January 25, 2020
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Connecticut College Arboretum, Wild Ones, the New London Beautification Committee, the Colchester Garden Club and the Community Wildlife Habitat Team of Colchester are co-sponsoring four free screenings of Hometown Habitat. Image courtesy of

Connecticut College Arboretum, Wild Ones, the New London Beautification Committee, the Colchester Garden Club and the Community Wildlife Habitat Team of Colchester are co-sponsoring four free screenings of Hometown Habitat. Image courtesy of )

Free Movie: You Bring the Popcorn, I’ll Bring the Native Plants

Published Jan 12, 2017 • Last Updated 11:51 am, January 10, 2017

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Dust off your ruby slippers and click your heels. When it comes to creating natural habitats, there’s no place like home. That’s the message of a new documentary Hometown Habitat: Stories of Bringing Nature Home.

This uplifting, 90-minute film showcases seven nature-scaping initiatives in places as different from each other as wetlands are from deserts. In New York City, we watch streets grow green as volunteers and urban foresters work to install 10,000 trees in a weekend. In Colorado, we see flowers blooming where water is ultra-scarce. In the Washington D.C. area, diverse religious congregations form a common mission to put their properties into nature’s service.

Whether the site is a sidewalk strip, a condo association’s lawn, or someone’s backyard, the people of Hometown Habitat all share a desire to welcome birds and pollinators, promote cleaner air, and save water.

These nature-renewal initiatives are remarkable for their size and complexity, but most of all for the highly populated settings where they take place. All involve multiple property owners, yet participants converge around a common objective: They landscape with nature—rather than in spite of it.

The film opens with a short introduction to ecosystem concepts by Douglas Tallamy, author of the popular, award-winning book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (Timber Press, 2009). Tallamy is professor and chair of the department of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. He is a leading voice in the conservation landscaping movement, exhorting us to reduce lawns, treat rainwater with care, eliminate pesticides, and grow native plants. Tallamy also introduces each of the seven projects.

The documentary is the inspiration of Maryland-based Catherine Zimmerman, a filmmaker and landscape designer who comes from a farming family.

“I’ve long had the desire to fire up the movement toward making natural landscapes the norm,” she says. “And the film medium makes the message accessible to so many people.

“My colleague, soundman Rick Patterson, and I traveled thousands of miles, interviewed dozens of people, and researched projects for more than two years,” she says. “We ended up with about three terabytes of footage. You shoot more than you expect because it can take a lot of rolling the camera to capture a monarch as it nectars or emerges from its chrysalis. I always had my camera with me.”

The film was released in May 2016.

Hometown Habitat cost $223,000 to make. Like the landscape initiatives it documents, the film itself is the product of cooperation. Zimmerman reached out to native plant societies, organic farming associations, Wild Ones, Audubon, master gardeners, master naturalists, and native plant nurseries, to name a few.

More than 300 organizations and individuals donated, including Connecticut College Arboretum, Pride’s Nursery, and Connecticut NOFA. Zimmerman still needs $66,000 to retire the debt.

“My message was that no one individual or organization has the resources to do a project like this, but together we can,” she says.

Connecticut College Arboretum is co-sponsoring four screenings in three locations this winter and spring, all free of charge.

The first is Saturday, Feb. 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Mystic and Noank Library at 40 Library Street in Mystic. The Mountain Laurel Chapter of Wild Ones, an environmental education and advocacy organization, is a co-sponsor.

The second is Wednesday, March 1, 6 to 8 p.m., at New London Public Library, 63 Huntington Street. The New London Beautification Committee, an urban gardening organization, is co-sponsor.

On Thursday, April 13, there will be two screenings at Colchester Library, 8 Linwood Avenue, from 2 to 4 p.m., and 6 to 8 p.m. The Colchester Garden Club and the Community Wildlife Habitat Team of Colchester are co-sponsors.

Hometown Habitat is appropriate for all audiences. It will be a great catalyst to classroom discussion for students from middle school through college.

For more information on how to purchase a DVD, sponsor a screening, or donate, visit

Kathy Connolly is a landscape designer, writer, and speaker from Old Saybrook. See her speaking schedule at


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