Sunday, December 20, 2015

Native Plants & Equality

I read a lot these days how it's important to include native plants in gardens; especially how mixing them in with plants from around the world will help wildlife. Well, if that's the case, why wouldn't an 80% or 100% native plant composition be even better? But such a proposition seems threatening to lots of folks, and the reason may be this: gardens are often, maybe always at their core, spaces just for us. The most important aspect is that we find them beautiful. And while it is certainly important we find gardens pretty, there is no reason at all natives can't perform that task of prettification. 

It can be threatening (and overwhelming) to have to think beyond ourselves in making gardens, to include the larger consciousness of a place and all of the other lives that inhabit it -- especially because such an awareness opens us up to the realities of our destructiveness on oceans, prairie, wetlands, etc (though I will always argue that this awareness ultimately empowers us to do so much more good because we've tapped into our full compassion). While we champion equal rights and opportunity among ourselves, cry foul and get angry and ask each other to see through another's eyes, we deny the same rights to other organisms -- which diminishes our capacity to love, honor, and cherish one another. Plants are not human culture -- denying a hosta, daylilly, or feather reed grass in your garden does not make you extremist, racist, or anti equality. No, I'd argue the opposite, that including them, plants with minimal wildlife support and not evolved with wildlife or the region, are themselves exclusionary -- evidence that we value ourselves above all else as we erode the world around us... often in a quest to make the world prettier without truly understanding what pretty is beyond an immediate bloom, shape, or leaf color.


Brian T said...

One of the problems is that most gardeners actively despise the vast majority of above-ground animal biodiversity in their gardens - insects. Insects are, after all, essential for most flowering plants and one of the main links between the botanical world and birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. It would be much easier to see the benefits of selecting indigenous plants if a gardener regarded with appreciation and curiosity the wide variety of insect species they attracted, or at least recognized that they're essential for pollination or nourishing the next brood of songbird nestlings.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Wouldn't it be nice if plant tags told us what insects the plant is a host to? What pollinators depend on its pollen to raise their young? What birds they attract? This is where I still believe QR codes can help us, and where nurseries must go -- where mine will go if I ever have one. Tech baby.