Sunday, June 15, 2014

Not Your Father's Garden

Childhood memories can be fuzzy but one memory is clear – my father was often in the yard working: pruning, patching grass and growing vegetables. I remember some of the ornamental plants that we had there. Spring brought bright pink Japanese azaleas and the yellow bells of Forsythia. Summer was Gardenia, Ligustrum, gladiola, nasturtium, and rose of Sharon. On the street, the city planted crape myrtles for everyone. Japanese honeysuckle twined in uninvited along the fence with the neighbor.

None of those plants are native to the US. Non-native plants were “king” then (and still are for many folks).  There were a few large native trees: a huge oak in the front, a sycamore on the side and two big pecans in the back. I don’t know if anyone planted those on purpose, but it was clear that back then people chose exotic plants for their “landscape.” 

I can’t live like that anymore. My sense of awareness is awake now and I see those choices as not supportive of the greater community. I need to choose plants that support our local insects and provide the kind of nourishment that critters here evolved with. Forsythia and Ligustrum are not those plants.

So my garden is different (although I did keep a Gardenia for the memories). If you grew up with those typical non-native ornamental plants, I hope that you also will consider what role your want your garden to play. It can be more than just a feast for our eyes. It can be a feast for the local ecosystem too.

Note: There is no intended disrespect to my father or any other father. This is simply a post about how we can choose to garden more in tune with our local ecosystem than we did in the past. Love you, Dad!


  1. I know what you mean. I so miss the azaleas and dogwoods of my native SC, and I want one of each in my yard, but other than that, I'm trying to go native. I'm not just doing it for the wildlife, but for the water preservation aspect. Water is a diminishing resource, and I want to use as little as possible. There are so many beautiful native plants, why not plant them?

  2. What a cutie, though, huh? ;)

    I can say this. In my father's landscape in Mobile AL, he did plant a longleaf pine we brought in from the wild. But he planted it only about 10 feet away from the wall of the house, so after its "candle" stage, it took over and had to be cut down eventually. That was the only native plant I recall in my youth.