Friday, June 30, 2006
Why I’ll never go native
I ran a lovely article on native wildflowers, complete with gorgeous photographs (see above) in the April issue of the magazine, but I find them an inadequate solution for most urban gardens—particularly for a formally designed courtyard garden on a street of Italianate Victorian houses.
And here’s the thing: our gardens—for the most part—are not natural or "native." They aren’t swamps, meadows, or woodlands. (Read Christopher Lloyd's description of his tortuously-maintained "meadow.") They are highly artificial constructs where plants that would never be seen growing near each other are forced into close proximity, and then pruned, divided, and cultivated into submission. So to say that using flowers native to your area is somehow better than using any other flower doesn’t make much sense to me. Our models for gardening come largely from the 18th and 19th century British master designers—and none knew better how to bend a landscape to their will. Indeed, it must be from them that we’ve gotten our obsession with emerald green lawns (not that I share that obsession).
So in my garden you’re much more likely to see this
The tropicals speak to the Victorian obsession with the exotic—appropriate, I suppose, for the days when the sun never set on the British empire.
(This was supposed to be posted from Italy, but I didn't get to it.)