Wednesday, April 28, 2010


When driving through immaculate suburbia, it is impossible not to notice the pocket gardens of clipped and edged lawns bordered with pretty little annuals in tasteful splodges of colour. Occasionally you may see a tree, and even here and there be surprised by a hedge, sadly boxed into a shape that screams out madness against the vigour and fecundity that nature so generously seeks to give. Call in the landscape artist to tame your outdoor living space, and should you find that the rigorous effort to maintain this state of uniformity is generally managed by degrees of drudge, then this job can be offloaded on a garden service doing its weekly rounds. I have to ask: What is the point? Lay out some plastic lawn and be done with it.

What am I seeing? Ecologically I am looking at a piece of earth constantly kept at a juvenile stage. Pioneering weeds keep trying to bring in bio-diversity as they attempt to endlessly fill the earth that stretches brown and neatly cultivated from one plant to another. They are ripped out each week to start over and over again in an attempt to cover that naked and hurting soil. It is an endless battle; a battle between natural processes and the “Owner”. Neither ever wins in this contest, unless said owner moves on and no duplicate replacement moves in.  And then most would think the battle lost, for it has been lost to nature.

I have seen some who love to pour their time and effort into these ecologically immature creations. I understand this. There was a time I was just so. Everything nature would provide for free I tried to give with love and tending. And each year the season would end and the garden would die. How I exhausted myself with such unsatisfactory returns on my time. I had to notice that where I loved to walk in natural settings there had been no such "love and tending", and yet I sensed in these wild wonderlands a response from the very core of my soul that time and so much effort had failed to replicate. These tamed arrangements bring a tamed response. There are  no surprises, or special gifts or discoveries.

Instead of fighting this pointless battle, we can rather enlist the help of nature, and even encourage accelerated succession toward a more rapid maturity. A mature garden needs little tending. It can be beautiful too; but with a beauty that is blessed by  the magnificent bounty of a generous dynamic we call Mother Nature.  A misnomer - it is Father God. And in all this abundance most of the work entails harvesting, or cutting back vigorous growth to be used for mulch, compost or even free animal feed. 

Where the dominant plants in an immature system are annuals, the governing plants in a mature system are perennial. In this progression from one to the other, bio-systems become more complex, organic matter builds up, and the ecology diversifies into an inter-related and exponentially developing synergy that gives back more than the sum of its individual parts. We need to increase the pace of succession until a balance is realized in which the contest is replaced by a pleasing serendipity of discovery and enjoyment. We share in what nature is so good at doing without the drudge. Plant perennials in many and varied textures, shapes, heights and colours, along with those pretty self-seeding annuals between, and watch nature move in and smile a bounteous thank you for letting her get on with the job. 

Wisdom brings maturity and rest.

Until next time,

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