Contemporary Expression

It Takes A Garden grow a community
January 17, 2010, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Balance, Garden, Living An Artful Life, social media

Joan and I have had a several gardens, some small succulents, some large herbs, some tomatoes, plenty of flowers. Our current garden started the week we moved into the house. Our process: rope it off, plan it out, think about the soil, think some more about the soil and get started tilling and planting.

Our perennial garden is full of bulbs from Brecks and everything else … everything else …  is from Bates Nursery. Nashville is fortunate to have several high quality nurseries in the area but  we have found a consistency of reliable variety to be a big factor in our choice of Bates Nursery.

If you have followed Contemporary Expression for a while, you’ll not be surprised that I strongly feel that everyone should have some form of a flower or vegetable garden as part of  living an artful life. The act of gardening brings a balance and a peace to me that nothing else really is able to do.

I have enjoyed reading David Bates’ blog since his return to the family business it’s filed under News on the website, I get it in the newsletter  form.  When we celebrated our 20th anniversary in the spring of 2008 the kind folks at Bate’s had no problem taking us on under their gift registry as a same sex couple. They had to sorta rig it – but it worked.

When I started following Bates on Twitter I was maybe one of the first hundred or so that found them.  As of today’s post they have nearly 19,000 followers.  Because of the social media consultation work that I have been doing for both corporate and non-profit businesses in Nashville, I quickly acknowledged this success and sent David a tweet to see if he’d spend a little time with us on Contemporary Expression.

Here were his responses to my questions:

  • 1.      What one or two things do you attribute to your large follower base for your Twitter account?  Diligence.  I spend probably 2 hours daily working on my Twitter account.  It all comes down to “The Law of Large Numbers” essentially.  Follow new people, Un-follow people who have not followed back; repeat…Over and over.  I also encourage new followers through our e-newsletter and my weekly radio show.
  • 2.     Do you know what percentage of your Twitter Followers do not live within range to purchase your products?  Currently it is around 80% of total followers.  I have worked very hard at attracting as many local folks as possible, but it is nearly impossible to gain purely local followers.  There are still great opportunities for local growth.  If only 3200 of our followers are local, that represents only about 1% of Twitter users in Nashville, TN.  I do plan to have marketing opportunities through our website in the future, so hopefully there is a way to gain some benefit of this large percentage of “outside” followers.  Again, “The Law of Large Numbers” applies.  If I know I get 20% local followers from all follows, I will need about 80,000 total followers .to just reach 5% of current Twitter users in Nashville.  That is a substantial number of potential local customers, somewhere in the range of 15,000.  We should be able to reach that amount within 9 months, at our current rate of growth.
  • 3.     Do you have a social media strategy as a business?  I have only begun making a push in the social media realm.  I am planning to incorporate a video “how to” presence on YouTube (as well as our up-coming revamped website).  Admittedly, our strategy to this point has been largely “seat-of-the-pants”.
  • 4.      What are your plans to grow your FaceBook FanPage? FaceBook is a different animal than is Twitter.  Twitter is in my opinion decidedly more business friendly.  FaceBook fanpages for business have built-in control mechanisms that Twitter does not have.  I already spend so much time in the Twitter arena, I have sought to find the means to merge all of my social endeavors, Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn accounts.  FaceBook required me to create a personal fanpage to make this work.  I’m not really crazy about that.  I don’t mind having a FaceBook page personally, but it is essentially an extension of my business fanpage. Our email address that was originally associated with our business fanpage, is now associated to my personal page.  I really want these to be separate. I have solicited help on this issue from knowledgeable persons; haven’t found a viable resolution… yet.  Until I am able to find some way to make a FaceBook business fanpage work better, I’m a bit stuck there.

David’s responses were enlightening to me. Diligence and Awareness are part of the life of a gardener. With this insight, I began to realize just how much a good social media strategy is so very much like planning an tending to a garden.  The best fertilizer is a gardeners footprints.

So how does your garden grow? –

*tips for Facebook –

a: Use the two free INVOLVER tools to add your Twitter and YouTube Channel as Tabs.

b: Visit the News for Page Administrators for Quick and not so Quick Tips.  If you are an administrator of a Page, you will be able to choose a username for each Page at There will be an interface for you to choose usernames for the Facebook Pages you administer.


That’s a Tree ..Not a Shrub
March 31, 2009, 2:22 pm
Filed under: Garden, Living An Artful Life

A Gardening Moment :

Do you live in Nashville? Then you know about the landscaper’s delight known as the Flowering Bradford Pear Tree. They are everywhere in this town. Our maybe I should say pear-shrubs.

Once the pretty white blooms are gone and the tree is green its time to prune. These trees are week and will split with a good wind if the wind can’t cut through them – you should be able to see through a pear tree.
And please — what is it with the branches all the way to the ground. Do you not know that that looks really stupid. Find the bottom branches and make a trunk, please!

How to prune a tree:

Step 1 Prune away any broken or diseased branches any time of the year. It’s important to get these off and away from your tree so that they don’t sap nutrients from the tree.

Step2 Wait until just before spring to do any major pruning. Make sure you have the right pruning shears for the job. You should have a couple different sizes of shears at your disposal.
Step3 Keep your cuts clean and don’t cut so close to the branch or trunk that you gouge it. Also, when it comes to pruning, less is more. You’re better off doing more training of your tree early on than pruning a great deal later. If you thinned the pear tree out last year, wait a few years before thinning it again.
Step4 Cut back any shoots that spring up around the tree. Also, trim back any branches that are aren’t pointing upwards. Branches that seem to be too close to each other and causing friction are troublesome, trim on away to relieve the other.
Step5 Get to the inside of the tree. Anything that doesn’t get sunshine isn’t going to produce. Trim away some interior branches. Your leader, or main top branch, should be solitary. Cut off any competition that has sprung up next to it. Also, watch for whorls and slender spaces between branches. Both should be pruned.
Step6 Remove any pruned-off material from the area around your pear tree. Keep the ground clear of any rotting debris. Instead, compost your cuttings or find some other use for them if you don’t want to just dispose of the pile.

How to Prune a Pear Tree — powered by

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It’s not going to jump up into your mouth

I have been overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” I need to be doing, want to be doing, or think I should be doing. I have a pretty good routine but them I get bored and get off the routine and chase nothing for a while.

This time of year the robins start coming back into our garden and I am reminded perennially of their simple process.


They love to study the situation, they look from the trees and then walk along the surface of the lawn. They turn their head and listen for the worms moving below. And then just in time, they snap the food up and move on to the next situation.


As a person working as a fundraiser and manager in the non-profit sector, I feel like that robin. Always looking and then snapping up the food when you hear it moving up to the surface.


What I am also reminded of by these happy birds is just as clear;
don’t dig a 10 foot hole looking for the worm,
don’t expect it to jump up into your mouth.


Happy 4th – Butterfly Garden!
July 4, 2008, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Garden, Living An Artful Life
We are very happy about our butterfly garden this year!
Take a walk with us and listen for Scout and the train in the background.

the end of June already ….
June 30, 2008, 1:51 pm
Filed under: artwork, Garden, Living An Artful Life, Painting, Pinecone Gallery

We drove up to deliver the artwork to the Pinecone Gallery this past weekend. What a pleasant drive. If you are in the Paducah, KY area or what to take a road trip – please join us for the reception on July 12th. The show runs through the month of September.

Meanwhile – next week’s fundraiser for Coriolanus is going to be great fun! If you aren’t already – sign up for newslists to get more info at

The garden looks great but our new tree needs water so I’m giving it a long soak this morning.
Last Friday I finished my “50 postcards in 10 weeks” project and will now start scanning them for the web site and sending them to friends in the mail.

If you want one – write to me at with POSTCARD in the subject line.

Summer Garden Walk
June 22, 2008, 8:33 pm
Filed under: Garden, Living An Artful Life
A Summer Solstice Garden Walk , in one side ……

And a Bunny out the other !

Visitthe new VanReece Garden Page at

Scout, the wonder dog on Mothers Day Weekend
May 7, 2008, 1:34 am
Filed under: artful living, Garden, grace

Scout, the Wonder Dog …… We brought her home May 16, 2000 …she rocks