Three times is not a charm, but TWO times could be redundant. Hearing Thomas Rainer twice in the same year, months a part, might have been boring, even insipid. NOT SO. Rainer managed to give a lecture on Native Plants, altered for a new audience, which engrossed me, even the second time around. He dissected the ideology of the native plant movement, turned the mythology built around native plants on their head and proposed an alternative to the local vs. exotic debate.
In the plant world, I am not a proponent of any one movement. The “devil plants exotics” is something I couldn’t care less about. When Rainer questions the hype around native plants: too many promises, too little delivered, I don’t get upset. His point is to use all plants in an aesthetic way. To understand how plants interact, how to generate a plant community through layering and ultimately how to create harmony in a landscape.
Rainer repeated many of the “lessons,” I learned in the UK working with James Hitchmough. Fertile soil is not what you want in a garden. The “black gold” we are taught to yearn for in garden soils is actually problematic: weeds become dominant. The gravel mulches being used by the Dutch, Germans, Swiss and British are what we should covet.
It’s hard to turn your head around. After all my head has been on my shoulders for a good long time. Jettisoning a truism or what you thought were truisms about gardens is tough work. Rainer’s underlying mission is convince his audience that creating a community, a plant community is the journey all gardeners take.
Designing with Natives
New York Botanical Garden
March 20,1 2014
Rainer’s blog: Grounded Design