June 10, 2012
Caring for Your Garden
We live in a culture that is very concerned about looking good as defined by the media. We are all plugged in to the media, whether it be magazines, TV, the internet, ads on the sides of buses. The “media” is all around us and no matter how hard we try it is inescapable. Even if we are not experiencing it directly, it is filtered to us through our kids and friends who are deeply enmeshed in it.
The message from the media is it needs to be perfect, it needs to happen fast, it needs to be young and fresh, new and it needs to be now. The media messaging in many ways is the antithesis of real life processes which are embodied in the landscape. These are grounded in slow steady development and care, consideration of the future state as entities develop and grow, the reliance of the young on the established and more aged lives.
In the landscape, the larger and older a plant is, the more impact it has on softening the impact of intense environmental change. For example, large hardwood trees 20 years (and older) in a hurricane level storm not only absorb large amounts of water, hold the shape of the topography together, but they also store that water to share in drought conditions with shrubs in their understory. These pillars of the ecology not only mitigate weather extremes, but are the anchors of the ecosystem providing homes for a multitude of migratory and non migratory birds, other animals and insects.
Unlike the message of the media, landscapes and life develop slowly and evolve slowly over time. They require consistent care and input. Yes, we need our landscapes to look good “cosmetically” speaking, AND there are deeper issues of health and diversity that also need to be addressed. It is so easy to focus only on looking good-trimming cleaning, install some quick color-and forget about health-feeding and developing the soil, respecting and developing older plant material, establishing multiple levels of plantings.
Yes, this is a metaphor. As we age in our culture, it is easy to feel ineffectual as the young and the new start to claim their space and the future. Communities are no different than gardens. The older generations, like hardwood trees, steady the culture and nurture the young in harder times often unacknowledged until their passing. All of us love to look good, and at the same time regular care on all levels sustains us and diversifies the culture as we join gyms, get therapists, go to church/synagogue/mosque or “whatever”. As our kids grow and develop and perhaps live in our homes when we think they should be out of the nest, remember that you are becoming the backbone of your culture helping it to weather extremes and insuring that the young and the new thrive and grow. Remember, that like the ecology, there is no future without the pillars of the environment.
Posted in: Garden Structure