Bob Tanem In the Garden

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About Bob Tanem



At age 85, Bob is a retired retail nurseryman. Up until 1998 he owned and operated Tanem’s Garden Centers in Belvedere and San Rafael/ Santa Venetia. He bought Santa Venetia Nursery in 1961 on a whim and with no experience except the teachings and love for Gardening that his grandmother and grandfather instilled in him. His Grandmother Sara Conley used to take cuttings and seeds that she would find or ask her neighbors for and created a garden paradise in her home in Sacramento. Bob loved to help her in the garden and his mother and father also had gardens wherever they moved. Bob spent most of his childhood in Willits, California where his parents lived on a ranch. Yes, Bob learned how to get milk from a cow, get “rid” of cats that over ran the place and were wild and how to harvest various meats for cooking and selling during WW2. His father later worked for Safeway and his mother was a nurse.He attended UC Berkeley after graduating from Willits High School after attending a one room school house in Dos Rios. He met his wife in Berkeley, a Berkeley native, Beverley McDonnell. She became a teacher and they got married in 1954, before he was drafted. He went overseas during the Korean War, serving in Germany. When he came home they decided to start a family and move to Marin County. Bill was the first child, then came Kathy, and shortly after, Edie.When Edie was born Bob bought the nursery and became a very well-known nursery owner. When Bill came of age he also worked with his father, even Kathy did a stint working for the family business as did Edie. (After all, the plants did need watering.) Scouting was a very large part of Bob and Bev’s extracurricular activities. They both served the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts respectfully as scout leaders. Bev is still active in Girl Scouts and is known as Flaming Arrow because she taught archery at day camps and now consults for the program. Bob is on the Boy Scouts Advisory Board. He, at one time, was the District Commissioner for the Miwok District and received one of Scouting’s highest honors for service, the Silver Beaver in 1986. He has served on the Marin County Commission governing the county fair, parks, and open space. He is currently a member of the county Integrated Pest Management Commission.

The most beautiful memories come when remembering the Marin County Fair where the whole family worked together to make the flowers look perfect and Bob’s design completed. At the beginning the county fair was held at the gorgeous Art and Garden Center in Ross, California. Then it moved to the area at the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael just up the road from the Santa Venetia Nursery. Marin County , Marin Art and Garden Center After Bill graduated from College he came back to work for Bob. He helped create a very successful business that turned a profit. At that time the Cove Nursery in Belvedere was up for sale – 1984. Edie was at a crossroads in her college career so she started working at the Belvedere store. Learning from the ground up, she soon became manager, then general manager when Bill left to pursue his career. Bob is blessed with 4 grandsons. The youngest is now 11 and grandfathering has spanned more than 29 years. He has been happily married to Beverley for 60 years. Bill has two college graduated sons, Nick and Will. Will graduated from UC Santa Barbara worked teaching english in Spain and is persuing more accounting degrees, Nick is working in Colorado. Kathy’s boy, Robert Patrick, has also graduated. First, college in Seattle then in one year, graduated Hastings in San Francisco, got married and passed the bar all in 2014. Edie’s son Miguel is a black belt recommended in tae Kwando, and is now in Boy Scout troop 76 as a second class scout in Terra Linda. Since retirement Bob has volunteered to supervise an organic vegetable garden at New Beginnings in Novato. This is a program to feed and house the homeless while training them for employment. Homeward Bound is the parent organization. The production of the garden has exceeded the needs of the organization with the excess being turned over to the Marin County Food Bank. This is the homeless feeding the homeless; a very exciting idea. It won the Mantis award for public gardens in 2001. Bob has also just received an award from Marin Beyond Pesticides, The Marin Board of Supervisors' Pest Management Award for the New Beginnings Organic garden. Over 400 pounds of food each year has been donated to the food bank. Check out our Links page for these organizations. Bob is a member of the Garden Writers of America as well as the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers, Redwood Empire Chapter. As a new garden writer member, Bob was the chair for the symposium in 1993 in San Francisco. A very prestigious position. His radio show, “Bob Tanem in the Garden” is now in its seventeenth year and he has appeared on television and other radio shows in the past. His garden show has won the Garden Writers Association of America award of excellence nationwide for “on air talent”. He has been honored with this award three times in the past five years, he has also recently been honored with being a Fellow in this organization. His radio show is one of the most listened to Sunday programs on KSFO radio in San Francisco, CA. You can listen to his show live on the web at Sunday mornings from 7-10am PST. Bob has written 5 books on gardening. Four books have been published by Lone Pine Publishing in Edmonton, Alberta and co-authored by Don Williamson. They are “Annuals for Northern California”, “Perennials for Northern California”, “Trees and Shrubs for Northern California”, and “Gardening Month by Month in Northern California”. The first two books are now in their 2nd printing. His first book “Deer Resistant Planting” was self published in 1993 and is still a hot seller. It is considered one of the best field guides for gardeners and landcapers who plant in areas where deer are a problem. It has been sold nationwide. All the books have been favorably reviewed by Sunset Magazine. Bob and his wife Bev (who is a major history buff) are researching what may be his next book on the Historical Gardens of the California Missions.

Bob has retired from writing his quarterly subscription garden newsletter called Garden Previews. It had several subscribers, but it was quite a bit of extra work. Edie did the layout for the newsletter, but now does the newsletter for ther 4th grade son's class called Universal Access. She also does this website. Bob and Bev now reside in Novato, California and have thoroughly enjoyed life!

Grandson Nick with son Bill
Daughter in Law Abby with grandson Will

Nick, Will and Robert