The Gardens - In the Beginning

Friday, July 26, 2013

Getting Back to the Basics of Eden

Runner Bean Flowers

Edge of Pond - Cardinal Flower

Repairing Pathway

The things one does in the quest for perfection is mystifying. Many don't grasp the concept of good in nature.  We just don't get it.  We know in a perfect world everything lives in harmony, but we think harmony means something closer to a Disney cartoon than reality.  Astute gardeners know the cycles of life include death, otherwise compost would never happen.

Gardeners used to partner with nature, but somewhere in time in the name of progress and good marketing strategy, we were hoodwinked into believing there was a list of criminals in nature that needed to be pesticided, insecticided, funguscided, and herbicided.

Don't get me wrong.  There are always last resort times when the paintbrush and roundup come out of hiding from the garage to rid the yard of invasives, pyrethrum spray is grabbed from the back shelf to douse the bird house poles that ants travel, and liquid borax is purchased to lower the population of compost bin ants that make life hell for the gulf fritillary caterpillars in the planters they raid.

As a first choice, we too often saturate with poisons and convince ourselves that bugless and weedless is perfection. We make ourselves slaves to an environment that now has no way of protecting itself, and feel obligated to add dose upon dose of lethal poisons to keep our imperfect chemically dependent gardens appearing picture perfect.  Of course, they aren't even close to being okay.

Bees, ladybugs, toads, frogs, lizards, birds, pets, and children traveling across this landscape are traveling across poison, poison that doesn't discriminate.  It will take years to balance your little depleted ecosystem back to when it did just fine taking care of itself, back to that time before your community was formed and your house was built.

Ecosystems (Ecological Systems) - that word we don't understand and like to tag to tree huggers and environmental troublemakers.  Ecosystems have existed since the birth of life.  Basically, it's all individuals in an area - plants, animals, and microorganisms, all interacting with each other and their environment - soil, water, light, and climate. That's it!

Whether it's healthy or sick depends on how we have in the past or will in the future alter it, but in the very beginning it was ALL healthy.  All plants, all animals, all microorganisms, have their place in nature.  When we begin to chose which to keep and which to kill, we begin to alter the balance.  When the two scales of equality become opposite ends of the spectrum we are in deep trouble.

As managers of our estates, whether postage stamp size or an accumulation of many acres, it's easy to not pay attention to what's happening within and beyond our fence lines.  We like to think nature can take care of itself, but our naivete is short lived bliss.

In the beginning, nature did take care of itself, until curiosity, commerce, and the quest for beauty changed the rules and thrust many of our lands under siege of certain alien plants (plants introduced to an area outside their original range) that the ecosystem of that area couldn't compete against. Without natural enemies to limit reproduction, these alien plants become invasive and drastically alter their surrounding habitat, smothering the biodiversity of the area to create a monoculture (single species landscape) of their own kind among the ruins.

Amazingly, in yards this process doesn't need many seasons to proliferate or many years to become entrenched.  The problem is not so much the garden that harbors the enemy, the problem is that the enemy refuses to stay contained to the garden.  They migrate outward.  No fence will stop their invasion into the wilds.

While gardeners may be the proliferators of invasive species they purchase from the nurseries that sell them, it seems to take the whole of mankind to solve the problems the spread of these plants create.

Biodiversity (Biological Diversity)- a simple meaning as complex as you wish to make it.  Basically, it is the variety of plants, animals, and microorganisms living in a particular environment or the substantial number of these species, whether in a small area or a large region.  Usually, the wider the diversity, the healthier that habitat is.  Interestingly, the same species of plant growing in one region, will not always have identical needs as the same species of plant that lives in another region.

All species living in an area interact and depend on each other.  They filter air, provide food, shelter, and create healthy soil.  Usually the less diversity of all species, the less filtered air, food, shelter and healthy soil.  The less filtered air, food, shelter, and healthy soil there is; the more the fabric of life will begin to decline in that region.

A gardener's yard may exist of one or more ecosystems of great biodiversity (a self-sustaining yard), one or more ecosystems of some biodiversity (a yard that needs some help taking care of itself), or one ecosystem of almost none or no biodiversity (a lawn or large area of only one or a limited number of plants - think wheat or corn fields or a vegetable garden) which has a difficult time protecting itself against insects and diseases.  It is the abundant biodiversity of an ecosystem that usually keeps a higher quality of life preserved.

One self-reliant yard is good, a neighborhood of self-reliant yards is better, and a community of self-reliant yards creates a quality of life that could be a match for even Eden in all its glory.

As a master gardener, my yard was included in the garden tours that were held each summer.  It was the only yard in the tours that featured native plants and more of a wilderness atmosphere.  Then life got in the way, and the displays of garden diagrams and essays, free native seeds and literature handouts fell by the wayside as some rough biodiversity in my own life knocked me down for a while. Now I'm trying to start that tradition back up again.  The above is the text I've created to hang in the display box at the entrance to my front yard.  Do you think it makes sense or is even worth reading?


  1. Oh yes. It totally makes sense, and I agree with everything you have to say. Mother Nature does an amazing job of taking care of herself. It seems that the public is always looking for a quick fix and the easy way out, usually through store bought chemicals. (Your lilies make me swoon!)

  2. I definitely feel like gardening and growing and being involved with plants is a spirituality and a way of connecting with God or the universe or however one chooses to see it. But, it definitely feeds the soul!

  3. it feels like forever since I had time to sit and enjoy everyone's posts...I am so glad I could drop by today and see your addition to my little party! My garden inspires me and sooths my stresses and is a very spiritual thing for me...Nature is one of God's greatest creations!
    Thank you so much for linking into my little party this week...I appreciate and enjoy every post!
    I hope you will link in again and again!
    I am also sharing your post to the Tootsie Time Facebook page!
    Have a great week!

    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.


  4. Not sure how I missed this post but I loved reading it and shout out a loud "hear hear!" Not sure too many would take the time to read a lengthy piece while on a garden tour though. I wish I could see that yard in person. I love the native wild grasses and call me nuts but I personally wouldn't mind it if my yard was covered in Creeping Charlie. I love those little purple flowers. My problem would be trying to control the chaos. LOL

    All we do in our yard is cut the grass. First year here I saw wild strawberries growing in the yard. Haven't seen them since though.


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