When I said I wasn't holding a gun to your head to plant natives, I meant it, but enough people felt threatened by me that I was surprised -- so I went out and bought a dozen guns. To essentially be called a bigot or racist a few times really made me upset and sad. I wish we looked at plants on more equal terms to humans -- if we did, we might be more sympathetic to each other and actually end bigotry and racism. But since we hate each other so often, many times based on misunderstanding or lack of knowledge, I don't hold out much hope for knowing plants on better terms. Maybe we need a bill of plant and animal rights, but then many more would feel threatened (is this part of being a human animal, a response for survival?).
|Culver's root in action.|
So let's talk about purism. In my native plant garden (which is becoming more so, about 80%, since I bought whatever the nursery had when I started out, not knowing much) I'm trying to recreate a semblance of prairie. Why? Not because I believe prairie can exist in 1,500', or that we'll have much luck recreating it even on 30,000 acres, but because the prairie wildlife is still here. The bees. The butterflies. The birds. They developed over millennium to work in concert with the plants native to this region. I will not deny these native creatures like so many of us do in our culture, and so that makes me an outlaw, a purist. Without these plants, the wildlife begins to vanish -- ask a Harris's sparrow or lesser prairie chicken or regal fritillary. If only we could talk to plants and insects how richer our lives would be! (David Abrams, in The Spell of the Sensuous, says we once did and can again).
|Bluebirds in winter waiting their turn for a drink.|
But back to landscapes -- to say a native plant garden cannot be formal or Victorian or Japanese or whatever is just plain nonsense. If you believe native plants are "wild" and "messy" and only fit for one design ideal, then your vision as a gardener has yet to expand and grow, and this is one reason I am pimping native plants -- they help you grow in ways a hosta and daylily and barberry cannot. You know what those plants will do, and you know their ecological benefit is momentary and selective. Humdrum. Zzzzz.
|A native New England Aster. Call the Plant Police!|
So this is how I see gardening with natives as a moral act. You may think this sounds superior, elitist, or purist, but to me it sounds like freedom, knowledge, and power -- something Home Depot, Scott's, and Monsanto don't want you to have. Gardening with natives is as much an act of defiance toward those who destroy our natural world as it is a willingness to listen to our deepest selves and embrace the joy and terror of our connection to this planet. Without that mental, physical, and spiritual connection to place through native plants, we are diminished to the point of insanity and despair -- hence the depredations on Native Americans, hence the dust bowl, hence diabetes.
And for the one person who said any article that uses the word "bupkis" is worth a read: bupkis. Now go find plants native to you and help save the planet and yourself! Rock the boat!
|Monarch caterpillar at the Lincoln Children's Zoo|