Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Take it Down a Notch!


My pasque flowers are blooming! (And right on time with their name, seeing as Easter [Pasqua in Italian] is right around the corner.)

I had to take these pictures in this harsh light because they close up at night and flower again in full sun. I think only one of my two plants made it, but so what? Look how cute they are! Totally worth the two-year wait!

I am fairly certain these are Anemone patens multifida, the variety native to North America, but quite honestly it might be Anemone patens patens, the Eurasian variety. Even Illinois Wildflowers finds they're difficult to tell apart, and the foliage of mine looks a little different than the pictures on IW.

Even if this isn't the native variety (which was bought at a native plant sale, I might add, so the error wouldn't exactly be mine), they're still adorable and I'm happy to have the blooms. This brings me to some thoughts on the recent backlash against native plants and those who grow them. There was a recent article in the New York Times that defends gardening with non-native species and kind of compares native plant enthusiasts to the Minutemen and other gun-toting militias along the border with Mexico. On Chicago Garden Mr. Brown Thumb claims that, prior to meeting some friendly garden bloggers, he was offended by native plant proponents and went so far as to say: "It is unfortunate that the native plant movement attracts self-righteous extremists, but it is a reality."

Who are these people meeting?? Who are these native plant gardeners who are bludgeoning people over the head with native plant ideology? I've met some dedicated native plant lovers but I've never been made to feel guilty for growing some bearded irises and peonies. Now, I'm sure native plant zealots are out there because there are zealots all over the place. But really? For Raffles in the NYT to mention kudzu and economic benefits in the same breath is pretty laughable. (People in the mid-Atlantic states who lose power in a minor gust of wind thanks to out-of-control kudzu bringing down power lines might disagree. I would know; I work for some of them.) To me this smacks of plain old contrarianism.

If you're a native plant enthusiast who harps on people for growing some hostas, please stop it!! You're making the rest of us look like jerks and you're damaging the entire idea of growing plants that have evolved within a food web in a particular place. But for other native plant contrarians, listen to what you're saying. Is it really so bad to grow plants that have evolved with insects, birds and other members of the food web for thousands of years? Is it really so terrible if I want to give my garden a sense of place by making it look like the shortgrass prairie/savanna that it was before people started farming here?

No, there is nothing wrong with growing non-native plants that thrive in your conditions and look nice (I love 'David' phlox and would tell anyone who ragged on me about growing this non-native to kiss my butt; it does great here and avoids powdery mildew). But there is also nothing wrong with truly loving the plants native to your region (desert, swampy, forest, prairie, whatever) and you can't really deny the fact that indigenous plants evolved with and therefore are part of complex ecosystems that shouldn't be trashed just because, oh well, we already moved here.

Everyone just take a breath, please! We're all gardeners!

For a good rebuttal of Raffles' article, see Ben's post This Guy is an Idiot at the Deep Middle.

7 comments:

Jan@Thanks for today. said...

Interesting! I am one who likes both native and non-natives and don't really care what people think about that. It's my garden & I can do as I please;-) I'm picking up my native fascination and adding fast & furiously, but I still love many exotics and will continue to do so. I haven't met (in person) anyone who has dared to be critical of that, and thankfully no one has directly said anything to me either (although I know there are diehards standing by to pounce!). I just think it's healthy to take everything with a grain of salt, so to speak. Good for you for expressing your thoughts about the matter.

Sissy said...

I guess gardeners have their zealot population like every other aspect of society...Good for you to stand up for what you believe!

garden girl said...

I love native plants, Rose, and there's also plenty of room in our garden for a variety of non-natives.

As long as they play nice and do well in our dry shade, I don't discriminate. My main concern is avoiding invasives, and there are plenty of those in native plants, introduced species, and cultivars.

I prefer tolerance and diversity, both in people and in plants. :)

Rose said...

There are always a few crackpots in every group, Rose. That being said, I've never met a native plant lover who was as zealous as these people describe. I've planted more and more natives in recent years, but my garden is full of hostas, daylilies, and hydrangeas, too. I agree totally with Linda--diversity in people and in plants is the best.

Benjamin Vogt said...

I'm going to start being militant about native plants. "What? You grow siberian iris? Wait, hold still, don't move so the laser target from the sniper can get a good fix." A joke, of course, or is it? All I know is it seems that oe often than not I don't have to worry of fuss over plants that are native and suited for a specific place in my garden. My plant loss rate is very very very low when I use researched (that's the key) natives OR non natives.

rambleonrose said...

Jan-I agree that we should do what we like in our gardens as long as it isn't introducing a really invasive thug that can wreak havoc elsewhere. I hope you find natives to be aesthetically and environmentally pleasing...I know I do, but I still like many non-natives too!

Sissy--Thank you, and yes it's unfortunate that there are native plant zealots. But what bothers me is people like Raffles who are acting just as zealously when complaining about native plants and those who grow them.

GG--Amen! I agree with you entire comment!!

Rose--I'm with you too!

Ben--Ha! Ha! Thank you for a good laugh this morning! On a more serious note, yes, well-researched and well-sited plants are the key to success, whether they're native or not. I have found that most of my natives are just way more drought-tolerant than my non-natives (with a couple exceptions). On the other hand some of my natives get overwhelmed by powdery mildew. But I don't like the tone of these writers castigating all native plant people. They're sounding as self-righteous and close-minded as those they purport to disagree with.

Jan@Thanks for today. said...

Rose, it reminds me a LOT of religion and politics! Zealots everywhere! Moderation and tolerance of diversity is the key;-)

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