Sunday, February 19, 2017
Daffodils and a Hollow Nature
Daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, and tulips do not signify spring to me. Here in the central and northern Great Plains, that role usually falls to pasque flower, which blooms sometime in late March to mid April. While flower bulbs from half a world away may be an aesthetic delight to us, for wildlife and ecosystems they are often as devoid of function as plastic bottles. In garden design circles the belief is that aesthetics is enough because it (beauty) engages us with nature. But that nature has often felt hollow to me -- it's how I feel walking a rose garden or hosta collection, places for us alone, so insular, so absent in a time of climate change and mass extinction. Every garden and every plant should welcome as many species as possible, help us learn one another's language and culture, connect us to our homeplaces, and open the door to compassion that puts other's needs before our own. If a garden is primarily for me, the garden ceases to be a place of hope.
Posted by Benjamin Vogt at 9:15 AM
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I'm likewise disappointed to see that the introduced bulbs that bloom here (Vermont) in early spring appear to attract no pollinators. I'm wondering if it's possible for most people to stop viewing garden plants as collectibles and as the only attractions, and begin to see that the vast majority of the biodiversity in the garden are the "incidental" species? Insects, fungi, moss, and lichens may not always be glamorous, but they provide most of the drama.
While I enjoy seeing the color and beauty of some of the early spring bulbs (and have been known to plant a few in my gardens), I generally agree with you about the lack of life in gardens made up primarily of exotic plants such as hostas, bulbs, peonies, and even most roses. Especially hybrid tea roses and similarly chemically dependent plants. Pretty flowers are okay, but give me the richness of life in a garden full of native plants, pollinators, and other species of all stripes and habits. Cynthia
Brian -- We live in a such a capitalist, individualistic culture it may be a long road. What I mean is, the "green industry" has been usurped by buying, trends, surface appreciation, immediate gratification. At times we'll have some greenwashing done -- a mention of sustainability or pollinators -- but then we'll keep right on using the same plants in the same ways and celebrating the cult of plant hybridization. Plants aren't new cell phones. The main challenge I see is a cultural shift overall, and one that in the garden world sees other lives as primary over own. Call it radical empathy or defiant compassion. Maybe even humility.
GG -- Pretty flowers and ecosystem function can and do go hand in hand, as you know. I sure get frustrated though when folks work hard to defend exotic plant choices that have no co-evolution with the landscape or fauna around them. But, that' human nature, too; we'll work harder to defend what makes us feel comfortable, stable, and in control even when we probably know, deep down, what's really going on.
I agree with you about the lack of life in gardens made up primarily of exotic plants such as hostas, bulbs, peonies, and even most roses. Thanks for sharing!
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