Rochelle Whiteman – Shooting Star

By Patricia Armstrong

Rochelle’s gardening interests began in the 1960s, and she was one of the first 10 women who started the Wild Ones some 25 years ago. In 1979, Rochelle and her husband Paul built their home in Glendale, Wl, and she began massing plants for texture and color. She avoided the sterile lawns of her more traditional neighbors, and became a “Landscape Revolutionary and Community Missionary.” By now, seven of her neighbors have converted to natural landscaping, and Andy Wasowski honors Rochelle by including her in his book, The Landscaping Revolution. Rochelle belongs to the Milwaukee North (WI) Chapter of Wild Ones.

In the 1990s, Rochelle integrated her interest in art, education, curriculum development, and cultural anthropology with community involvement, political action (pertaining to land use, pesticide abuse, lawn ordinances), writing, and teaching at all age levels and became a free lance environmental educator. Much of her design work has been done in the field, as a gardener and photographer documenting land use. For all gardeners, colors, textures, and forms are transitory and dynamic happenings. Additionally, for Rochelle, gardening is a process and a mission in ecological restoration. The lasting aspects of her work occur in the minds of others when their attitudes are modified as they walk the paths of her garden or view her slide images.

As an artist/environmentalist, she stresses the return to the joys of gardening as a spiritual activity. Rochelle takes a painterly approach to gardening. Her art form is based on a philosophy that stresses environmental sensitivity, stewardship, and oneness with the earth.

Rochelle believes those who are caretakers of even the smallest area of land have an obligation to make aesthetic choices based on ecologically sound principles. She teaches that a person’s interactions with the earth should not be damaging, but that the opportunity to make a difference should be actively seized. She presents teacher inservice programs and initiates and assists with school gardens as well as working with church groups, Rotary Clubs, and city administrators.

In 2000, the mayor of Glendale appointed Rochelle to convene a committee to review the city’s outdated weed ordinance and recommend changes. And in a single year about 1,000 people visited her yard for three different fund-raisers.

Pat is a co-founder of the Greater DuPage (IL) Chapter and serves on the Wild Ones Board of Directors.