Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sustainable means never having to say you're sorry

Wait, no, that's not right.

I was talking yesterday with a fellow gardener, a good and knowledgeable gardener, and the subject of the Florida garden came up and the fact that we're only there 4 weeks a year. Her immediate response was, "you can't have a garden if you're only there a month a year." To which I responded, "you must not be getting the concept of 'sustainable' gardening." Only of course I didn't because it would have been rude and I like her and also it didn't occur to me till later. It is true though, that the essence of sustainable gardening is putting plants where they could last without intense inputs. Could that possibly extend to a situation where you only garden 1/12 of the year? I don't know.

What I did respond, immediately, was, "yes you can if you use natives." Since we had been politely sparring about anti-nativism, it was an appropriate response. Understand, this is a person I like and respect, yet she maintains that it's not fair that there are people advocating for the use of native plants "exclusively" while no one is advocating the use of non-natives. To my mind that's like saying we have any number of charities that attempt to assist the unfortunate, but nobody's raising money for Bill Gates. I just don't get it.


susan harris said...

To clarify, what I think we need more of from garden educators? Not advocacy of ALL nonnatives but suggestions for the most sustainable garden plants, period, regardless of their origin. People looking for low-maintenance and wanting to avoid the use of resources to keep their gardens alive and looking reasonably good need lots of good choices. Virtually all my garden-coaching clients want that, and there aren't enough good regional natives to fill the bill (especially in sunny spots, and especially among evergreens, and shrubs, and alternatives to lawn, etc etc.)

ChrisU said...

I'm sorry I misunderstood you. I assumed that we all wanted the best choices. Unless someone expressly requests native plants exclusively, my designs generallly have fewer than 50% natives. My own gardens are the same way. In Florida I've planted SE natives,but also plants from the SW,from Australian, from Southern Africa, India, China.

I'm not afraid of anyone choosing the best plant for the best site, I just worry when I see the gardening community embracing the idea that Japanese honeysuckle as a monoculture is an inevitable and acceptable replacement for a native edge ecotone.

susan harris said...

Looks like we're on the same page. And let me know, please, if the Arb comes up with any suggestions for alternatives to conventional, resource-thirsty turfgrass - my top area of interest and, I believe, the most needed change in the American home landscape.