September 30, 2005
No garden is maintenance free; however the naturalistic model requires less maintenance than a similar sized traditional garden. Naturalistic gardens go hand in hand with the environmental movement. It all begins with the reduction or complete eradication of turf areas which reduces maintenance, air and noise pollution by lawnmowers and the use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides. This is the first step that moves the garden from being primarily a monoculture of grass to become a biologically diverse urban space. Perennials and shrubs, preferably native to the area, are chosen to suit local climate patterns and the conditions of the property which reduces the need for irrigation and maintenance. Plants are grown in strong groups where the self seeding of desired plants and the occasional incidental are encouraged. Garden pests become a minor but accepted part of the garden, not something to do constant battle with. Because we want the gardens to attract birds and insects, we use little or no pesticides and herbicides. Organic mulches are used to cover bare soil which not only reduces water requirements but helps prevent the establishment of weeds and increases soil health. Along with dense diverse planting, the establishment of ponds, wild areas and brush-piles encourages species diversity. In Autumn, fallen leaves are no longer a burden to rake but can be allowed to settle where they land to be assimilated into the soil naturally, or are added to compost bins to later contribute to soil health. Frost brings its own beauty, and as the plants decline in preparation for winter, the gardener decides which perennials will be cut down and which will remain to enrich the winter landscape.
In fact the naturalistic garden actually provides what traditional gardens often promise but seldom achieve – a relaxing and vibrant environment to spend time in, not just slave over.
September 23, 2005
Naturalistic gardening is primarily a method for the urban or
sub-urbanite to feel closer to the natural world. It is a garden to
relax in rather than to fuss over. It is a garden that invites
visitors of all types, from the bugs to birds to like-minded humans.
It is a garden that allows us, for at least a short while, to escape
the pressures and tensions of modern life and to actively connect with our biophilic needs.
In this, it can be considered as part of a remedy for lives and lifestyles that have
become separated from the natural world which formed our being.
“I have argued…that we are human in good part because of the
particular way we affiliate with other organisms. They are the matrix
in which the human mind originated and is permanently rooted, and they
offer the challenge and freedom innately sought. To the extent that
each person can feel like a naturalist, the old excitement of the untrammeled world will be regained. I offer this as a formula of re-enchantment to invigorate poetry and myth: mysterious and little known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions.”
Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia, 1984, p. 139
September 9, 2005
Can Gardening be ‘Natural’?
When we hear of ‘natural’ or ‘wild’ gardens we are faced with a self-contradictory term. While no one will dispute that all plants, even the most outrageous cultivars, grow ‘naturally’; how can any garden that is arranged and controlled by man be called ‘natural’? Does planting a garden with native plants alone make a wild garden?
By ‘naturalistic’ I refer to a garden that make no pretense of being natural in its arrangement or its development through plant succession: I wish only to have a garden which appears as if it has reached a certain successional stage, and then maintain the garden with as little interference as possible. A wild garden, planted with only local native plants, could then be defined as a natural garden which is not controlled after the initial planting, and is allowed to progress, without interference, through whatever successional path it may take.
But then it is no longer a garden…
In essence, Naturalistic gardening is an elaborate (but satisfying) imitation of nature that allows urban gardeners to feel surrounded by the essence, if not the reality, of a natural ecosystem. It does not depend on native plants and it does not claim to be something that a garden cannot be.