being a good housewife

meadow from jamesAfter 4 days at the APGA  (American Public Garden Association) Conference in Denver,  I can definitively say that native plants are a pain.  Yeah, everybody loves the role natives play in biodiversity and some people even think they will save the planet, if only we would plant them.  The idea that natives require less maintenance than any other garden plant is a mistaken notion.

Nothing gives a native plant a bad name faster, than a bumper crop of weeds.  The downfall of a native plant garden is in how we conceive of it. The idea of trying to replicate nature is the first wrong turn one can make.”  Dan Johnson, Denver Botanic DSC_5103Garden.  Dan argued for a managed naturalistic style based on design principles and interpretative signage.   I wonder when they are going to do something with this area? is the question most asked by visitors during the off season about meadow-like areas at the Botanic Garden according to Dan.

Betsy Collins, Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens campaigned for getting people to plant natives in their backyard.  The Santa Barbara Botanic solution:  change the message from one of sustainability to personal goals.  Instead of asking: what do women want, ask what do people want in their gardens?  “To create beauty, to grow food, to save time and money and reduce exposure to toxic chemicals. How can this be accomplished? The answer is native plants.” Collinsolympic-meadows5I feel differently about the native plant debate.  If they are weeded, everyone adores a  meadow.   What happens during the rest of the year?  Convincing people to plant native plants is about our ideas of beauty.  This year I will be working on a project, that addresses this very issue.  What are the elements that need to be present in this type of landscape to evoke an aesthetic response in a visitor to the garden?

APGA Conference
Now You See Them, Now You…

Want Them!
How to Infuse Any Garden With Native Plants
Tuesday, June 24
Dan Johnson, Horticulture, Denver Botanic Gardens
Betsy Collins, Horticulture, Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens
John Manion, Horticulture, Birmingham Botanical Garden
Frederique Lavoipierre, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden


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