony to be held October 16, 2010, where the winner will be announced.
In the case of a tie, the quality and accuracy of the data submitted, proper spelling and use of scientific nomenclature, and photo quality of submissions made by participants, will be considered deciding factors in selecting the final winner. The final winner will be qualified and announced by a Licensed Arborist who resides in the City of Benicia.

Prior to submitting entries, all participants must register to join the challenge at the following website: www.beniciatrees.org/treechallenge.   

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bay-Friendly 2010 Landscape Conference


In case you haven't already heard, Northern California's premier event
dedicated to sustainable landscaping is coming soon. The 2010 Bay-
Friendly Landscape Conference is scheduled for September 17th, from 8
am to 5 pm in San Francisco.

If you are a professional landscaper, planner, or anyone passionate
about urban gardening & habitat, sustainability, water conservation,
minimizing impact our our watersheds.. . you don't want to miss this

Keynote address by water guru Brad Lancaster: "Turning Drains into
Sponges and Water Scarcity into Water Abundance."

Other notable speakers include Bob Perry, Pam Peirce, Bill Wilson,
Brock Dolman, and Robert Kourik. The conference features sixteen
exciting breakout sessions focused on the latest practices in
sustainable landscaping, networking opportunities, delicious organic
food, and a Bay-Friendly Marketplace of innovative products,
technology and services.

Register today, space is limited! See attached flyer and our website
for more information: http://www.bayfriendlycoalition. org

Join the Bay-Friendly Coalition and receive a $25 discount.
(Memberships can be purchased online.)

New this year! Pre-conference Tour of Bay-Friendly Rated Landscapes
(September 16th). Join us for a veggie-powered bus tour of Alameda
County to visit some of the finest large-scale Bay-Friendly landscapes
with landscape architect and tour guide Cynthia Greenberg. More
information is available on our website: http://www.bayfriendlycoalition. org

Please forward this message widely. Hope to see you on September 16th
and 17th!

Thank you,


p.s. A limited number of 30% discount tickets are available for
eligible students. Please contact me for more details.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

2010 Bay Friendly Landscape Conference to Focus on Water

Now is the time to register for the Bay Friendly Landscaping Conference!

Why attend?
  • Bay Friendly certification can help you tap into the expanding market for water conserving landscapes
  • Bay Friendly is now expanding to a Bay Area-wide program; not just Alameda County
  • Bay Friendly will soon be certifying landscapes as well as landscapers
  • Bay Friendly can help local governments address multiple goals of stormwater quality, recycling, toxics reduction, and water conservation
  • Bay Friendly has a bright future as the best developed sustainable landscape standard available

Click Here for Information and Registration

Transforming Urban Landscapes to Protect Our Water Resources

Friday; September 17th; 2010
8:00am - 5:00pm
St. Mary's Event Center, CA
Keynote Speaker Brad Lancaster
Register by September 1st to qualify for a smart controller raffle!


Friday, July 16, 2010

2010 Bay Friendly Landscape Conference to Focus on Water

This year's annual Bay Friendly Landscape Conference is focused on water: "Transforming Urban Landscapes to Protect our Water Resources." Attendees will have an opportunity to interact with keynote speaker, Brad Lancaster, water reuse expert, and author of Rain Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond. The event is filled with excellent panels and workshops that will help you implement specific best practices related to landscape and water use. Register before September 1st and qualify for a chance to win a free irrigation controller.

W. K. Kellogg Foundation - Statement of Support: National Research Council report, Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century

W. K. Kellogg Foundation - Statement of Support: National Research Council report, Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century You can download a copy of the report here!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hair Wiz: An Odd Artifact from My Bad Hair Past

Hair Wiz: It was real, and I survived it's relentless assault on my hair!

Exhibit A:
From Wolframite

Exhibit B:
From Wolframite

Exhibit C:
From Wolframite

Just think of the money you will save!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CONSEQUENCES OF A RISING BAY / GLOBAL WARMING: New set of maps reveals how melting polar ice could change shoreline and carry a high price for entire region - SFGate

CONSEQUENCES OF A RISING BAY / GLOBAL WARMING: New set of maps reveals how melting polar ice could change shoreline and carry a high price for entire region - SFGate

Welcome to Cafe Yumm! | Soul satisfying... Deeply nourishing

Welcome to Cafe Yumm! | Soul satisfying... Deeply nourishing

Here in Eugene Oregon, I just discovered a new source of fast-slow food at Cafe Yumm! In all places, located in Sacred Heart Medical Center. The top secret Yumm! sauce is delicious, vegan, low sodium, and truly a new tast sensation. I had a Yumm! bowl of brown rice and veges, and one of the most delicious vege-burgers I have ever had. I hope they plan to expand to more locations. A self-described "hypocritical vegetarian," I am sometimes loathe to eat vegan food in restaurants, since it is often so tasteless. Yumm! has taken my vegetarian experience to another level, and they offer some healthy choices for the meat-eaters as well. I heard through the grapevine that this place started at local farmers' markets. I apologize if this sounds like a commercial; honestly, they didn't pay me to say this!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Benefits of Parks, According to the Neighborhood Parks Council

Excerpts follow from "The Green Envy" report published by the Neighborhood Parks Council (NPC).

Other resources and links provided by NPC at the bottom of this page.

The environmental benefits that green spaces bring to cities are commonly known. Trees produce oxygen, but also absorb carbon dioxide, which cuts down on global warming—no small benefit these days. The flora of parks provides shade, reduces wind, absorbs rain and curbs runoff, cleans the air, and fights soil erosion. Urban parks provide much-needed shelter for hundreds of species of insects, birds and animals that keep the natural world in balance.

Yet less is known about the significant economic and physical effects of open space on people and cities. Much of the information here is based on the research of Dr. John Crompton, Distinguished Professor of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University, and the nation's expert on identifying the economic impact of parks and recreation. We have also extensively referenced various studies by The Trust for Public Land (TPL).


Dr. Crompton’s research shows that parks add to a city’s tax base, as residential properties located near open and green spaces achieve even greater market value, and this in turn leads to an increase in property taxes paid by the homeowners.[1] This theory, which Crompton names “The Proximate Principle,” is supported in two recent studies. TPL reports that the value of homes bordering a new greenbelt in Boulder, Colorado, for example, increased by 32 percent over properties located 3,200 feet away. In addition, a 2001 survey for the National Association of Realtors found that 50 percent of respondents reported that they would be willing to pay 10 percent more for a property located close to a park or open space.[2]

Often this increase in property taxes is large enough to quickly pay off the bonds that the city required to purchase the open space.[3] In Boulder, Colorado, the $150,000 annual increase in proximate property taxes that resulted from the creation of the greenbelt enabled the purchase price of the greenbelt to be paid off in just three years. For a local example, look no further than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park: homeowners in close proximity to this flagship park collectively pay $5-$10 million in property taxes each year.[4]

Commercial properties near new and well-maintained parks often see an increase in property values as well. The restoration of Bryant Park in New York City is a fine example of this. After a twelve-year renovation project, this piece of prime real estate was reopened in 1992. No longer a haven for drug addicts, the park instead was reborn as a vital midtown oasis where employees gather for weekday lunches in outdoor cafes, and friends assemble on summer evenings for open-air movies. A study by Ernst and Young reported that rents in office buildings surrounding the park increased 115 to 225 percent in the years 1990 to 2000. The same survey also studied property values near 36 other neighborhood parks across New York City and found that “commercial asking rents, residential sale prices, and assessed values for properties near a well-improved park generally exceeded rents in surrounding submarkets.”[5]

Cities with plentiful parks and open spaces also have an easier time attracting businesses to relocate there, because many companies want to be able to offer their employees a better quality of life.[6] In a study about the benefits of parks, TPL reported that large high-tech companies such as Intel and Hewlett-Packard decided to establish offices in Portland, Oregon, because of the abundance of natural resources within the city and surrounding it.[7] These companies reported that the caliber of employees that they wished to recruit cared as much about their quality of life as their paycheck.[8] Similarly, a vice president of Dell Corporation in Austin, Texas said that the company’s recruiters actively promote the quality of life in that city to potential employees to attract them to relocate there.[9] In these examples, we see Crompton’s assertion clearly illustrated: PULL QUOTE: “a strategy of conserving parks and open space is not contrary to a community’s economic health, but rather an integral part of it.”[10]

Aside from their role as valuable economic cornerstones of residential and commercial neighborhoods, parks are also becoming increasingly popular with tourists. New York’s Central Park receives more tourists each year than the entire city of Washington, D.C and Riverwalk Park has overtaken The Alamo as the most popular tourist attraction in San Antonio, Texas. Parks and open spaces stimulate the economy through tourism revenues, both directly and indirectly. While admission is free to most urban public parks, tourists spend big bucks in cafes and souvenir kiosks within parks, on programs, performances and festivals held in parks, and at nearby hotels, restaurants and retail shops. The city of Flagstaff, Arizona even supports acquisition of additional open space with taxes from tourist activities and products (known as the “bed, board and booze” tax, it totals about $3.3 million dollars per year.)

Retirees, or GRAMPies (Growing, Retired, Affluent, Mobile Population), are another potential income source that are attracted by parks and recreational facilities. This demographic is a large percentage of the present population, as the “Baby Boomers” are now reaching retirement age. GRAMPies often have the flexibility to relocate in their later years, and they tend to be attracted to areas that offer significant recreational options, such as parks. In a recent lecture at City Hall, Dr. Crompton warned San Francisco‘s public officials that GRAMPies are currently flocking in higher numbers to states such as Texas and Illinois, which have invested more funds in parks, rather than to California.[11]


In addition to the positive economic impact of open spaces, Crompton also notes that there are positive social effects for people who have convenient access to parks. Recreational facilities and structured athletic activities within parks provide young people with opportunities for social networking with peers and establishing positive relationships with adult mentors. These opportunities give young people important social skills and keep them away from criminal activities. Crompton points out that the cost of supporting city parks and recreational centers over time is minimal when compared to the long-term cost of incarceration.

Parks and green spaces also serve as important areas for social interaction in urban communities. Researchers in Chicago have shown that people who live in public housing developments that include green spaces tend to build stronger social relationships with neighbors than people who live in public housing surrounded primarily by concrete. Residents in greener neighborhoods also reported they felt safer.[12]

Neighbors also visit their local parks and recreational facilities to attend social activities such as sporting competitions, music performances, and art classes. Through these activities residents have a chance to connect with new people as well as old friends.

Community gardens have also proven to foster positive social and economic benefits for neighbors. A 2003 study of community gardens in St. Louis found that the monthly rent for residences immediately adjacent to gardens increased by $91, while the median price of rentals in the rest of the city decreased by $4. The same study found that neighborhoods with community gardens had a more stable population: while the city of St. Louis lost 13 percent of its total residents between 1990 and 2000, the neighborhoods with community gardens lost just 6 percent.[13] Community gardens advocates nationwide have reported that these spaces reduce crime, encourage neighbors to become responsible custodians, and foster interaction between people from diverse backgrounds.


It is well known that people who engage in regular exercise gain dramatic physical and emotional benefits. Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease by encouraging weight loss, improving respiration and circulation, and lowering blood pressure.

A 1996 study by The Center for Disease Control (CDC) revealed what park advocates had suspected all along: people who have access to parks indeed exercise more. The study found that the percentage of people who exercised at least three days a week increased by 25.6 percent after a new exercise space (i.e. a park or recreational facility) was created, or if access to those spaces was enhanced. Similar studies almost doubled this percentage of frequent users (48.4 percent), though the increase can perhaps be attributed to “informational outreach” or marketing, which increased the public’s awareness of the new facilities.[14] Clearly, investing in parks is an excellent preventative medicine as compared the costs to long-term health care costs for inactive people.

Urban green spaces act as therapeutic oases to which people can escape to connect with nature, wilderness and aesthetic beauty. Studies have shown that people report mental health improvements when exposed to parks. Spending time in green spaces makes people feel more relaxed, alert, and peaceful, and less fearful and angry. Even an indirect connection to nature, such as the ability to look out a window at a green space, has been proven to have dramatic physical effects. A study at a Pennsylvania hospital reported that patients with views of trees from their hospital room windows needed fewer painkillers, and had shorter hospital stays than patients whose rooms faced a brick wall.[15] A study in the Netherlands in 2001 reported that people with access to green space reported feeling healthier, both physically and mentally. In fact, when a person’s access to any type of green space (a park, farm, or forest) was increased by only 10 percent, their health complaints were reduced to an amount equal to a person five years younger.[16]

[1] “The Proximate Principle: The Impact of Parks, Open Space and Water Features on Residential Property Values and the Property Tax Base,” 2nd edition. John L. Crompton, National Recreation and Park Association, 2004.

[2] “The Benefits of Parks: Why America Needs More City Parks and Open Space”, Paul M. Sherer, The Trust for Public Land, 2006.

[3]Not surprisingly, Crompton explains that parks and open space can have a negative effect on surrounding housing values if the park is not properly maintained, if it is too secluded to discourage deviant behavior, or if the park is so popular that foot traffic and noise become a nuisance to neighbors.

[4] “Economic Benefits of Parks and Open Space”, Trust for Public Land, page. 13.

[5] The Benefits of Parks: Why America Needs More City Parks and Open Space, The Trust For Public Land, 2006, page 17.

[6] Access to parks was cited as one of the two major elements necessary for a satisfactory quality of life, according to a 1995 poll by the Regional Plan Association and the Quinnipac College Polling Institute. The other element was safe streets and low crime. (“Economic Benefits of Parks and Open Space”, Trust for Public Land, page 14)

[7] The Benefits of Parks: Why American Needs More City Parks and Open Space, The Trust for Public Land, 2006, page 18.

[8] New York Times as quoted in “The Economic Benefits of Parks and Open Space”, Trust for Public Land, 2006, page 14.

[9] The Benefits of Parks: Why America Needs More City Parks and Open Space”, Paul M. Sherer, Trust for Public Land, 2006, page 18.

[10] John L. Crompton, The Proximate Principle: The Impact of Parks, Open Space and Water Features on Residential Property Values and the Property Tax Base”, 2nd edition, 2004, National Recreation and Park Association

[11] Crompton, speech in SF City Hall, September 2006.

[12] “The Beneifts of Parks: Why America Needs More Open Space”, The Trust For Public Land, 2006, page 22.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid, page 14.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid. page 15.

Some important links to research and data that supports the vital links between the health of our communities and our parks are provided here:

* San Francisco Shape Up Coalition
* http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1process_content.cfm?section=99&page=16
* Center for Disease Control - Active Community Environments (ACEs) is a CDC-sponsored initiative to promote walking, bicycling, and the development of accessible recreation facilities.
* Australian Healthy Parks, Healthy People Initiative
* The Influence of Community Factors on Health
* Kids Walk to School
* U.S. Obesity Trends 1985 to 2006
* Diabetes Trends Among Adults in the U.S
* Physical Activity helps prevent problems of aging
* U.S. students at age 11 are in the top third of countries for frequent television watching, with 34 percent of girls and 36 percent of boys reporting that they watch four or more hours of television per day.
Read more about the Health of U.S. Youth
* Of the total Asian adults in San Francisco, 28.1% are overweight, and 43.2% are physically inactive.
Read more here.
* NPC cited as a San Francisco resource for disease prevention and public health interventions that work.
* Teens Living in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Lack Access to Parks and Get Less Physical Activity
* The Influence of Community Factors on Health: An Annotated Bibliography, Fall 2004 Developed by PolicyLink, and funded by The California Endowment, this annotated bibliography contains more than 150 entries of research on how community factors affect health. This publication and many other excellent resources on this page: http://www.policylink.org/publicationsByFocus.html
* SF Department of Public Health Program on Health Equity and Sustainability Main page: www.sfdph.org/phes/
* Public Parks and Physical Activity Among Adolescent Girls: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/118/5/e1381.pdf
* Inactive America: What Can Parks Do? National Recreation & Park Association
* The Trust for Public Land: Healthy Parks, Healthy Communities initiative.


* http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/795/files/benefits%20final%20online%20v6-1-05.pdf
* Standards for open space:
o A national standard of 10 acres per 1,000 residents is set by the National
Recreation and Park Association:
o There is some international work in this area as well:


The primary purpose for investing in a city park is rarely economic. Although few in San Francisco would argue that parks and open space are an indispensable part of a healthy and sustainable urban mosaic, financial justification is nearly always required, especially when the cost of land is high. Due to the concern over the preservation of parks and open space in San Francisco, there has been an increasing interest in quantifying the value of its parks system.

Measuring the economic value of parks and open space is a difficult yet necessary exercise. This is because while the costs associated with acquiring, developing, and maintaining a city's parks system is relatively easy to calculate, its benefits are hard to quantify. As San Francisco grows and develops, a more complete picture of the economic benefits of parks will provide city agencies, voters, and developers with necessary information to set priorities and develop policies that will strike a balance between open space, development, and other objectives. Unless these decision-makers are better equipped, the city may risk losing one of its most valued assets - it world renowned parks system.

In response to the lack of information available on the economic value of parks in San Francisco, Neighborhood Parks Council is writing a report which will explain the importance of measuring the value of parks, estimate the impact parks have on property values in San Francisco, explore the role parks can play in economic development, and provide recommendations on how the city can maximize the economic value of its parks system. The report, Do Parks Make Cents? , will be available at the end of July 2007.

The following is a list of resources on the economic benefits of parks:

* Dr. John Crompton -
* Bibliography of Economic Impacts of Parks, Recreation and Tourism
* Economic Impacts of Protecting Rivers, Trails and Greenway Corridors
* Suggested Readings on Economics of Outdoor Recreation - Part of Sources of Socioeconomic Data for National Heritage Areas
* Investing in local parks offers excellent economic, social returns
* http://www.embraceopenspace.org/EOSReport/EconomicValueofOpenSpace.pdf
* TPL - Urban Parks ROI http://www.tpl.org/tier3_cd.cfm?content_item_id=21437&folder_id=829
* NPC Green Envy Report
* Creating A Healthy Environment: The Impact of the Built Environment on Public Health
* Energy (under construction)
* Transportation How Land Use and Transportation Systems Impact Public Health:A Literature Review of the Relationship Between Physical Activity and Built Form Lawrence D. Frank. PhD and Mr. Peter Engelke
* Birds, not birdies? Is there a trend emerging that indicates that people want homes near natural areas versus golf courses? Read the article at http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/10/06/realestate/06outdoors.html
* Parks cool big cities:


* Enrique Penalosa Why Parks are Important to Cities - Active Community Environments
* Neal Pierce, Obesity and Sprawl, the Connection Tightens April 21, 2001
* Planning Healthier Suburbs, Where Cars Sit Idle and People Get Moving New York Times; New York, N.Y.; Oct 17, 2000; Jane E. Brody
* Sprawl Harms Our Health - The Sierra Club
* Perils of suburban living gain attention - The Bergen Record
* Does the built environment influence physical activity? - Examine the evidence.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Great health promoting video!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Southern California Vetiver Grass Tales: "Moondust & Shale"

Thomas Stickler, Wolfram Alderson (originally published on the Vetiver Network website)

Worst case scenario provided for Vetiver grass planting at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Vetiver grass was given an opportunity to its demonstrate its tolerance of poor soil and environmental conditions in a "worst case scenario" provided at Land Lab, an 340 acre environmental study area at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Forty-four vetiver grass plants were planted along a cut face slope leading up to the Land Lab Information Center, during the summer of 1994.

Vetiver grass was included in a palette of plant materials that were in a revegetation project implemented by the Casa Colina Horticulture Therapy and Training Program, a program based in Pomona that provides employment and training for people with disabilities. It was provided by Land Lab and the Los Angeles County Sanitation District.

The primary goal of the revegatation project was to restore the ability of the native California Black Walnut trees located on the site to seed new generations of tree saplings. Prior to the project, there were mostly old growth trees and very few young trees surviving unfavorable conditions that had previously included over-grazing, construction activities, a canopy of invasive exotic weeds, and few surviving native or understory plants. Soil conditions were very poor and heavy erosion and landslides were prevalent.

The "moondust and shale" soil viewed here is what was left after a road was cut up to the Land Lab Information Center. Topsoil in addition to over ten feet of earth was removed leaving a shale-pocked substance that can be described as extremely dry and void of organic matter. Daily during the summer, this lifeless dust and rock experienced additional unishment by wind and sun and crumbled and cascaded down the slope face into the asphalt roadway. During the winter, the rains turned the material into a gray mud and frequently slipped downhill in mudslides or just simply washed down the drive in a milky flow. As a general reference, temperatures in the Los Angeles area range from 28 F to 110 F, with a mean of 64.4 F. Normal Los Angeles area annual rainfall is 14.68 inches (372.8 mm). Vetiver can survive with as low as 300mm of annual precipitation, but an average of 700mm (27.5inches) per year is considered preferable.

When the 4‰ container size Vetiver grass was planted, some irrigation occurred by portable rainbird sprinklers during the initial months after planting. Frequent water line breaks as well as other challenges left the plants starved for water and attention during the first year. No irrigation has occurred at all since the sporadic watering that occurred that first year. After a three-year revegetation period, the project funding was discontinued and the site maintenance was abandoned.

Remarkably, as of December, 1999, 90% of the Vetiver grass planted at Land Lab has survived the soil, the blazing sun, the afternoon winds, and even the large population of voracious rabbits (who get their water and food from the vegetation). The Vetiver grass specimens that remain would clearly look happier if they were to get a little more water. What is amazing is that the Vetiver grass has survived where other native plantings have not. When Vetiver grass plants are stressed, they "hunker down" growing lower to the ground, exhibiting more dried blades of grass. But, as you will see in additional Southern California Vetiver grass tales and images, Vetiver grass has survived here while other native sages and plants (considered to be more drought tolerant) have not. Quite an accomplishment for this simple little clump of "tropical grass"!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teach Them to Make Experiments

If teachers realize how much the efficiency, comfort, and happiness of their pupils will be increased throughout their lives from being taught to cooperate with nature and to take advantage of her wonderful laws, they will eagerly begin this study. They will find also that their pupils will be actively interested in these studies bearing on their daily lives, and this interest will be carried over to other subjects. Whenever you can, take the pupils into the field, the garden, the orchard, and the dairy. Teach them to make experiments and to learn by the use of their own eyes and brains. They will, if properly led, astonish you by their efforts and growth. 
-Agriculture for Beginners, Charles William Burkett

Here’s what Greenleaf has to say on art and creativity:

Albert Camus demands that each of us confront the exacting terms of our own existence, and, like Sisyphus, accept our rock and find happiness with it. Albert Camus stated in his last published lecture, “Create Dangerously:”

One may long, as I do, for a gentler flame, a respite, a pause for musing. But perhaps there is no other peace for the artist than what he finds in the heat of combat. “Every wall is a door,” Emerson correctly said. Let us not look for the door, and the way out, anywhere but in the wall against which we are living. Instead, let us seek the respite where it is—in the very thick of battle. For in my opinion, and this is where I shall close, it is there. Great ideas, it has been said, come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps, then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear, amid the uproar of empire and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope. Some will say that this hope lies in a nation, others, in a man. I believe rather that it is awakened, revived, nourished by millions of solitary individuals whose deeds and works every day negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history. As a result, there shines forth fleetingly the ever-threatened truth that each and every man, on the foundations of his own sufferings and joys, builds for them all.’
One is asked, then, to accept the human condition, its sufferings and its joys, and to work with its imperfections as the foundation upon which the individual will build wholeness through adventurous creative achievement. For the person with creative potential there is no wholeness except in using it. And, as Camus explained, the going is rough and the respite is brief.
Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, Robert K. Greenleaf, 1977, p 25 to 26 of the 25th Anniversary Edition

The Share Worms Have Taken

The share which worms have taken in the formation of the layer of vegetable mould, which covers the whole surface of the land in every moderately humid country, is the subject of the present  volume. This mould is generally of a blackish colour and a few inches in thickness. In different districts it differs but little in appearance, although it may rest on various subsoils. The uniform fineness of the particles of which it is composed is one of its chief characteristic features; and this may be well observed in any gravelly country, where a recently-ploughed field immediately  adjoins one which has long remained undisturbed for pasture, and  where the vegetable mould is exposed on the sides of a ditch or  hole. The subject may appear an insignificant one, but we shall see that it possesses some interest; and the maxim "de minimis non  curat lex," does not apply to science. Even Elie de Beaumont, who  generally undervalues small agencies and their accumulated effects,  remarks: {1} "La couche tres-mince de la terre vegetale est un  monument d'une haute antiquite, et, par le fait de sa permanence,  un objet digne d'occuper le geologue, et capable de lui fournir des  remarques interessantes." Although the superficial layer of  vegetable mould as a whole no doubt is of the highest antiquity,  yet in regard to its permanence, we shall hereafter see reason to  believe that its component particles are in most cases removed at  not a very slow rate, and are replaced by others due to the  disintegration of the underlying materials.  As I was led to keep in my study during many months worms in pots filled with earth, I became interested in them, and wished to learn how far they acted consciously, and how much mental power they displayed. I was the more desirous to learn something on this  head, as few observations of this kind have been made, as far as I  know, on animals so low in the scale of organization and so poorly  provided with sense-organs, as are earth-worms.  In the year 1837, a short paper was read by me before the Geological Society of London, {2} "On the Formation of Mould," in which it was shown that small fragments of burnt marl, cinders, etc., which had been thickly strewed over the surface of several  meadows, were found after a few years lying at the depth of some  inches beneath the turf, but still forming a layer. This apparent  sinking of superficial bodies is due, as was first suggested to me  by Mr. Wedgwood of Maer Hall in Staffordshire, to the large  quantity of fine earth continually brought up to the surface by  worms in the form of castings. These castings are sooner or later spread out and cover up any object left on the surface. I was thus led to conclude that all the vegetable mould over the whole country has passed many times through, and will again pass many times through, the intestinal canals of worms. Hence the term "animal mould" would be in some respects more appropriate than that commonly used of "vegetable mould."  Ten years after the publication of my paper, M. D'Archiac, evidently influenced by the doctrines of Elie de Beaumont, wrote  about my "singuliere theorie," and objected that it could apply  only to "les prairies basses et humides;" and that "les terres  labourees, les bois, les prairies elevees, n'apportent aucune  preuve a l'appui de cette maniere de voir." {3} But M. D'Archiac  must have thus argued from inner consciousness and not from  observation, for worms abound to an extraordinary degree in kitchen  gardens where the soil is continually worked, though in such loose  soil they generally deposit their castings in any open cavities or  within their old burrows instead of on the surface. Hensen  estimates that there are about twice as many worms in gardens as in  corn-fields. {4} With respect to "prairies elevees," I do not know  how it may be in France, but nowhere in England have I seen the  ground so thickly covered with castings as on commons, at a height  of several hundred feet above the sea. In woods again, if the loose leaves in autumn are removed, the whole surface will be found strewed with castings. Dr. King, the superintendent of the Botanic Garden in Calcutta, to whose kindness I am indebted for many observations on earth-worms, informs me that he found, near Nancy in France, the bottom of the State forests covered over many acres with a spongy layer, composed of dead leaves and innumerable worm- castings. He there heard the Professor of "Amenagement des Forets"  lecturing to his pupils, and pointing out this case as a "beautiful  example of the natural cultivation of the soil; for year after year  the thrown-up castings cover the dead leaves; the result being a  rich humus of great thickness."  

The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms with Observations on Their Habits, Charles Darwin

Wherever there is Soil

Wherever there is soil, plants grow and produce their kind, and all plants are interesting; when a person makes a choice as to what plants he shall grow in any given place, he becomes a gardener or a farmer; and if the conditions are such that he cannot make a choice, he may adopt the plants that grow there by nature, and by making the most of them may still be a gardener or a farmer in some degree.  Every family, therefore, may have a garden. If there is not a foot of land, there are porches or windows. Wherever there is sunlight, plants may be made to grow; and one plant in a tin-can may be a more helpful and inspiring garden to some mind than a whole acre of lawn and flowers may be to another.  The satisfaction of a garden does not depend on the area, nor, happily, on the cost or rarity of the plants. It depends on the temper of the person. One must first seek to love plants and nature, and then to cultivate the happy peace of mind that is satisfied with little.  In the vast majority of cases a person will be happier if he has no rigid and arbitrary notions, for gardens are moodish, particularly with the novice. If plants grow and thrive, he should be happy; and if the plants that thrive chance not to be the ones that he planted, they are plants nevertheless, and nature is satisfied with them.  We are wont to covet the things that we cannot have; but we are happier when we love the things that grow because they must. A patch of lusty pigweeds, growing and crowding in luxuriant abandon, may be a better and more worthy object of affection than a bed of coleuses in which every spark of life and spirit and individuality has been sheared out and suppressed. The man who worries morning and night about the dandelions in the lawn will find great relief in loving the dandelions. Each blossom is worth more than a gold coin, as it shines in the exuberant sunlight of the growing spring, and attracts the insects to its bosom. Little children like the dandelions: why may not we? Love the things nearest at hand; and love intensely. If I were to write a motto over the gate of a garden, I should choose the remark that Socrates is said to have made as he saw the luxuries in the market, "How much there is in the world that I do not want!"  

Source: Manual of Gardening, A Practical Guide to the Making of Home
Grounds and the Growing of Flowers, Fruits, and Vegegables for Home
Use. By L.H. Bailey, 1910. Available as a free, online etext provided
by the Gutenberg Project

Gardens and Horticulture Offer the Development of Transferable Skills

Educational as well as other human development strategies are employed in horticulture as a means to teach a range of transferable skills that facilitate the participant’s success in a variety of environments and future endeavors. Expectations are held for the participants that include the development of horticulture skills in addition to other skill sets that facilitate success in a wide variety of situations outside of the garden. Gardens that provide a setting for community and environmental horticulture provide a dynamic interactive environment wherein plants are grown, but where people are the most important crop. Some examples of these transferable skills are as follows:

· Self esteem and confidence are built through encouraging participants to try out new experiences, make mistakes, fail, learn, and experience daily successes. Horticulture activities emphasize elbow grease (sweat equity), not a green thumb (magic). Challenging work that is meaningful to self, society, and the environment provides a sense of purpose and value to the participants.

· Leadership, assertiveness, motivation, and initiative are cultivated in participants while they learn to be self starters, initiate additional tasks, and solve problems through communicating with others working in the garden setting, including students, teachers, and volunteers from the community.

· The ability to discern and differentiate between textures, sizes, quantities, colors, smells, forms, tools, plants, and more, is developed in a broad range of activities that involve life processes and diverse materials that stimulate and engage the senses.

· Fine and gross motor abilities are developed through participating in a range of physical activities that improve coordination, dexterity, strength, speed, and accuracy.

· Environmental awareness and sensitivity are built through interaction with living organisms and systems, orientation to season, response to weather patterns and ambient environmental conditions, and adaptation to geography and micro-environments. An appreciation of natural science is cultivated. An artful sense of magic, mystery, and poetry is cultivated by having the opportunity to listen to the “songs of the rolling earth.”

· Responsibility and stewardship through caring for the environment and community place are cultivated through daily (individual as well as team) responsibilities. Opportunities are created to “give fruit before one’s eyes”.

· Consistency and the ability to complete tasks in organized sequences are developed through participation in routine tasks that have clearly defined standards of quality and timing. Self-discipline and best practices are established.

· Working in an environment outside of walls, participants make independent decisions, by thinking independently as well as cooperating through teamwork.

· Productivity and quality standards are reinforced through involvement in structured goal oriented activities, daily routines, schedules, natural consequences, consistency, support, and limit setting.

· Safety skills and prevention of accidents are developed in emergency drills and routine exercises, learning proper body mechanics as well as proper lifting and stooping techniques, and emphasis on an orderly and clean workplace.

· Positive work habits, behaviors, and attitudes are encouraged. Emphasis is placed on attendance and punctuality, responsiveness to supervision, self-regulation, and positive reinforcement during work activities.

· Characteristics such as creativity, communication, resourcefulness, adaptation, and innovation are nourished while participants are exposed to new ideas, activities, people, situations, and challenges.

· Adapting to change is developed through transitioning through different tasks that respond to the environment and life processes. Traits such as versatility, creativity, and flexibility are fostered by the ambient occurrences of natural systems and processes. Participants learn by doing, and to “think on their feet.”

Read “A Song of the Rolling Earth” as well as other poems by Walt Whitman that capture some of the inspiration and values cultivated in experiences of nature, earth, soil. For example: “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons, It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” Compiled by Wolfram Alderson 2007

The Practice of Horticultural Leadership


The Practice of Horticultural Leadership: How the Garden and Gardening has Influenced the Experience and Practice of a Lifetime Leader in the Nonprofit Organization Field,” explores the imprint of horticulture upon the image of leadership and organization. A nonprofit leader with thirty years of experience that combines horticulture and organizational leadership shares how gardens, gardeners, and gardening shape leadership philosophy and provide a transformational framework for organizational change. Key topics and questions are explored that illuminate how horticulture provides an organic and dynamic metaphorical nexus for leadership and organization. This is accomplished through an exploration of experience, reflection, knowledge, and theory that combine horticulture and organizational leadership.

Inspirational Quotes

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy:
They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
(Marcel Proust)

Your garden will reveal yourself.
(Henry Mitchell)

Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.
(Alfred Austin)

Gardens always mean something else. Man absolutely uses one thing to say another.
(Robert Harbison)

Many able gardiners and husbandmen are yet ignorant of the reason of their calling; as most artificers are of the reason of their own rules that govern their excellent workmanship. But a naturalist and mechanick of this sort is master of the reason of both, and might be of the practice too, if his industry kept pace with his speculation; which were very commendable and without which he cannot be said to be a complete Naturalist or Mechanick.
(William Penn)

The only thing that endures over time is the “Law of the Farm.” You must prepare the ground, plant the seed, cultivate, and water if you expect to reap the harvest.
(Stephen R. Covey)

Perhaps treating companies like machines keeps them from changing, or makes changing them much more difficult. We keep bringing in mechanics -- when what we need are gardeners.

We keep trying to drive change -- when what we need to do is cultivate change. Surprisingly, this mechanical mind-set can afflict those who seek "humane" changes through learning organizations" just as much as it can afflict those who drive more traditional changes, such as mergers and reorganizations.
(Peter Senge)

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
(Walt Whitman)

If there is no gardener there is no garden.
(Stephen Covey)


Horticultural leadership has provides a framework of thinking, seeing, and doing that has pervaded across diverse organizational settings. Certain gardening practices can promote conservation of the world's natural resources and a better understanding of the relationship between humankind and the rest of the natural world. Points of view that are presented in this essay suggest that leadership operating in a manner that is disconnected from the natural world is not only counterproductive to natural environments, but also to human (organizational) environments. A key purpose of this essay is to establish a line of research and inquiry that begins exploration of how global environmental health and organizational development are linked.

From the author’s personal perspective, horticulture has provided one-sided insight for general leadership practices that address multiple learning and work styles, provide an interdisciplinary framework of metaphor and practice, improve thinking about organizational and environmental conditions, and provide an inspirational mechanism for promoting and building upon innate strengths inherent within systems (natural and unnatural) and people. Horticultural leadership teaches patience, responsibility, stewardship, and instills positive work ethics, providing an approach to improving complex relationships and systems, strengthening the organizational spirit, beautifying the organizational environment.

Leaders seeking self awareness and professional development might ask “what is the essential nature of my leadership experience? What kind of leadership do I offer, and why? When, where, and for how long have I had this experience? What has been my primary lens or filter through which I view my world and, in particular, my organizational environment? How does this shape the leadership that I provide in multiple settings?

In this essay, I shall attempt to answer the latter questions while exploring three significant aspects of my career:

1. my vocational experience working in various domains of social and environmental horticulture and how this horticultural work has impacted my personal and professional development as a leader in the nonprofit field;
2. how I have applied the knowledge and transferable skills that were acquired from horticulture in various human service disciplines (including social service, education, art, therapy, and rehabilitation) as a set of practices, meanings, and metaphors; and finally,
3. how I have strategically utilized horticulture to regenerate and develop both man made and natural environments, for the purpose of urban renewal, as a medium for environmental preservation and restoration, and finally, as a metaphor for organization development.

Bringing these career elements together, I will share how these horticulture experiences and skills have informed my practice of organizational leadership, providing some examples of how theory in the field of organizational leadership and development correlates to the horticultural model of leadership. The essay culminates with examples of how I intend to apply these ideas in my life and work.


A unique aspect of my career is that I have been able to successfully integrate seemingly disparate elements of my life work, including social service, horticulture, and art. As I reflect back upon the patterns and relationships that have emerged from my life experience utilizing horticulture and the environment as mediums for providing service to humanity and the environment, I am impressed by how deeply affected I was by my early childhood experiences, and the indelible effect it has had on my life. What is the nature of my leadership experience? What have I done and why? When, where and for how long did I have the experience?

Experience is the ultimate sculpture, and it has fundamentally shaped my views of leadership. I have been extremely fortunate to have career experiences that have combined social service with environmental regeneration and horticulture therapy. Along the path of my diverse social service career, I have managed to acquire a parallel and ‘supporting cast’ of skills and master level proficiency in horticulture and small-scale agriculture. These skills include a wide range of skills in cultural practices, equipment and tool use, plant materials, propagation, landscape design, irrigation systems, weed and soil management, and nursery/greenhouse production. My career highlights in horticulture include having worked in the role of gardener, landscape designer and installer, program director (developing and managing large scale and successful urban agriculture and horticulture therapy programs), designing and teaching a high school vocational course of landscape design and ornamental nursery production, and now serving as the Executive Director of a garden based learning organization.

My introduction to the world of gardening and horticulture came both from natural as well as nurturing experiences. There are certain childhood experiences I have had that have held the quality or sense of being prophetic (having portent or almost ominous importance to future life events), or reflecting a kind of transcendental spiritual quality. These experiences have had a powerful impact on how I see (as well as desire to) interact with my environment, whether it be natural (nature) or un-natural (man-made, including organizational environments).

“Delight comes from plants and springs and gardens and gentle winds and flowers and the song of birds.” –Libanios, 314-c.393 AD

While I have had many of these distinctive and specific memories of awakening to the spiritual aspects of my worldly existence in relation to the natural environment, there is one experience that I would like to share. The particular experience that I describe holds the impact and importance of essentially being a milestone in my emerging consciousness and self-realization, particularly with respect to me becoming an artist and horticulturist concerned with the natural environment. While still a small child, I was visiting with my Grandparents at their old New England farmhouse in the Berkshires of rural Massachusetts. I somehow managed to toddle off down through the pasture surrounding the farmhouse into the nearby woods and came into a golden-green meadow shimmering with tulips in full bloom. I climbed up onto a big boulder and watched with awe and respect as a herd of giant (from the perspective of a small child) cows grazed through. A luminescent light shown down through the treetops, and in this moment, I had my first conscious experience of the divine and radiant power of nature and creation, and the magic of this moment left an indelible impression on me for the rest of my life.

Since this is not an essay on the personal experience of transcendental spirituality or eco-psychology, I won’t dissect the experience I described here any further. Simply allow me to state that I have had many similar experiences throughout my life like the one I just described. These experiences have had the effect of being like powerful magnets, drawing me, calling me to a life purpose that I associate not only with my vocational interests, but also with my most personal sense of “divine purpose” and individual spirituality that is grounded in this earthly domain and this physical body. I don’t believe in “accidents,” in matters such as these, and I hold the personal belief that we are wise to listen when we perceive the Spirit speaking to us through life experiences that stand out in ways that sometimes defy words of logical description. In my individual case, let it suffice to say that I believe I have received divine inspiration through a nexus of interactions with the world of plants, humans, and other aspects of the natural environment. This source of inspiration also informs my approach to leadership and organization in fundamental ways.

If you have doubts or wonder as to whether nature is divine, or the divine speaks through nature, then you might hold up a microscope and look closely at the contents and workings of the compost pile, or examine a cubic foot of healthy soil. Therein you will find millions of organisms all working together in raucous and supreme harmony and community, striving in an orderly manner to recycle and release nutrients that filled with impetus and energy that has been forwarded through time and space from an energy SOURCE so many light years away that we can only feebly guess how far with our tools of art and physics. Can you in any scientific or logical way separate the Divine from the even the humblest of matter? If so, you would have to work overtime to convince me that your reasoning is sound.

In case the reader is beginning to wonder whether this essay is going to be some sort of new age, “back to nature,” treatise built upon flowery metaphors and religious ideation, then please rest assured that my developmental and intellectual connections to horticulture have very earthly, practical, and logical components. I believe the best way for me to prove this is to actually share some of my actual experience, so that the reader will have the opportunity to see that my thinking is not born in the world of metaphor, but rather firmly grounded in the world of experience.

I spent some my earlier years growing up in semi-rural Michigan, and was exposed from an early age to the “joys of home gardening.” I say this with a mild degree of sardonic irony, because my earliest experiences of working in the garden included performing countless hours of menial, grueling, and relatively un-rewarding labor in the performance of tasks that included raking acres of leaves and burning them, mowing vast, wild, and weed infested lawn areas with primitive gas powered “push” mowers, clearing brush, fallen trees and limbs, pruning massive mid-western specimens of overgrown Lilac and Honeysuckle shrubs, and other less glamorous horticultural tasks such as raking and burning piles of leaves.

My dear departed mother, God rest her gardening soul, was a nature lover and an avid gardener who couldn’t wait to get seeds in the ground as soon as it thawed. She would refer to the garden in her poetry as one of her “places of refuge.” Unfortunately, she was a single working parent of three children, and her passion for gardening was not matched by the availability of the countless “leisure time” hours the avocation requires to sustain garden productivity and to cultivate the sense of gardening as a “healing experience.” This fact is painfully imbedded in the memories I have, when at the behest of my mother’s plea for help, my siblings and I would gloomily march out to the garden to assist my mother in pulling out the overgrown weeds that often frequented and quickly overcame my mother’s gardens. For us, the garden was not a place of refuge, but a mini-garden-gulag, where we suffered as under-aged slave laborers. Only my mother’s profound and infectious love of nature transcended the painfulness of this experience.

Generally not one to allow my experience of misfortune to dictate my future success, I took the entrepreneurial approach, putting my hard earned horticultural skills to work, and began earning an income at a very young age, employed in the exciting and “profitable” field of horticulture. Horticulture, like any other disciplines in the arts and sciences, requires the serious devotee to “pay one’s dues.” Suffice it to say that I paid mine, engaged in countless hours of mowing lawns and performing back-breaking yard work for hire. Later in life, while in my early teens, my family moved “out west,” eventually finding a home in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, where I continued to seek and find work as a neighborhood “gardener for hire.” The Hollywood Hills, like some of the other urban / rural interface zones of my childhood, provided another set of experiences that juxtaposed and contrasted the natural as well as not so natural upon the landscape of my life experience. Gardening in the Hollywood hills requires interpersonal skills (dealing with some of the most bizarre “Hollywood characters”) as well as mountain climbing skills. People in the Hollywood hills seem to prefer what is euphemistically referred to as the “jungle look,” until their beloved jungle overtakes their house, and then they call you up for help to beat back the English Ivy, Sumac, Poison Oak, and Lantana. A gardener in the Hollywood hills is more than happy to mow a lawn on the rare occasion that one appears.

Years passed and I was attending college while still living in the midst of urban Los Angeles. An opportunity presented itself and I entered into my first full time job in the social service field. Life can be wonderfully strange and twisting, much like the roots of a Wisteria tree (I call it “Hysteria,” in reference to certain specimens I have had to wrestle with). This very first professional experience had the effect of leading me (literally and figuratively) back to my horticultural roots. I was hired by an interfaith organization to develop strategies for responding to and mitigating inner-city hunger and malnutrition in the Los Angeles region. I had the extremely good fortune of being involved at the beginning phase of developing the “Hunger Organizing Team” (HOT), a federally funded project of the Southern California Council of Churches and the Interfaith Hunger Coalition. Jimmy Carter was President and his administration was funding innovative responses to hunger and malnutrition in the inner cities of America. The HOT received a large, multi-year demonstration grant, via the Community Services Administration, and the newly formed program provided me with a job that lasted several years and provided me with an introduction to social service that was so powerful and inspiring, I decided that this work was to be my lifetime calling. I was hooked!

I began my work with HOT by researching existing innovative strategies for combating inner city hunger and malnutrition. I had the opportunity to travel around the United States, visiting some of the model alternative food programs and production sites. I added this new knowledge to my earlier life experiences in gardening. The program I then developed and coordinated became one of the key efforts of the HOT’s anti-hunger and malnutrition programs in Los Angeles County. I served in the key role of working as a program developer and project coordinator, setting up the programs, hiring the staff, and following through to full implementation.

The first phase of my work involved creating a “food self-sufficiency” team that was responsible for developing Certified Farmers Markets in low-income communities throughout the Los Angeles area. I worked with more than 150 community groups, churches, and government entities in low-income neighborhoods throughout the Los Angeles area as I involved with organizing the first twelve successful Certified Farmer’s Markets in Southern California. After the process of organizing farmers markets was well underway, I was presented with the opportunity to develop additional strategies for creating food self-sufficiency with the development of an urban agriculture demonstration program.

I expanded the HOT program to include the development of an Urban Agriculture project that included directing land access, developing and managing four urban agriculture demonstration sites ranging from 1/6 to 11 acres (totaling 21 acres of land) in cultivation at locations in low-income neighborhoods throughout the Los Angeles region. I acquired technical assistance, zoning variances, permits, and licenses, contracts, etc., building cooperative relationships with city, and county, and state officials. One site was under the power lines, another on a section of the yet un-built 105 Freeway, and another on a vacant lot.

I developed resources, solicited donations, and participated in an economic viability research team. I organized the first major urban agriculture conference in Los Angeles involving the co-sponsorship of five government agencies and The Trust for Public Land. I personally trained and supervised four “urban agriculture” workers and helped to develop a volunteer corps. I developed a mobile urban agriculture operation using a pickup, a trailer, a high-powered Italian “walking tractor,” a sort of high-end rototiller, and other horticulture equipment that could be easily moved from site to site. I learned about what the ideal “vandal proof” urban crop list might look like; avoiding projectile-prone crops like tomatoes or watermelons, and selecting high value crops that require labor intensive harvesting, such as snow peas, sugar snap peas, and fresh herbs. All this happened during my first full-time social service job!

During the last 30 years, I have accumulated many similar experiences that have called upon me to dig into both my horticulture and leadership skill sets. It has been a rich career, but I do not want this to be a review of my life work experiences, as fascinating as they might be. Please allow me to shift the focus to how the experience has affected my philosophy of leadership. Along the way, I met some remarkable gardeners and leaders; mentors in other words. In addition to my mother, I had the good fortune to get to become acquainted with a few other great souls who inspired greatness in me through the garden, including:

Earl Ambeau, a community gardener in South Central Los Angeles, who taught me how to hoe a row, plant beans and peas, and how to be an urban farmer.

“Jolly” Batchellor, the famous and good humored horticulturist responsible for starting the renowned Ornamental Horticulture Department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, who taught me that academic horticulture has a wonderful history and tradition.

Ed Barnes, once professor of agriculture and founder of Land Lab, and now Vice President of Administrative Affairs and Chief Financial Officer for Cal Poly Pomona, who taught me that horticulture skills are transferable into the world of business as well as academia.

Amalia Vasquez, Indigenous Guatemalan (Mam) Midwife, Weaver, Herbalist and Gardener, who taught me that our relationship to the earth is fundamental to our life being. Each of these leaders demonstrates remarkable skills that cross-fertilize the domains of leadership and horticulture.

Horticultural leaders sometimes emerge in the mass culture, and one of my favorite “horticultural” films is “Being There,” from the novel by Jerzy Kosinski. Peter Sellers stars in the movie, masterfully and hysterically portraying a humble gardener, perhaps developmentally out of step (or is it the world’s development that is out of step?), who through a series of hilarious circumstances becomes an advisor to the power elite of the planet. At one point in the film, the President of the United States describes his admiration for “Chance Gardiner,” quoting what he believes to be metaphorical wisdom of profound global importance:

“I found Mr. Gardiner to have a feeling for this country that we need more of. He likened us to a garden. To quote Mr. Gardiner, a most intuitive man, ‘As long as the roots of industry remain firmly planted in the national soil, the economic prospects are un-doubtedly sunny. Gentlemen, let us not fear the inevitable chill and storms of autumn and winter, instead, let us anticipate the rapid growth of springtime, let us await the rewards of summer. As in a garden of the earth, let us learn to accept and appreciate the times when the trees are bare as well as the times when we pick the fruit.’”

I reference this passage with the hope that my philosophy toward life and leadership is not received without good humor and understanding, classifying me as some sort of mixed-up fringe horticultural / organization development character who takes gardening far too seriously. Deep down in my heart and soul, I believe that one of the human race’s most useful functions is to be good gardeners upon the planet earth. Horticulture is a framework of stewardship that, in its best light, is a practice of cultivating places of treasure, creating places of rescue, and fostering regeneration. I truly believe organizations can be also become places of cultivated treasure and transformation.


As I reflect back upon the patterns and relationships that have emerged from my life experience utilizing horticulture and the environment as mediums for providing service to my fellow humanity and my environment, I am impressed by how deeply affected I was by my early childhood experiences, and the indelible effect it has had on my life. There is an ancient garden quote of metaphysical proportions that goes something like “We are at once the gardener, the garden, and that which is being gardened.” For me, my interests in horticulture and environmental work have been more than an avocation, a locus of vocational skills, or a career path. My interactions with the plant world have been one of my filters of choice to see and interact with the world. The world is my garden. If I have anything that resembles a useful religion or leadership practice, it is my knowledge and application of horticulture. It is my most practical way of interacting with the natural and unnatural world.

The landscape of childhood has a tremendous impact on the development of ones life. The human experience of the environment is complex. We are products of nature and nurture. Our ability to function in life is deeply impacted by our ability to interact and cope with our environment. Today, we are faced with a new disease called “nature deficit disorder,” and we now have social movements that carry the banner “no child left inside.” In a landmark book called "Last Child in the Woods,” journalist Richard Louv describes “a growing body of scientific research that suggests children who are given early and ongoing positive exposure to nature thrive in intellectual, spiritual and physical ways that their shut-in peers do not.” Nature-play" reduces stress, sharpens concentration, and promotes creative problem solving and is emerging as a promising therapy for attention-deficit disorder and other childhood maladies. Louv’s work suggests that while “increased exposure to nature may prove a salve for many of the childhood disorders that now run rampant, the very ubiquity of those disorders is evidence that generations of alienation from nature may have already resulted in considerable harm to our kids.” I will take this logic a step further and suggest that nature deficit disorder is equally evident in the world of adults, and this is quite evident within our organizational landscapes.

While I can (and do!) elaborate upon the more mundane aspects of my work in horticulture, I feel it is important for me to state my overriding interest and sacred relationship to the art of horticulture. With all due respect to the reader’s own understanding of Genesis, I believe that we have only been cast out of Eden insomuch as we allow ourselves to throw away or ignore the sacred gifts and tools that we have been given to in order to participate in this paradise-garden of earth. I cannot embrace theology and interpretations of what is presented as “God’s word” that has the effect of disconnecting us or estranging us from our natural environment. The global situation we face today, both in terms of our humanity as well as our environment, would benefit greatly if we would all accept what I believe to be our fundamental sacred role as “gardeners” or servant-stewards in this amazing global garden that has been presented to us. I suggest that this applies equally applies to leadership and organization. Every relationship and every organization presents us with equal opportunities to cultivate a garden, a sacred space that holds limitless potential to cultivate life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

Please forgive me--I can’t help but speak in Biblical proportions as I look back on my “career” in horticulture. At the beginning of my social service career, if you had told me that I was going to have a life experience that would allow me to intertwine social service, horticulture, and art all within my professional career; I probably would have laughed out loud. I can’t tell you how many people in all three of these domains have coveted my fortunate possession of paying jobs (no matter how minuscule the salary!) that have consistently allowed my to “follow my bliss,” in the immortal words of Joseph Campbell, and pursue my passions and vocational interests in a way that has allowed a creative weaving of interests that is tremendously fulfilling.

I don’t know where all of this is going, but even if I were to end up in a “composting state” (or in advanced composition, such as this essay—ha, ha!) tomorrow, I would feel a sense of enormous fulfillment upon leaving this physical body behind, returning its most salient nutrients to the earth from which it came. In other words, I feel enormously fulfilled by horticulture, how it speaks to my soul, and to the soul of my work.


Gardening and horticulture perhaps represent humanity’s oldest and earliest organization of the skills required to draw out from nature that which sustains us, materially and non-materially. In essence, the fields that we now call “leadership” or “organization development” can literally and figuratively trace roots back to the garden and farm, the earliest form of organized human industry. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that human organization once existed in settings more dominated by nature (such as those associated with agricultural enterprises). Agrarian leadership is probably among the oldest forms of leadership in human history. Humans emerged from being hunters and gatherers to being agriculturists approximately 12,000 years ago. The practices of agriculture and horticulture have had tremendous impact upon human organization and development. Leadership initiatives in the field of agriculture today reveal that the concerns of agricultural leaders are very much in alignment with those of mainstream society. For example, a cursory review of contemporary agricultural leadership development initiatives includes the following topics that are of interest to nationwide agricultural organizations:

* functions and inter-relationships of organizations
* government, legislative and lobbying processes
* economic and social issues
* government agencies and building relationships
* networking techniques for building relationships
* effective meeting management
* techniques for effective public speaking
* asset management
* characteristics of an effective team
* strategies for achieving prosperity and viability
* effective marketing strategies

Most of these topics, while of specific interest to agricultural leaders, are probably of interest to most business leaders today. This speaks to the transferability of agricultural knowledge and skill, both to and from the general business community.

The human experience of the environment is complex. We are products of nature and nurture. Our ability to function in life is deeply impacted by our ability to interact and cope with our environment. Gardening and horticulture perhaps represent humanity’s oldest and earliest organization of the skills required to draw out from nature that which sustains us, materially and non-materially. The gardening experience has a powerful affect upon human sociology, vocation, recreation, organization, and psychology. Quite a bit of research has looked at the horticulture experience with a clinical lens. I have worked many years in the field of horticulture therapy, a field that builds upon the numerous psychological benefits that can be found in garden-based experiences. A whole branch of psychology is referred to as “environmental psychology.” Two aspects of environmental psychology involve territory and privacy. In essence, there is significant correlation between human psychic space and the environment that surrounds us. The creation and maintenance of a garden involves both physical and psychic processes that can be of tremendous value to the flesh as well as the spirit. These ideas very much correlate to dynamics that have to do with organizational space, territories, and boundaries.

The garden is place that is about creating as well as transgressing boundaries. Gardens are places to cultivate living and dynamic treasures, to find refuge, to explore faith, to engage the power of growth, to find order through interacting with creation and the Creator (however one might choose to define the powerful force of life that pulses through, and binds together all life in one dynamic web), to express culture, to find one’s place in nature, and to heal one’s self through becoming a steward and caretaker to other living things. It is important to place all of the aspects of my horticulture experience and knowledge into these global aspects concerning the environment and the human spirit.

Much of my career has involved the work of “Horticultural Therapy,” a discipline that allows the participants to develop new cognitive skills and vocabulary, building vocational skills in addition to aiding our own self-actualization. Cutting edge neuro-science indicates that multi-tasking activities such as horticulture may have the impact of developing new neural pathways, helping the brain function to improve, and at the very least, sustain its capacity. There is a great need for healing and empowerment through adjunctive therapies. Horticultural Therapy allows survivors of life’s traumas and stressors to re-connect and relate to themselves, to others, and to the natural world in more productive ways, improving human function, and our ability to continue the journey. Horticultural Therapy provides opportunities for individuals as well as groups to improve self esteem and self confidence, enabling the participant to better fulfill their human potential, and even experience self actualization, even “transcendence,” that state in which are able to serve something even greater than our self. On the simplest of levels, almost any work in the garden is therapeutic, performing physical work and exercising our bodies and minds in beneficial ways that have lasting effects. Gardens heal us through engaging us in the act of creation, of creating beauty.

The earliest known records of humanity have attempted to record elements of our history and relationship to the landscape. From the caves of Lascaux, France to the stones of Stonehenge, Wiltshire, we see evidence that the landscape is of profound importance to our civilization. An observance of this writer is that the further we get from realizing the profundity and importance of our relationship to the earth-scape (global environment), the less “civilized” we become. This applies to humans individually and collectively, and is readily apparent in human organization. When we are disconnected from our natural landscape or earth-scape, the affects manifest in all aspects of human endeavors, including organization. Organizations and leaders that lost touch with the external environment are at not only at risk for losing their competitive edge within the business world, but also from powerful forces that are unfolding in the global environment.

In the next period of human history, we are going to see global change on a scale that is unprecedented, as the impacts of global warming and other environmental impacts unfold. At this time in history, we need a level of collaboration, leadership, and organizational action that is surpasses all those evident in previous history. The threats posed by global warming will require us all to make personal choices, and the mitigation of threats posed by global warming will require tremendous collaboration from within the business and organizational realm. In the near future, business opportunities involving environmental mitigation or change will literally mean “do or die.”

One of the most significant steps forward in human evolution was the evolution of man from hunter to agriculturist, approximately 12,000 years ago. The Sumerians and Babylonians may have been the first cultures to organize their environment into gardens, and to direct the path of water to flow around their most cherished crops and plants. As civilization evolved, a division between the idealized God and Creation emerged within the bi-polar mind of man, based upon the limits of theological imagination and perhaps the very duality of his brain structure. One concept emphasized the ideal within the human nature, and the other ideal within the physical environment. Gradually, human consciousness separated the concept of God from God’s Creation, creating a rift that has had a profound impact on the earth and human consciousness. This same rift exists within the organizations of man. If Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, humanity now may well be asking on some level of the metaphorical subconscious: “why bother to save it?”

Chris Argyris and others have pioneered approaches such as “action science,” in the realms of organizational leadership and development that provide humanity with methodology to work through our ambivalence and inaction with regard to social and environmental challenges. Action science is an organization development strategy for increasing the skills and confidence of individuals in groups and organizations and to establish long-term impacts and effectiveness. This strategy applies to human and organizational relations as well as environmental relations, and provides a framework for individuals and organizations to work on challenging tasks together, and is already being applied to solve environmental problems such as global warming. In fact, the level of leadership and organization development in the environmental field has currently reached an unprecedented level. An example of this is Vice President Al Gore’s presentation “Inconvenient Truth,” a multimedia campaign and organization that is a focus for a worldwide training and education that focuses on the problem of global warming and misinformation about this leading environmental problem. The environmental movement is represented by a wide range of organizations that exist on local, national, and international scales. Furthermore, the business community is rapidly adopting elements of the environmental movement into business models that are built upon social and environmental enterprise principles, or “enlightened self-interests,” however you may choose to view this phenomenon. In fact, there is a whole new branch of the environmental movement that is predicated upon the idea that in order for true environmental change to occur, the business community must be fully integrated into the global environmental movement. Environmental jobs are increasing at an exponential rate, and these types of jobs represent one of leading employment growth sectors. The organizations and businesses that are providing these jobs are quite likely to consider the words of Peter Senge to be prophetic, or at the very least germane to how organizations fulfill their human resource needs in future:

“Perhaps treating companies like machines keeps them from changing, or makes changing them much more difficult. We keep bringing in mechanics -- when what we need are gardeners. We keep trying to drive change -- when what we need to do is cultivate change. Surprisingly, this mechanical mind-set can afflict those who seek "humane" changes through learning organizations" just as much as it can afflict those who drive more traditional changes, such as mergers and reorganizations.” (Senge)

In contrast to the animistic gardeners of the past, the modern horticulturist (or business leader) may now choose to simply be a mechanic, no longer “cultivating places of treasure,” and interacting with the Spirit, but rather coldly manipulating animate “plant materials” (business operations) and inanimate “soil medium” (business products) objects, in the steely pursuit of productivity and “wealth” derived from human ingenuity. Living plants (or dynamic business processes) become “botanical specimens” (or “strictly business” objects). Gardens (or organizations) become “built landscapes” instead of complex living systems. Living soil (or human beings) becomes “dirt” (labor assets) to be plowed (exploited or managed), and sprayed with chemicals (money or physical assets); a substance merely existing to hold up plants (or objects of economic interest). These are not sustainable strategies in either the world of horticulture or organization. Soil erosion has become the world’s greatest environmental problem, along with the parallel erosion of humanity, while man has conducted himself so poorly as to allow the abundant earth that sustains all life to simply wash away, and settle at the bottom of the oceans. It is my opinion that these erosions are not occurring coincidentally, but rather in relationship to each other, so linking the logic of the global gardener with that of the global leader is not an abstract exercise, but rather one that is worth significant merit as an exercise of thought, inquiry, and action.

As we have evolved, we have distanced ourselves from our natural world, so much so that we have now created highly specialized forms of art, science, and therapy to help us to preserve and restore this eroded connection (“nature deficit disorder”). The indigenous people of the earth have not forgotten that sacred connection, and struggle to remind us, while they struggle for their very own survival. Endangered species have voices that are barely heard by humanity while we delight ourselves down at the “garden center,” seeking to collect and preserve only those species that we can manage well in our cultivated gardens. Meanwhile, we avoid the wildest entities of nature that frighten modern instincts that are at odds with Creation. Horticulture can be of most value if it is cultivated as a medium for regeneration of the human spirit and human-organization development, as well as the restoration of the environment, creating a garden path that leads to a greener future supported by better leaders, and better organizations that are built upon the fertile ground of green ethics, eco-logical politics, and sustainable economies.

In an anthology titled “Earth Keepers,” we are reminded that our reality must include the needs and limitations of what nature has to give, in a quote by James and Roberta Swan: “Our environmental problems are the results of dreams and visions that came in conflict with the workings of nature. Our dreams did not take into account nature’s patterns and limitations, and we did not design our products and processes with these in mind. A sustainable future involves having a new vision, one in which our needs as a society are seen in the context of what nature has to give.”

One analogy I see between horticulture and organizational leadership is that all landscapes (including the organizational landscape) can be viewed at different levels and with different filters or lens. On one level you see what perhaps everyone can see, the most obvious elements that are typically “above ground,” or visible with the naked eye. You could equate this to the plants, the surface of the soil, the water or the programs, products, services, and operations of an organization. However, the master gardener as well as the successful leader is trained to look deeper into the landscape before them. These individuals have x-ray vision and a powerful framework of values that enable them to see much more than what lies upon the surface. The master gardener might see an empty urban lot as a community garden, and the master leader might see powerful organization growing from a simple set of ideas. These are individuals with a sense of mission, who can see the past, present, and future all at once in a powerful vision. They see the infrastructures, underlying systems, and relationships that create a successful landscape or organization. These transformational leaders see the helpful mechanisms, they diagnose strengths as well as weaknesses, and they design and build “fields of dreams,” that become realities that invite harmony, community, and productivity…and the people do come!

A garden is not truly a natural place, that is to say that nature created its own natural “gardens” long before humans arrived, and human-made landscapes have their own values, order, balance, and purposes. The human influence on the natural landscape has been both fortunate and unfortunate and the relationship between humans and the natural world provides rich metaphors for the organizational landscape. “Horticulture” is a term we use to describe one systematic approach to relating to the natural world, and provides a rich set of terms, processes, metaphors, and points of inspiration that can be most useful in the realms of organization and leadership, which also happen to be human inventions that reveal tensions, resistance, and harmonies with respect to the natural and sometimes not-so-natural order.

On a practical level, horticulture provides a medium that develops transferable skills, many of which transcend the nuts and bolts aspects of hoeing a row or planting a seed, and speak to the cultivation of self and leadership capacity. Horticulture provides a rich medium for teaching that facilitates the participant’s success in a variety of environments and situations. Horticulture provides a dynamic interactive environment wherein soil is cultivated, plants are grown, but wherein people are the most important crop. Examples of these transferable skills include:

Self esteem and confidence are built through encouraging participants to try out new experiences, make mistakes, fail, learn, and experience daily successes. Horticulture activities emphasize independent positive action (self-regulation), elbow grease (significant personal effort), and not a “green thumb” (magic). Challenging work that readily demonstrates results is meaningful to self, society, and the environment. A sense of purpose and value is experienced by the participants.

Leadership, assertiveness, motivation, and initiative are cultivated in participants while they learn to be self starters, initiate additional tasks, and solve problems through interactions with complex biological systems and communicating with fellow gardeners (co-workers). Listening skills and environmental sensitivity (emotional intelligence) are cultivated.

Gardening requires the ability to discern and differentiate between textures, sizes, quantities, colors, smells, forms, tools, plants, and myriad other elements. Discernment is developed in a broad range of activities that involve life processes and materials that stimulate and engage the senses. The ability to see connections and inter-relationships between complex systems is vitally important in the garden as well as any organizational environment.

Fine and gross motor abilities are developed through participating in a range of physical activities that improve coordination, dexterity, strength, speed, and accuracy…often employed while multi-tasking and engaged in deep self-reflection. Every leader similarly needs to manage complex operations while never losing sight of the “big picture.”

Environmental awareness and sensitivity are built through interaction with living organisms and systems, orientation to season, response to weather patterns, and adaptation to geography and micro-environments. An appreciation of natural science is provided. An artful sense of emotional intelligence, magic, mystery, and poetry is cultivated by having the opportunity to listen to the “songs of the rolling earth.” (Whitman) Leaders in today’s global economy must continuously be aware of the external environment. Leadership is both an art and a science, but the mindset of an artist or poet is critical in terms of having the “poetic license” to see what no one else can yet – to imagine the future. “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” (Einstein)

Responsibility and stewardship (caring of the environment and place of work) are cultivated through daily (individual as well as team) responsibilities. Opportunities are plentiful that “give fruit before one’s eyes”. Leadership confidence is strengthened by getting results.

Consistency and the ability to complete tasks in an organized sequence are developed through participation in routine tasks that have clearly defined standards of quality and timing.

Working in an environment outside of walls and traditional boundaries, participants make independent decisions, thinking independently and cooperating through teamwork. True leaders embody and encourage “thinking out of the box” without acting as a “lone ranger.”

Productivity and quality standards are reinforced through involvement in structured activities, daily routines, schedules, natural consequences, consistency, support, and limit setting. Self regulation and self discipline are essential qualities of any leader.

Safety skills and prevention of accidents are built through participating in emergency drills and routine exercises, learning proper body mechanics as well as proper lifting and stooping techniques, and emphasis on an orderly and clean workplace. Safety is an accident! Good business practice and organizational leadership must include a consciousness of safety that is conceived from knowing and adhering to safety procedures and laws. Chaos (and lawsuits) prevails in the absence of safety.

Positive work habits, behaviors, and attitudes are encouraged. Emphasis is placed on attendance and punctuality, responsiveness to supervision, and positive reinforcement during work activities.

Characteristics such as creativity, communication, resourcefulness, adaptation, and innovation are nourished while participants are exposed to new ideas, activities, people, situations, and challenges. “First comes thought; then organization of that thought into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” (Napoleon Hill)

Adapting to change is developed through transitioning through different tasks that respond to the environment and life processes. Traits such as versatility and flexibility are fostered by the ambient occurrences of natural systems.

Mike Steven, a researcher and Landscape Architect at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, conducted a research project entitled "The Congruent Garden: an Investigation into the Role of the Domestic Garden in Satisfying Fundamental Human Needs." Stevens interviewed gardeners on the values of gardening in their everyday lives, and established that gardens have the potential to satisfy basic human needs (dwelling, nurture, pleasure, enlightenment, and being fully human) across four existential states (being, having, doing and interacting). The latter research is germane to the topic of organizational leadership and congruency, and provides an inspiration point to conjoin research and concepts in the field of horticulture (gardening, horticulture therapy, landscape design, etc.) with the field of organization development and leadership.

This is just a beginning in terms of defining my own knowledge base with regard to the horticultural model of leadership. I have recently accepted the position of Executive Director of Collective Roots, a nonprofit organization focused on garden based learning and the cultivation of youth leadership. This essay has provided me a propitious opportunity to gather thoughts around this rich topic as I take this important step in my career. I consider the development of this theme to be the opening of a body of inquiry that I will include as a core element of Collective Works programmatic endeavors. I hope to do this in a collaborative environment and network, using a new online tool called a content management system (CMS).

Several seminal authors’ ideas whose work focuses on organizational leadership correlate to those presented in this paper:

Gareth Morgan, renowned author and research professor at York University in Toronto, where he teaches at the Schulich School of Business.

Robert Greenleaf, author, consultant, and professor widely credited for defining the concept of servant leadership.

Peter Senge, Senior Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Founding Chair of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL).

The following overview provides a few highlights of how the ideas of these leaders correlates to the topic of horticultural leadership.

There are many examples of research and writing that provide foundations for this linkage, and a goal of this essay to strengthen linkages between these diverse and multi-disciplinary fields. Particularly germane to this conversation is the work of Gareth Morgan, author of the landmark work “Images of Organization.” In this work, Morgan explores the idea of “organizations as organisms,” open living systems, much like gardens or other nature based habitats, that rich metaphorical basis for inquiry and understanding of social ecologies that include populations (species) and habitats (organizations). In this framework of thinking, one might replace the term “organizational doctors” with “organizational gardeners” and “organizational leadership and change” becomes the domain of the “leader as gardener.”

This thinking is also very much in alignment with the ideas represented by “servant leadership.” Robert Greenleaf, author of Servant as Leader, states:

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. He or she is sharply different from the person who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.” This type of leadership is very much akin to the role of the gardener, whose efforts to lead are usually tempered by nature and humbled by the work of cultivating the soil and collective soul of the garden…a leadership characterized by “unimpressiveness.”

Peter Senge said, "Perhaps treating companies like machines keeps them from changing, or makes changing them much more difficult. We keep bringing mechanics when what we need are gardeners. We keep trying to drive change–when what is needed is to cultivate change." Gardening metaphors are employed by Senge on a variety of occasions. He believes that leaders must cultivate change, much like a gardener who digs away in the garden for the shear joy of discovery. Senge enlightens the business world with gardening logic, championing the cause of transformation, and beseeching leaders to reach for the digging fork rather than the PowerPoint presentation. Tools can either be used to explore or to spoon feed. Transformational leadership wears the yoke of humility, and requires the mindset of a gardener rather than a mechanic.

“Leaders must approach change as if they were growing something rather than changing something.” (Senge) Genuine transformation is cultivated within the heart and mind of the leader as gardener. The gardener / leader views the organization as a garden / organization as a place where life forces and the spirit can flourish. The gardener / leader grows along with the garden / organization, learning to lead by working in alignment with the forces of nature, and fertilizing often. The gardener / leader cultivates a learning garden / organization. In this garden / organization, transformation and growth is inevitable.


As I look forward to future chapters of my life, I have found this writing exercise to be full of joy and inspiration. I can’t imagine a more rewarding life, or a more remarkable avocation. Horticulture is filled with transferable skills that have been applicable in many parts of life. Like Chance Gardiner of “Being There,” I sometimes feel like I’m socially or developmentally delayed, cognitively out of step with so many of my fellow humans who disconnected from the global garden. Mesmerized by television and the Internet, we are sucked away from our own divine powers of vision and the ‘ultimate internet,’ the original network of physical and metaphysical power and information that is overflowing in the Garden with a capital “G.”

My gardening and organizational life has woven together human service, and horticulture with therapeutic, educational, and environmental elements; a triad of horticultural application. As I work toward completion of a Master’s Degree in Organization Development, an additional dimension to my horticulture career is coming into focus: the realization that horticulture has provided me with the inspirational locus and framework that allows my own leadership development to become fully actualized. As I assume the role of Executive Director of a garden based learning organization focused on the cultivation of youth leadership, I realize that my unusual work history and life path is now coming together in a very powerful way at this an exciting phase of my career where all that I have been, and all that I want to be as a leader is becoming manifest in the context of the Garden. In a world that is teetering out of balance, I have managed to find balance, purpose, and vocation in horticultural practices and a philosophy of “global gardening.”

I am not as innocent, naïve, or lucky as a character like Chance Gardiner. Unlike Chance, I am burdened with the thought that my gardening wisdom and experience is likely to meet a limit at some point. Nonetheless, I think God must be a Gardener, because no matter how hard I try to push my horticultural limits into non-traditional realms, the perimeter of my wild Garden thinking and work just seems to keep expanding and succeeding. I have been given the ultimate of gift of being able to follow my bliss. The journey has become so rich, that I must now give pause and thanks for the blessings and bounty from the garden that keeps arriving in so many areas of my life.

On a more practical note, I dream of expanding and weaving together my work in the social service, organization development, and environmental domains. I have a list of garden designs, programs, and idea sets that are now getting shuffled into the deck of my organizational life. Every gardener, including this one, dreams of creating the “ultimate garden.” The garden of my dreams is a garden that is sustained by a vision that would transcend my own, taking on a life of its own. This is in alignment with my organizational dreams. The only way for these dreams to happen is develop the future gardeners and leaders. Gardens and organizations will come and go. It seems unlikely that plants or other forms of garden life are capable of holding and sustaining our visions and dreams. It is the gardeners that we must invest in order to develop and preserve the precious habitats of earth. It is the future leaders that we must invest in to develop and sustain our precious organizations. This stewardship and mentorship, this servant leadership, is exactly what I want to cultivate in myself and others.

Another longer-term goal that I have involves teaching at the University level, but perhaps in the “classroom without walls.” One of my accomplishments was developing an internship program that placed college interns into field experience settings in Guatemala. I was amazed to receive student applications from far and wide and have sent a dozen students on exciting adventures of learning in the Mayan highlands. I am very excited about this model of service and international learning that is gaining popularity worldwide. I love this kind of education that cross-fertilizes and transcends conventional boundaries. I believe every citizen, at the very least every student, should have the opportunity to learn through service, and to experience cultures other than one’s own. These are the kind of experiences that change people forever, enabling them to become global citizens and global gardeners.

Enabling my applications of horticulture is my own horticultural library that includes hundreds of titles. My horticultural knowledge is constantly being fed. My organization development library is also increasing, and books from both of these genres are increasing sharing the same shelf. The writing of this essay has had the effect of passing my horticultural and organizational life through a sieve, bringing into focus the most salient and noteworthy aspects of my experience in these fields of endeavor. I will apply this newly focused thinking and writing toward my future writing efforts.

I will continue to apply my simple, yet complex, garden and organizational knowledge toward serving the cultivation of my own soul, and the needs of humanity and the environment. The horticulture and organizational leadership that I espouse is growing set of cultivation practices that are all encompassing, providing a sundial marking time and place, and a semaphore that lights up my life existence. It contains tools and cultural techniques that transcend the mundane or mechanical side of life, enhancing my life garden, fertilizing my crops, and leading me up toward the Big Harvest.

This exercise has given me the opportunity to take stock of the richness of my horticultural and organizational life, and to crystallize the lessons from it, presenting a compost pile / composition of experience that I can apply toward my future life designs and organizational plantings. This is the story of the unfolding landscape of my life, the gardens of my dreams, waiting to spring forward in the coming seasons of this amazing journey.

...And if you give your garden a lot of love, and if you work very hard and have a lot of patience, in the proper season you will see it grow to be very beautiful... –Chance Gardiner, “Being There”

Postscript: Wolfram Alderson completed a Masters in Organization Development in May 2008 at the University of San Francisco.


Baer, L., & Rhein, B. (1995). Earth Keepers: A Sourcebook for Environmental Issues and Action. San Francisco: Mercury House.

Francis, M., & Hester, R.T., Jr., (1990). The Meaning of Gardens. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Greenleaf, R., (1997). Servant Leadership. Paulist Press. New York.

Kaplan, S., & Kaplan R. (1982) Humanscape: Environments for People. Ann Arbor: Ulrich’s Books, Inc.

Lange, A., (2007). Etymology of Leadership, Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa.

Louv, R. (2005). Last Child in The Woods. Algonquin Books. New York.

Morgan, G., (1997). Images of Organization. Sage Publications. Thousand Oaks.

Moore, C., Mitchell, W., & Turnbull, W. (1997). The Poetics of Gardens. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

No Child Left Inside Retrieved July 21, 2007 from http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-11-21-no-child-left-inside_x.htm

Senge, P., (1990). The Fifth Discipline. Currency and Doubleday. New York.

Steven, Mike. (1998) The Congruent Garden: An Investigation into the Role of the Domestic Garden in Satisfying Fundamental Human Needs. Presented at the 1998 International People-Plant Symposium. University of Western Sydney.

McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston Massachusetts, Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program. Retrieved July 21, 2007 from http://www.mclean.harvard.edu/research/clinicalunit/dbrp/eet.php

Etymological Glossary of Key Words and Meanings Found in This Essay

The reader of this essay may already be familiar with the terms horticulture, gardener, lead, leader, leadership, and organization. However, what are the deeper meanings and origins of these words? Etymological explorations are provided in the addendum that provide the reader an opportunity to become familiar with meanings that provide a metaphorical foundation for the essay that follows.

These etymological meanings help to provide creative context for contemplating the meanings of horticulture, leadership, and organization.

Horticulture, noun

* the art or science of growing flowers, fruits, vegetables, and plants
* the cultivation of a garden

The etymology of the word horticulture consists of two root (Latin) parts: “hortus,” and “colere.” Hortus refers to a garden, or a “place of treasure.” Colere means to cultivate. Horticulture is a composite, or “hybrid” of interrelated disciplines, and is considered to be a study and practice that employs both art and science. These disciplines include botany, agriculture, landscaping (design, installation, and maintenance), plant production, environmental preservation and restoration, horticulture therapy, among many other areas of specialized study and application. The myriad disciplines within the field of horticulture are employed with varying levels of expertise and proficiency by amateurs and professionals alike, including: lay-specialists and academics, hobbyists and commercial growers, and perhaps the most well known of all horticulture practitioners, the proverbial “gardener.”

Gardener, noun

* a person who is employed to cultivate or care for a garden
* any person who gardens or is skillful in gardening
* one who works in or tends a garden for pleasure or hire

Lead, verb

* to guide, cause to go with one, lead, to travel, to go, to be in the first place

Leader, noun

* one that leads or guides
* one who is in charge or in command of others
* one who heads an organization
* one who has influence or power, especially of a political nature

Leadership, noun

* the position or function of a leader
* the ability to lead
* an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction

The etymology of the words lead, leader, and leadership offer cultural and linguistic meanings that provide context from which we can learn what leadership is about, and clearly provide some horticultural angles. The old Gothic word for leader sounded something like "laeden". Its original meaning was "to go forward or upward" and referred to any constructive action for the benefit of the community. The modern words "ladder", "belay" and "leader" have their roots in “laeden.”. Descendants of this word still exist in languages that are derivative of the old gothic, such as Afrikaans, including “lei” (to direct), “leiding” (managing), “lyding” (suffering), “lydend” (passive), and lydsaam “patient,” and “lye” (passion). While these words may not have survived into modern English usage, there meanings deepen our understanding of the term “leadership.” One of these surviving meanings is “load.” One useful exercise, inspired by ancient meanings, might be to ask which ancient meaning one’s leadership is aligned with: moving forward, uplifting, directing, managing, suffering, passive, patient, passionate, creative, or “load.”

The suffix "-ship" has etymological roots in the ancient Gothic word "schaeppen". Its meaning is "to create a thing of value". Etymologists explain that the first clay pots made for storing water and food were given the name "schop.” The Old English word "scoop" derives from this name. Shelters built to store claypots and other things of value were given the name "schoppa". “Shop" is an English word that derives from this name. The horticultural tool used to build with, was called a "schoppe" from which we now have the word "shovel". One might ask how much of the leadership experience is about “shoveling” and, more importantly, what is one doing with the shovel? Like many garden tools, this implement has both beneficial and detrimental uses. The “schoppe” tool was prepared from wood by a process from which the modern words "shave" and "chafe" are derived. The English word "shape" comes from the word "schappen" which means "to give form". Later when the first boats were created, they were also given the name "schoope" from which we now have the names "ship" and "skipper". The suffix "-schaep" was given to any job of creating something of value. The term "hertschaep" (sounds a lot like heart shape or hardship!) referred to someone who guarded the herd, or "tunschaep" (township) for someone who serviced the town garden. The old Gothic word “schaeppen” had a very rich meaning concerning everything which today is associated with the word "creativity". Leadership is, at best, is creativity in a human action, so it is valuable to define leader “-ship” in relationship to the ancient meaning of “-schaep”. If we really want to know what leadership means, then we also need to know what creativity means. If leadership is more of a journey (process), rather than a destination (stasis), then perhaps the metaphors of “shovels” and “cultivation” are meaningful terms in this creative exploration of meaning.

Organization, noun

* the act or process of organizing, the state or manner of being organized
* something that is organized, organic structure, composition
* a group of persons organized for some end or work; association: a nonprofit organization
* the administrative personnel or apparatus of a business
* an organism

(adjective) conforming entirely to the standards, rules, or demands of an organization

An organization is a corporation, a corpus, a body: and every organization has the potential of possessing the equivalent of a mind, body, and soul.

What is an organization, etymologically speaking? An organization is defined as a “diverse coordinated components or a sum greater than the parts, system, society, network, complex.” “Org” is the root of other words that may have meanings that may be germane to the general topics of leadership and organization.

For example: organ: an instrument or somewhat independent structure with specific functions and composed of various layers; organism: a functional somewhat independently living "thing" or individual.

These meanings may seem obscure or abstract, but one need not look very far or very deep in order to find examples of these meanings in modern day expressions of what organizations are and what they do.

Wolfram Alderson, About the Author

Wolfram Alderson: Summary of Professional Experience

Thirty years serving in key leadership roles involving design, development, and administration of innovative social service and environmental programs.

Highly successful team and community builder and leader of change initiatives.

Extensive experience and education in organizational leadership and development, systems change, public relations, training & education, fund-raising, quality assurance, and fiscal management of complex programs.

Demonstrated expertise in working with a wide range of populations, including youth, homeless, seniors, inner city poor, and people with severe mental and physical disabilities.

Achieved multidisciplinary integration of community and environmental programs, including exemplary service record in leading projects that bring together myriad elements such as mental health, environmental restoration, urban renewal, therapy and rehabilitation, expressive arts, and cross cultural exchange.

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Good gardens, like successful organizations or great leadership, rarely are rolled out from the top. They begin from the ground up, growing from small seeds and nurtured into systems of fertile production.

–Wolfram Alderson