PHYLLIS ODESSEY

Zone Denial

Thomas Christopher
The Backyard
REVOLUTION
NYBG
March 15, 2012
“What will convince gardeners that things have to change?”  
Thomas Christopher

For hard-core horticulturists… NOTHING.

For those of us who are not in denial, it doesn’t take much: a few 60 degree days in February.

For myself, I  like being revolutionary.
WHATEVER it takes, Tom Christopher made a powerful case for gardening sustainably.  With not much foreplay, Christopher got right to it.  “We are the Saudi Arabia of fresh water.”  The audience was filled with gardeners sitting in the auditorium of an institution that is known for its collections and traditional gardens.  Was this heresy?
In 1911, Bison grazed on grass outside the Smithsonian Institution before there was a Smithsonian National Zoo. 
Christopher spent most of time talking about grass and alternatives to it.  “What is a lawn, but a display of wealth and power? We all love Downton Abbey, but let’s not get carried away by TV”. 

Consider the amount of chemicals it takes to keep a lawn green and weed free.  Consider the amount of labor it takes to keep a lawn mowed.  Consider the alternatives?

A mowed labyrinth on Vashon Island
This isn’t new stuff.  In a funny, conversational style, Christopher presented a number of alternatives, like the mowing a labyrinth into your lawn  my personal favorite).  Christopher advocated for giving up the lawn or at the very least reducing its size.  If you can’t stand not having a green expanse,  plant one of the new eco-grasses that  grow 6 inches a season.  
Can we do it?  The Winter Lecture Series at NYBG (Larry Weaner, Doug Tallamy, Thomas Christopher) was packed with gardeners/horticulturists. They were unhappy.  Not adhering to English gardening tradition and the planting palette related to it, is just too TMC (too much change) for some people.  Looking for opportunities instead of seeing disaster is what Christopher advocated.
When I got home Fine Gardening was on my stoop.
The cover copy:
Spring Containers:  Fresh looks to start the season
Pruning Mysteries Solved
Peonies:  Pick the best one for your garden

Is it seductive?  Hell yes!   Snow Lotus, Canary Brillant or Julia Rose?  I closed the magazine. I am making a list of what will be coming out of my garden.  2012 is going to be different for me.

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