At age 89, 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 of the nursery business, 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, which were mainly rabbits.
His father later worked for Safeway and his mother was a nurse. He attended UC Berkeley when he graduated 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. Since it was a family business, the whole family worked in the nusery. As soon as the kids could handle watering the plants they started a daily schedual. When Bill came back from College at Davis he worked closely with his father, eventually becoming general manager of the 2 stores and by then Edie decided college wasn't what she wanted and she too came to work for her father mainly at the Belvedere store. Bev kept the books and everything else in line while she still taught at San Rafael High school.
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 was known as Flaming Arrow because she taught archery at day camps and also consulted for the program. Bob still tries to stay connected and is waiting for his grandson Miguel, to get his Eagle. 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.
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 of his fair display career, 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 his first Santa Venetia Nursery.
Bill helped his father 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 16, but now he is also a great grandfather with Kathy's son's, Robert's first, Martin. Grandfathering has spanned more than 34 years. Bob and Beverley were happily married for over 60 years, when she had another place to be, passing away in 2017. Bill has two college
graduated sons, Nick and Will. Will graduated from UC Santa Barbara worked teaching english in Spain and is now working for BPM. Nick is working in Colorado and California in the states' newest industry, Medical and Recreational Marijuana. Kathy’s boy, Robert Patrick graduated at first from Seattle University, worked for Boeing, 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 in Taekwando, is in Boy Scout troop 76 Terra Linda as a Star scout, seems to like track and filed and is attending San Rafael High School where Bev taught and where Bill, Kathy and Edie all went to High School.
Since retirement Bob 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 Communicators International formerly Garden Writers of America and just recently was awarded a Gold Medal for his radio show. 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 twenty-first year and he has appeared on television and other radio shows in the past. His garden show has won previous Garden Writers Association of America awards as well. He has been honored with these awards 4 times in the past eight years.
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 www.ksfo560.com Sunday mornings from 8-10am 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 available still on Amazon “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 available directly from Bob for 4.95. 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, and Amazon. Bob and his wife Bev (who was a major history buff) had been doing research for what may be his next book on the Historical Gardens of the California Missions and Bob Tanem's Tidbits should be available soon.
Bob has retired from writing his quarterly subscription garden newsletter called Garden Previews. It had several hundred subscribers, but it was quite a bit of extra work. Edie did the layout for the newsletter, but now works for Dharma Trading Co, Textile Art Supply mail order company out of Petaluma, CA. She also does this website and the public service announcements for the radio show on Sundays.