(An excerpt from Gaia’s Garden)
A movement is afoot toward more natural landscaping. Many gardeners are turning their backs on the lawn, in particular. People are digging up their resource-guzzling grassy swards and installing native plant gardens, wildlife-attracting thickets, or sun-dappled woodland habitats. It’s an encouraging trend, this movement toward more ecologically sound, nature-friendly yards.
Yet not everyone is on board. Some gardeners hesitate to go natural because they can’t see where, for example, their vegetable garden fits into this new style. What will happen to those luscious beefsteak tomatoes? Or ornamental plants–does natural gardening mean tearing out a treasured cut-flower bed or pulling up grandmother’s heirloom roses to make room for a wild-looking landscape?
Nurturing wildlife and preserving native species are admirable goals, but how do people fit into these natural landscapes? No gardener wants to feel like a stranger in her own backyard. Gardeners who refuse to be excluded from their own yards, but love nature, have been forced to create fragmented gardens: an orderly vegetable plot here, flower beds there, and a back corner for wildlife or a natural landscape. And each of these fragments has its weaknesses. A vegetable garden doesn’t offer habitat to native insects, birds, and other wildlife. Quite the contrary–munching bugs and birds are unwelcome visitors. The flower garden, however much pleasure the blooms provide, can’t feed the gardener. And a wildlife garden is often unkempt and provides little for people other than the knowledge that it’s good for wild creatures.
This book shows how to integrate these isolated and incomplete pieces into a vigorous, thriving backyard ecosystem that benefits both people and wildlife. These gardens are designed using the same principles that nature uses to create healthy plant communities, so that the different plantings and other elements interconnect and nurture one another. They are more than the sum of their parts. An ecological garden feels like a living being, with a character and essence that is unique to each. Gaia’s Garden provides tools to understand, design, and construct a backyard ecosystem that will serve people and the rest of nature.
Toby Hemenway’s website www.patternliteracy.com