I have a dream that some day our primary metric for experiencing plants won't be just how they look. Perhaps when we visit a botanical garden plant tags will give us more than Latin, but also ecosystem services, how the plant fits into the web of life. Some day plant tags at nurseries will be both accurate and informative, telling us more than how the plant grows in ideal situations but in real situations, what role it plays, what niche it has in an ecological landscape. Does this plant fix nitrogen, or harbor beneficial soil bacteria? Does it support a plethora of pollinators, or some rare native bee? Is it an ideal companion for a specific grass or sedge, like we'd see in the wild?
Gardens are not plant museums, they are plant symphonies, plant communities, wildlife communities, life communities, life partners. I have a dream that some day the first words out of someone's mouth, when observing an evocative plant for the first time, won't be how pretty it is but the number of pollinators on it, the line of ants harvesting aphids along its stem, the birds picking off those ants or seeds. We are loathe to judge others by surface appearance, but that is apparently how we judge -- or find value / worth -- in the natural world. How can we go beyond and deeper? How can we rethink pretty? What happens to other human social and cultural viewpoints when we do?
Your questions go to the heart of the conversations that have taken place on line for several years now. Gardening does not mean the same thing to all people. A large number if not most homeowner who plant flowers because they are pretty have little or no interest in the ecology associated with that activity. We we need a new, more specific vocabulary to distinguish between those who garden for sensory pleasure, those who plant to eat and those who care about our planet. In an ideal world, these three types of gardeners would not be mutually exclusive. However, in the real world they are and it is the real world that pays our salaries.
Allan -- Not a fan of changing the real world? I am. Guess I'm a dreamer. :) I reject your reality and substitute my own, as Adam Savage says on the tv show Mythbusters.
Regarding nursery labels, I would even be pumped if the label just listed the Wetland Indicator Status that's been around already for decades. It's the 3 or 4-letter code that you can see if you click the "Wetland" tab on the USDA Plant Database website. It refers to the probability that a species will naturally be found in wetland conditions: UPL=upland, FACU=facultative upland, FAC=facultative, FACW=facultative wetland, OBL=obligate wetland. I'm looking forward to the day I don't see gardens like a local, newly-planted pollinator garden in drought-prone sandy soils include species like Swamp Milkweed and Sneezeweed, great pollinator plants but always or usually found growing in wetlands (and probably not for long in this garden without irrigation).
Allan, If the role of gardens was simply to provide recreation, artistic expression, and food, I would be content to let status quo reign. However, in a world that appears to be in the midst of a mass extinction event, enough ecologically-sensitive gardens can potentially provide lifeboats for some species. Species that might not otherwise make it among the vast acreages of lawn, hostas, and daylilies. The real world will keep paying our salaries while we nudge them in the right direction.
yesterday had a pretty flower conversation.
Red valerian is an invasive alien here.
But I like it, and I'm not removing it because it's alien.
Was googling for an answer and found a hack group in the next suburb, with a horrifying picture of valerian spilling down a high bank.
Methodically removing the seedlings as they volunteer and planting indigenous. We live near fynbos with its diversity and endemics - but invasive is pretty. Sigh.
So I think I am lucky. I started planting for wildlife which meant natives. I had zero knowledge and no expectations. But I have a native plant yard trying to stick to natives in my area. It is beautiful to me. Is it beautiful to others? People here ask me about my plants have they have not seen most of them nor are they available here... I do what I can to educate .. But I feel depressed about the future... Michelle
If I put the Wetland Indicator Status on my plant tags, I would be giving a mini-lecture to every customer and my customers are seeking out local genotype native plants. As it is, my plants are tagged wet, wet-mesic, mesic, mesic-dry and dry, with a 9 point scale as a hand-out if they want it. I still have to explain this a lot. The larger "hang tags" include a lot more ecological information, but those tags cost more than the plant starts. I would rather keep the prices low so more people plant natives and direct them to online resources. It's always a balancing act.
Riverview -- I had great hope for QR codes, but not sure they will last much longer. I like the idea of someone holding up a phone and clicking over to more info, pics in every season, pics of insects that use the plant as a host, companion plants, etc. I think it's silly to have a huge plant tag, but I also strongly feel nurseries need to do a better job of education (re-educating?) and find ways to make it accessible. I don't know the answers, just have the dreams.
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