Garden Walkabouts

Wild Ones River City Chapter is seeking member hosts for “Walkabouts”—informal tours of home gardens and landscapes managed by members. We’d like to visit gardens of ALL sizes, small to large!

  • Walkabouts last about two hours, with guests coming and going like an open house.
  • Hosts select the day and time.
  • Walkabouts will be held rain or shine.
  • Walkabout dates will be announced via our regular email communications.
  • You pick the day and time!
  • Walkabouts are for Wild Ones members and their guests. (Membership Perk)

NOTE: This is not a garden “inspection.” We all deal with weeds! If you choose to offer refreshments (not required or expected) keep it very simple.

If you are a Wild Ones member and would like to host a Walkabout, contact Linda Gary at [email protected].

2024 Scheduled Garden Walkabouts

Thursday, July 25, 5–8 pm – Marty Arnold’s home in NW Grand Rapids

Marty describes her property as “a patch of wilderness hidden deep inside the city of Grand Rapids.” When she and her husband bought the 2.5 acre vacant lot in 1988 it was a ragged lawn and a wooded ravine clogged with invasive species and neighborhood trash. Over the decades they’ve added hundreds of native trees, shrubs, no-mow grass, perennials and ferns. In 2018 they purchased 4.5 acres of adjacent property. Since then, Marty has added an oak savanna, an emergent woodland, a rain garden and bioswale, a shady “hidden garden” and colorful beds of wildflowers. “I love the idea that our land is healthier and more diverse than it has been in 150 years,”  Marty says. “All along the way, I’ve relied on Wild Ones and Kent Conservation District for native plants and great advice. I hope you visit my work-in-progress.”

Saturday, August 10, 2–4 pm – Marcia Carrick’s home in Byron Center

Thursday, August 22, 5–7 pm – Linda Trier’s home in Spring Lake

Wednesday, October 9, 4–7 pm – Marty McCleery’s home in Ada

Past Walkabouts

August 2, 2023 • Marti MacArthur’s home in Grand Rapids

Marti wrote: “I began planting my garden in 2014. I had attended a presentation and field trip led by Amy Heilman and Mike Bruggink on the role of native plants in the ecosystem. I was so inspired that I made the decision that I would change the way I was gardening and began a journey of learning and gardening that I want to continue to do as long as I can.

I would love to tell you that I planned ahead and followed a design plan, but that isn’t what happened. I’ve gradually planted, made mistakes, removed things, moved plants around and continued to plant more varieties of trees, shrubs and flowers.

I think of my gardens as a living “being”  that changes, grows, and even dies in places. My urban space is rather compact, but it keeps evolving and getting more interesting all of the time.”

Event Recap: Thank you to our former president, Marti MacArthur, for hosting a Walkabout at her home in Grand Rapids on Aug 2.

Marti’s urban front yard showcases sun-loving plants such as black-eyed Susans, wild petunia, gray-headed coneflower, swamp rose mallow, shrubby St. John’s wort, wild strawberry and others—all in a small space! Walking to the backyard, visitors were greeted by a huge beautiful display of Joe Pye weed in an area which receives more sun, now that her neighbor has cut down an ash tree and a Norway maple. In the more shady areas, we saw bottlebrush grass, wild ginger, twinleaf, bloodroot, Jack-in-the-pulpit and Canada anemone. Virginia waterleaf and violets serve as ground covers.

Marti has made good use of native shrubs and trees, including a hazelnut, several American cranberry, New Jersey tea, witch hazel, red twig dogwood, and a hawthorn tree. Behind the garage is a steep hillside where she has continually been removing English ivy and the invasive non-native lesser Celandine poppy and has planted a hemlock, a basswood and many sedges. Marti said she planted native trees and shrubs with the thought that some day when she moves, the new owners would be more apt to leave trees and shrubs than native forbs.

Kudos to Marti—her diverse native garden has created a haven for pollinators and birds and a tranquil place for humans—right in the city!

July 13, 2023 • Gretchen Zuiderveen’s home in Belmont

Gretchen wrote: “I first learned about the importance of native plants from Dave Warners, a Calvin biology professor, who, along with his family, helped me plant a small native plant garden at Alger Elementary School where I was a teacher. After retiring, I began attending meetings of the Wild Ones, and became a seasonal worker for The Gardening Angel; both organizations nurtured and expanded my knowledge and appreciation for the plant world.

When we moved into our newly built house, the need for erosion prevention was immediate—I planted anything that would hold the soil—and am now planting to adjust to more and more shade from surrounding trees.

My gardens change constantly—without consulting me! I’m still trying to catch up with them and insert my choices whenever I can.”

Event Recap: Thank you to long-time WORC member, Gretchen Zuiderveen and her husband George, for opening their lovely gardens on July 13! We were treated to a prairie garden out front, near the end of their driveway. The orange butterfly weed was gloriously in bloom, along with purple coneflower, common milkweed, and other species. The Prairie dock leaves were huge!

We meandered around the right side of the house past fragrant sumac to the park-like back yard with its huge boulders strategically placed in the garden. The boulders were found on-site when the foundation was dug for their house. The backyard has tall oaks and a dry stream bed that channels rain away from the house. The black cohosh were in bloom here and there. Lupine, bloodroot and other natives carpet the backyard.

Heading back to the front on the South side of the house we walked over a carpet of moss in place of grass and then up stepping stones to a garden by the front door and a trellis of native clematis.

July 2021
Two WORC members that are neighbors:

Barbara Zvirzdinis’ home Comstock Park, MI
Barbara Zvirzdinis lives on the Grand River and her garden beds are mostly wetland plants and shrubs. She is fairly new to native gardening and her beds range from 3 years–3 month’s old. Barbara’s gardens are a work in process as she continues to remove non-natives and replace them with native alternatives.  

Rebecca Ling’s home – Comstock Park, MI
Rebecca Ling, one of the original founders of River City Wild Ones, has learned her flood plain gardening techniques the hard way—through repeated flooding, on-site research, and experimentation over the past 28 years. Her gardens are beautiful native/non-native, but flood zone hardy.


Thank you to WORC members and neighbors, Barbara Zvirzdinis and Rebecca Ling for hosting the July 28 Walkabout at their homes on the Grand River in Comstock Park.

In Barbara’s garden, visitors were delighted to see Royal Catchfly, Monkey Flower, Swamp Milkweed, Phlox and Tall Coreopsis among other natives, along with her self-made, imaginative mosaic sculptures. One of Barbara’s sculptures was in progress—a large cement arch that she will adorn with stones and other materials. A huge stand of Cup Plant stood proudly near the road.

Rebecca’s interesting garden contains plants well suited for a floodplain—Iron Weed, White Turtlehead, Swamp Rose Mallow, Michigan Lily and Cardinal Flower, among others. Several native Catalpa trees were bearing their long green bean-like pods and a robin’s nest was seen in its branches. Rebecca and her husband Bruce raise honey bees that were actively working.

It is challenging to have a garden on river property, but these two hardy Wild Ones take the floods in stride and their gardens persevere! We are grateful to Barbara and Rebecca for their willingness to share what they’ve learned with fellow Wild Ones members!

Calvin Ecosystem Preserve and Native Gardens

1750 E Beltline Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Created in 2018 to showcase the beauty and diversity of native plants, this botanical garden is a living field guide containing more than 200 species of plants found in Michigan. Over 20 mini gardens feature a variety of planting styles. They draw inspiration from both natural landscapes as well as familiar gardening styles such as cottage, pollinator, and shade gardens.

RECAP: It was a perfect evening on August 4 for walking through the beautiful native plant gardens at the Venema Plaza at Calvin University. The renovation of the entire area and the redesigning of the gardens, which were completed before the pandemic, were not only lovely to wander through, but also a great way to become inspired about having native plants in our own gardens.

Jeanette Henderson, (pictured at center below) Program Manager at Calvin Ecosystem Preserve and Native Gardens at Calvin University Bunker Interpretive Center, was our gracious host for the evening. Wild Ones has a very close relationship with Jeanette and this inspiring space since we have met for our chapter meetings at the Bunker Interpretive Center for many years.

Wild Ones would like to thank Jeanette for her willingness to have a walkabout at Venema Plaza and share with all of us her vast knowledge of native plants, answer our many questions and let us purchase plants from the greenhouse that evening. It was so nice to be able to reconnect after such a long time of not being able to meet.



Keith Edwards’ Comstock Park Urban Prairie
601 Clark NW, Comstock Park, MI 49321

Read a recap of Keith Edwards’ Walkabout here.

August 2019 Walkabout at the Palmer residence in Belmont

July 2018 Walkabout at the Lange residence in Grand Rapids

Walkabout at Clear Bottom Lake