Everybody's a Critic, It's the Plants, Darling, Real Gardens

Evil, Frivolous Gardener!!!

This is the dominant native plant community in Southern California. It is beautiful, but it is not a garden.

This is the dominant native plant community in Southern California. It is beautiful, but it is not a garden.

I am ruining the world.

Because I like pretty plants.

Because I practice the dubious art of ornamental gardening.

Yes – I admit it. I have planted non-native exotic species in my garden. I have planted them in gardens of others. I am one of those thoughtless, arrogant gardeners who have a palette that includes plants other than those native to my immediate environs. So, obviously – I SUCK.

I’m wary of invasive plant species. I don’t use plants that are known to be invasive in my area. I’m careful when choosing plants and always consider the specific environmental conditions I am working with when making decisions about what to plant. But sometimes, in the real world, things are not as easy as reading a list and then NEVER using anything that is on said list. More often than not, things are more subtle and more complicated than the simple black and white of “good plant” vs “bad plant”.

There are those who fervently believe that using any plant that wasn’t here before European settlement is BAD. I am not one of those people. I think horticultural xenophobia is as narrow-minded as plain old garden-variety cultural xenophobia (haha – see what I did there? Word tricks!) The responsible use of well-adapted exotics in gardens is a craft that I have worked long and hard to hone, and being able to have a large palette of plants to choose from keeps me flexible and my gardens suitable to the lifestyles of my clients. I try to educate as much as I can, but in the end it is my job to design gardens that look fantastic during the seasons my clients are outside grilling, swimming, playing croquet – what have you. In my particular climate, native plants largely go dormant in the summer. How would you like a landscape that looks lush during winter rains while you are cuddled up inside by a roaring fire, and is brown and crispy when you want to be outside enjoying the blue skies, the fresh air, and a beautiful garden.

Also, what about growing food? To use native plants exclusively limits edible gardening to a degree that I find unacceptable.

I don’t believe in hard fast lines. Don’t get me wrong, I use many native plants in my landscapes, but to limit myself to an exclusively native palette would, for me, be a futile exercise. I just don’t believe that we can recreate a pre-colonization ecosystem. I believe that creating responsible gardens is about making a better world moving forward, rather than trying to recapture some romantic notion of what we think things were before we screwed it all up. Yeah, sure, we’ve screwed up plenty – but making gardens is not a destructive impulse, it is a creative one – one that speaks to hope for the future. We have the advantage of more knowledge about how to garden ethically and responsibly, so please let me use that knowledge and don’t limit me to the restrictive plant palette that fits a narrow idea of what is “correct”. I think anyone who wants to garden exclusively with natives should go right ahead, but don’t get in my way, thank you very much.

I’m not looking to turn back time, I’m looking forward to a world gardened organically, thoughtfully, beautifully, enthusiastically, with both arms opened wide to embrace every beautiful, suitable plant that tickles my fancy. Doesn’t that sound awesome?

I can’t WAIT!!! (BWA HA HA ha ha ha ha!!!)

*rubbing together evil exotic gardener hands, one eyebrow arched, with a knowing smirk on my lips*

Posted by on November 27, 2013 at 1:07 am, in the category Everybody's a Critic, It's the Plants, Darling, Real Gardens.
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149 Responses to “Evil, Frivolous Gardener!!!”

  1. Point well taken: not everyone can master the art of design so well that they can work solely in the palette of native plants and not every client values ecological function over aesthetic function.

    • skr says:

      I could rewrite that as, “not everyone can master the art of design so well that they can work solely in a palette of blue.” Yeah, even Picasso got tired of a limited palette. Just because someone rejects your arbitrary limits doesn’t mean they haven’t mastered the art of design.

    • Laura Bell says:

      Wow. That’s beyond snark. That’s just plain petty. Step outside the box, man. Just because one wants to see a non-native camellia/fruit tree/whatever in his/her yard, it doesn’t mean one lacks vision or knowledge of design. It means they have different preferences or goals for their gardening. If it isn’t harming the ecology, leave it be.

  2. Susan says:

    Thank you, Ivette!! I completely agree with you on this. It’s how I garden myself. I too am so tired of the gardening xenophobia and native plant tyranny. I believe that if you do it responsibly (and I think that most, if not all, serious gardeners are responsible people), there’s room for both plant groups. Having said that, however, I will also make the point that in some instances what you plant needs to be determined by where you live. For instance, I want to dope-slap people who move to the desert in Arizona and plant an English cottage garden. That’s just ridiculous. But by and large, you should be able to plant what makes you happy. I for one would be pretty unhappy if we were restricted solely to native, pre-colonial plants. In fact, I’d be so honked off I’d probably quit gardening altogether…..

  3. The point of a native plant garden is not to return to some pre-colonial nostalgia orgy dream of native plants; I kinda get tired of that limited critique of native plants. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to do so because we’ve so screwed up our ecosystems. I do think we have MUCH to learn about native plants, especially when I walk through other gardens, local nurseries, and big box stores. And once you begin to learn about natives, you get hooked, start thinking about larger ecosystems and the larger issues beyond our tiny world of a backyard garden. I also think we need to learn to let go when it comes to aesthetics, and adjust a bit more to local climate — which most prominently means letting lawns go dormant, and using native grass lawns which don’t green up as fast in spring. Also — how do we know when e behaved exotic will jump the fence? Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. I don’t preach garden xenophobia, but we have a hell of a ways to go to even understanding native plants, knowing they exist, which ones to use, seeing them in stores, and thinking about gardening as something beyond just for ourselves (especially as pollinator numbers dwindle).

    • skr says:

      oh please, all you do is preach garden xenophobia and moral outrage against anyone that disagrees with your plant nativism.

    • Jen says:

      I think it’s highly unlikely that say, a tulip or rose is going to rogue here. So I will plant them with impunity.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Hi Benjamin I’m so glad you chimed in! I love our discussions. You point out that we have to loosen up our aesthetics in service of our climate ecology – and I guess I come from the place that there ARE no aesthetics without first working within the confines of your climate and the ecology of your region. But to me that means using aloes from South Africa, phormiums from New Zealand, herbs native to the Mediterranean, many locally grown and very well adapted. I also love my agaves from Mexico and many native and cultivated species from the desert southwest. My gardens have to be extremely drought tolerant AND look fantastic. I agree with you on many points, but the strict use of natives is where we diverge. I want to have the freedom to use any plant that works well- I need that playfulness. But as someone with a conscience, I am always ready to pull back and get rid of an important plant to me if it proves itself bad under my specific working conditions. To me, every site has a different set of rules, and to limit the possibilities in service of what almost feels like a political agenda goes against my nature. But I’m always happy to listen and talk things out – until things get stoopid!!!

  4. Nature as a garden maker is at a distinct disadvantage when compared to the human garden maker because the scale of the projects are so vastly different. If you take a plot of land in nature comparable in size to the typical human scale urban/suburban garden, nature’s plant palette is going to be very limited. When a plant species finds itself in a suitable environmental niche it does its best to fill it completely. Nature plants in large drifts over large spaces. To the human eye that seems stingy and not a garden. You have to zoom out to the much bigger environment to find the plant diversity and design principles that gardeners and garden designers want to fit in a human scale garden.

    No, we are not going back to the days of pre-European garden conquest. That dirt has been turned. But encouraging the use of native plants in the landscape does not need to restrict your plant palette to the tiny list your picture and words imply. Your native plant list does not have to be restricted to the LA basin.

    Branch out. You have the flora of the entire American west, Plains and Mexico to explore. You’re making a garden and altering the environment anyway. You may even find niches for east coast natives.

    I’m no native purist either. I have planted non-natives in a fairly pristine native habitat. It was however a fairly boring monoculture of five dominant, unwanted, thuggish species at gardener eye level and garden size scale. I need more in that space I call my garden. Simply removing the dominant species allowed new natives to arrive. I have also been planting plenty of natives. Now my garden has more native species in a human sized garden than my neighbor’s large tract of undisturbed land directly across the scenic byway.

    The simple point behind all this is that justifying your use of non-native plants shouldn’t be done by claiming that the native plant palette is tiny and restrictive to the art of garden making. It’s not true.

    • skr says:

      I’m guessing you haven’t had some plant nativist go off on you for using Nassela tennuissima because it’s invasive and not native enough as in within 20 miles of the site.

    • Well said. Thank you.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      You seem to have a very broad definition of what it native. If I go by your playbook, well – ANY plant is native to SOMEWHERE. Most native advocates maintain strict proximity standards, a radius of 20-50 miles, etc…
      I really like your point about nature gardening in broad strokes, and that we have to pull back to appreciate it… that was lovely. Yes, we who garden on human scale may only see a monoculture, but I think that is telling. A monoculture also encourages things that work against habitation – fires, large scale die-offs – these are part of how nature works and has always worked, but it doesn’t work for inhabited space. To cultivate is part of our collaboration with nature. I don’t think it has to be an either/or proposition. To cultivate using only the palette given to me in one small region seems artificially constrained, especially if we are collaborating with nature, who works on a bigger scale, as you said. In many ways what you said made me even MORE happy that I use a broader palette – it is my way to be in conversation with a divine spirit. Thank you for your comment!!!

  5. Carolyn (another evil frivolous gardener) says:

    We ourselves are an exotic invasive species. Humans are native only to a small part of Africa. The first Americans came in from Asia via Alaska–and they probably brought some plant seeds with them, if only by accident.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Thanks, Carolyn! If we would substitute any specific race of human for the exotic species in question when having a dialog like this, I wonder if the natives-only activists would be so quick to draw such hard lines. The same thoughts are used to exclude people from other cultures because they are “over-breeding”, “didn’t come from here” (who of us did, really?), “are taking over”…
      I don’t know, once you see what simple language does it puts things in a very different light, I think!

  6. Mary McAllister says:

    Thanks for your spirited defense of freedom in our gardens to plant as we wish to satisfy our own aesthetic preferences. I’m also a California gardener, so I share your desire for a garden that is pretty during the summer when most native plants are dormant and brown.

    I notice that the defenders of the natives-only agenda say they are not restricted to a pre-settlement and/or locals-only plant palette. I wish most native plant advocates were as flexible this. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area the ruling native plant advocates require plantings limited to those that existed here prior to 1769 (when the first European laid eyes on the San Francisco Bay) as well as sub-species that existed in small micro-climates. Believe it or not, the Presidio Trust eradicated California poppies because that sub-species wasn’t in that specific location in 1769, although it was found elsewhere on the San Francisco peninsula.

    Those who defend the native plant agenda would be wise to lighten up! They are starting to get some back-lash.

  7. anne says:

    Very soon (and some would argue the time is now), your plant choices in the arid southwest will revolve around water usage. You live in a desert. Right now, as long as you can turn on your faucet and get water (and pay for it), you don’t have to think about the scarcity of water and where it comes from (and ecosystems upstream that you’re taking it away from). As an analogy, it’s a little like driving a gas-guzzler back and forth to the corner market 4 times a day.

    • skr says:

      you seem to assume that she is using plants that aren’t drought tolerant. there are plenty of exotics that are very drought tolerant and grow quite well in Southern California such as plants from Australia and the Western Cape.

    • Mary McAllister says:

      Most native plants in California must be irrigated half the year, during our dry season, unless you are satisfied with a brown garden of dead-looking plants. In California, it is a fiction that native plants are drought tolerant.

      Native plant “restorations” in California usually fail unless irrigated for several years. Your assumptions are not relevant to California.

      Just because I don’t subscribe to the natives-only agenda doesn’t mean I have a green lawn. In fact, I’ve never had a lawn and most of my neighbors don’t either.

      Please do not try to put me in your “bad-girl” box.

      • anne says:

        I didn’t say anything about a) natives vs, exotics, or b) that people, including yourself, are bad because they plant with exotics. I wasn’t pointing fingers at anyone specific. I was merely making the point that water usage and conservation are important, and will become more so in the future, and planting choices can make a big difference.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Like a couple of my friends here have said, natives need water. Part of the reason people dislike native gardens here in So Cal is because they have been told native plants need no supplemental irrigation, and that is wrong. I rip out lawns as often as I can, and design drought tolerant gardens without thirsty plants as the backbone of my practice. ALL new plantings need irrigation in Southern California – we don’t get measurable rain for months on end. I’d like people who are used to a lush native palette made possible by frequent rain make do with what we have! (how mean of me!!!) When it comes down to it, you are very right, but of course your words are totally not news to me.

  8. Based on the comments above, it seems that the argument on this subject will probably never end. As another southern California gardener, I fall into the pretty does not mean irresponsible camp. Water restrictions control our choices more and more but, keeping those in mind, there are still a lot of choices among non-native, non-invasive plants well adapted to our climate. And how does climate change itself factor into the mix here? Is it really safe to assume that plants that thrived in this area of the world hundreds of years ago will still thrive as climate change inexorably proceeds? We all need to adapt.

  9. Ellen O. Bender says:

    “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” There are many different aspects to the use of native plants… This post is obviously geared towards an attempt to make a name for your business as you state: “being able to have a large palette of plants to choose from”(Have you REALLY looked at the number of “native” plants that would work in your clients landscapes?) while it “keeps me flexible and my gardens suitable to the lifestyles of my clients” You obviously don’t subscribe to the tenet of native plant for native wildlife… or worry about the long term loss of insect habitat which leads to loss of birds and on up the line to loss of everything nature produces (that includes us poor humans I hope you realize!!!). I know it would take too much effort for you to educate your clients on why you use native plants that would use less water, and (this hits the bottom line I think…)would not require you to ‘service’ their landscape regularly … Methinks… You may be more concerned about your lifestyle than that of nature….

    • skr says:

      I think you miht want to follow up on the Tallamy research. The most recent data refutes many of the arguments in his book about insect habitat.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Firstly, how amusing you are to use the most overworked Shakespearean cliche in the books to “catch” me. Ha ha ha ha ha!!!! My business doesn’t need a “name” – it has one. I have been gardening in Southern California for about 20 years, and yes – I have REALLY looked into native plant options and use many in my gardens. In fact, right now I am working on a 10 acre parcel of a 250 acre ranch in the chaparral of Ventura County near the Malibu border (county line). That is the picture above – the garden I am making with … drum roll – NATIVE PLANTS. Because they are appropriate to the site. Oh, but the native wildlife – the rattlesnakes and the rats that infest the uncut native scrub … yea, they’ll have to go. I’m wondering if you spend any time in the wild? Romantic notions tend to fly out the window when you are doing fire clearance and get bit by a rattlesnake. You don’t get wilder than that!
      Anyway, your nightmare scenario is dramatic, but this planet has had cataclysm after cataclysm and it survives. I think a gardener who is committed to organic practices and the responsible use of plants will do much more to help than to harm.
      You are assuming alot about me – you should ask more questions and not take such an unpleasant attitude. It gives you wrinkles.

  10. Town Mouse says:

    Sure, I agree in principle. We should all be free to enjoy gardens with plants from all around the world – I mean, it’s a garden! My own garden has a pretty good percentage of exotics – but I did take out the cotoneaster.

    But I just drove up the California coast from Santa Barbara on Highway 1. It used to be chaparral, now it’s a Pampas grass landscape. The change happened in the last 10 years or so – the plant is very invasive here.

    Ooops. Someone didn’t look at that list.

    (I agree it’s a beautiful ornamental grass, but I preferred the chaparral…)

    • Mary McAllister says:

      I have driven the coast of California many times. I am writing from Cayucos at the moment, midway between SF and LA. There is no pampas grass here.

      There is some pampas grass near Pescadero, but it has been there for over 30 years. It’s not going anywhere. The landscape there is still predominantly chaparral.

      Your description of the California coast is exaggerated if not fabricated. Native plant advocates engage in a lot of hyperbole to convince us that the world will go to hell if we don’t eradicate non-natives and plant natives. Their doom and gloom scenarios have little relationship to reality.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Oh I KNOW – Cortaderia jubata is a thug, but such a beautiful one! I would never use it. I DO use other sterile species in dry areas that have minimal irrigation. We know more about invasive plants than we used to, and we can use that knowledge to make better choices. I have stopped using certain plants because to me, the possibility of invasiveness wasn’t worth it – but you easily see it in a garden. I don’t want any thuggish behavior in my gardens (okay, unless it’s arugula – in THAT case, be a thug cuz I’LL EAT YOU!!!), so plants that are overly aggressive or self-seed to a ridiculous extent are culled from my palette. I am advocating a responsible use of plants – or do we REALLY have to restrict ourselves to using only natives? I would feel like I’m being treated like a child. I know why the natives only lobby is so passionate, and I can appreciate it – but I just can’t go along with it.

  11. Jonathan P says:

    I doubt most native plant enthusiast would take issue with your gardening practices. As you say, “I don’t use plants that are known to be invasive in my area” and “I use many native plants in my landscapes.” Sure there are the outspoken extremists, just like in religion and politics, but I believe they are in the minority (they’re just so loud they seem like the majority). I do think it is important that we don’t draw a line in the sand and force people to choose sides, exotic gardeners vs. native gardeners, because, let’s face it, there are many damn good native plants and they are many amazing exotics and I don’t want to choose.

  12. skr says:

    Ivette, have you read Emma Marris’ “Rambunctious Garden?” It sounds like it might be up your alley.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      I just ordered it on your recommendation – and the title didn’t hurt! I love anything rambunctious!!! And MY garden is as rambunctious as they come! It’s so funny – the talk about wildlife not being able to survive on the pollination / nectar sources of non-natives – what IS THAT? I have hummingbirds GALORE in my gardens that go crazy over my aloes that bloom from Dec – April, when not much else is rich in nectar! The bees go crazy for my rosmarinus (not native), brassicas (non native), lavenders (non native) artichokes (non native) … I don’t understand. Birds flock to my gardens to eat the seedheads I leave on my edibles and grasses! Lizards are everywhere! Praying mantises actually come into my HOUSE they feel so comfy at my place – my emphatically not xenophobic garden! My point is, if you’re a good plant, native or not, I’ll take you! Thanks for your comments

  13. “You are assuming a lot about me – you should ask more questions and not take such an unpleasant attitude. It gives you wrinkles” — that is pretty much the best thing I’ve read all day! Thanks Ivette.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      My wonderful woman of Danger, I’d wink at you but then there would be even MORE wrinkles and my stance on those is a big NO!!! Of course our united desire to be Zone Pushers keeps us fresh and vibrant, right?! XOXOXO to you, always!

  14. FionRK says:

    Well what an interesting post. I totally agree, we have many native plant pushers in Australia as well. We have a 5 acre ‘garden’, well mostly rainforest, in North Queensland, Australia, with many natives and many exotics. I must admit I just LOVE plants, all plants, and as long as a plant is not invasive (some natives are, here, such as the Black Wattle, and another I do not know the name of, the birds eat the seeds and spread the damn things everywhere), I will plant it and see how it goes.

    We are lucky and have a huge rainfall, so I very very rarely need to water anything (perhaps two or three weeks per year.) I look forward to more of your interesting posts Ivette, I think you are a woman after my own heart. Fiona

  15. I am a Landscape Designer who works only with midwestern native plants. There is a Native Plant Nursery 10 miles from where I live. It carries 169 species of forbs (perennials), 160 species of grasses, and 37 species of trees, shrubs, and vines. Hardly restrictive. Each plant has clearly labeled moisture and sun/shade requirements. Once established, 2-3 years, with the exception of wetland plants, they don’t need any further watering. I’ve never, ever used pesticides. Over time, self-seeding and traveling rhizomes blur the original design, making it even more beautiful.

    I don’t know anything about native plants that grow in California, but those in the Midwest provide even more ecological services than attracting insects and other wildlife. Their greatest service is their deep root systems infiltrate rain water, which makes them not only drought resistant, but prevents runoff and flooding. In addition, 1/3 of the deep roots decay every year, thereby enriching the soil–prairie plants create their own deep prairie soil. In addition, a tallgrass prairie is far more able to sink carbon than a forest.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Do you REALLY think that the biology of a plant that works well in your climate, but just happens to be from a different part of the planet, is SO different? Do you think the roots will not penetrate the ground and aid in rainwater infiltration? Do you think the roots of well adapted exotics don’t decay and add to the biome? Are those roots plastic because they are from somewhere else? See – this is my beef with the natives-only thing! Essentially, this is magical thinking, but in reverse – you are assuming that these plants are so “other” that they don’t work like PLANTS. Which is wrong! They function just like any other plant, they just happen to be native to another area. Does the structure of the plant change once it recognizes that your soil is not its native soil? Please provide me with solid science on this, as you are obviously smart… I’m always open to have my mind changed! I don’t quite understand why you are comparing prairie grass to forest as if I am asking you to go out and plants woods instead of prairie, but whatever…
      Thank you for admitting to not knowing about California natives. I am happy for you that your native plant nursery is so close to you and that they provide you with easy access to your palette – anything that makes life a little easier is fine by me! But landscape, as you know, is a site specific endeavor – you shouldn’t assume that your techniques will create the same results in a different ecology. Some years we get no measurable rainfall for months and months on end – to not use supplemental water would mean brown scrub for much of the growing season. The picture posted up above is what a non-irrigated chaparral looks like in mid June. Right after this photo was taken, a wildfire swept through the area and only irrigated sites were saved from devastation.
      I’m happy you can do what you do within a native palette – YAY for you. My concern is that there is a strong lobby bent on taking away my right to use a carefully considered palette of exotics with a history of working in my climate. That just isn’t cool. By the way, do you cultivate any food? How does that square with your natives-only practice?

      • The operative word there is deep–most prairie forbs and grasses have deep taproots that descend into the soil anywhere from 5-15 feet. The mass of roots is far greater than traditional garden plants. So the answer is no–plants from other areas are not equipped to do the same thing as our midwestern prairie plants do in the midwest.

        Here’s a picture of a typical prairie root system for those of you who don’t live in the midwest;
        http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474981474937

        • skr says:

          In order for your argument to work you have to resort to qualifying the plant palette with, “typical garden plants.” I have a nice hedge of Chrysopogon zizinoides, an exotic grass species whose roots can typical grow to a depth of 3-4 meters in the first year, but it’s not a plant typically found in garden centers. Drought adapted plants happen upon similar solutions to a lack of moisture regardless of from which continent they originate.

          • “In order for your argument to work you have to resort to qualifying the plant palette with, “typical garden plants.” I have a nice hedge of Chrysopogon zizinoides, an exotic grass species whose roots can typical grow to a depth of 3-4 meters in the first year, but it’s not a plant typically found in garden centers. ”

            Chrysopogon zizinoides is native to India and is only cold hardy to 20-25 degrees Fahrenheit. I live in the Chicago region in zone 5 where the winter temperature may go to -20. How is this relevant?

            I grew typical perennial gardens at my house for, oh 25 years, and I never once ran into a plant hardy in my area the had a root system deeper than my shovel.

          • skr says:

            That particular plant may not be relevant to you and your zone, but not all of the US is zone 5. It is an exotic with deep roots. Another exotic with a deep tap root is Camellia, but you can’t grow that either. Then there is Tamarix with its deep roots, but it is a nasty invasive and shouldn’t be planted. But there is three exotic plants with deep roots off the top of my head. I’m certain there are more. Now that doesn’t mean you will be able to find them at Chicago nurseries, but that says more about the nurseries than about the plants.

  16. Always Skeptical says:

    How about one single scientific citation that says “tallgrass prairie is far more able to sink carbon than a forest.” That myth is repeated ad nauseum by native plant fanatics. I always ask for the scientific source. No one has ever provided one. Can you?

    Please do not go into a long explanation of HOW grasses store carbon in the soil. That’s the normal response from native plant fanatics. But that’s not the issue. Of course grasses store carbon in the soil. The question is how much carbon. All my reading says unambiguously that forests store more carbon in soil and biomass than do grasslands.

    • Grassland by Richard Manning.

      • Always Skeptical says:

        That’s kinda vague for a scientific citation. What is it? Is it written by a scientist? Again, most important, does it actually show that grasslands store more carbon than forests? Please don’t send me on a wild goose chase to find something that doesn’t actually show that grasslands store more carbon than forests. Patricia just did that. She sent me to a “paper” that absolutely did not say, anywhere in the essay, that grasslands store more carbon than forests. (Much less provide any evidence for that statement)

        I remain skeptical.

      • Always Skeptical says:

        Now I understand, Benjamin. You have just wasted a bunch of my time. You don’t know what a scientific citation is. Richard Manning in not a scientist of any kind; he’s a journalist. Grassland is not a scientific book; it’s history and sociology. So you native plant fanatics continue to bat 0% — not a single scientific source for you bogus statement that grasslands store more carbon than forests. Your myth is false; it’s long past the time you give it up.

        • Would you non native plant fanatics please tone it down? Just because I believe in supporting shrinking insect populations that pollinate 80% of our food supply does not make me a jerk. Just because I support the health of this planet does not make me a jerk. Just because I see the correlation between making excuses for more fossil fuel extraction and making excuses to plant whatever we want wherever we want does not make me a jerk. The job of a journalist, or any good writer, is to do as much research as a scientists — writers bring together diverse sources to make a large point. This is what I do, I am a writer, working on a book on this very topic right now, and the evidence for native plants is just overwhelming. Bill McKibbon — journalist or scientist? Michael Pollan — journalist or scientist? Bill Moyers — journalist or scientist? Yet I bet you respect all these guys. Don’t tell me you have to have a scientist to have good support, when journalists scour the earth for that support from multiple perspectives and sources.

      • Thanks, Benjamin. That sounds like an intriguing book. I’ll order it.

    • KTC says:

      Fact: Grasslands (e.g. tallgrass prairie) store carbon differently than forests, nearly all of it underground where forests have a significant portion above ground. This is the biggest factor regarding their abilities to sequester carbon. Grasslands have the advantage. Cutting or burning grasslands releases very little carbon. Cutting or burning forest can release a significant amount.

      Some people might not like the source, but it does show a table of various biomes and the proportion of carbon stored above and below ground. I’ve seen other charts with somewhat different numbers in the total column but the proportions were pretty similar.
      http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/sres/land_use/index.php?idp=3

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      using the Conservation Research Institute as a source in this dialog is like using the bible as a source in a debate over the existence of a historical Jesus. Maybe you can find a less biased place to draw a conclusion from?
      Not that I disagree with his position on this issue – but to assert that a similar plant from another place can’t do the same thing without “behaving badly” is a far reach. Yes, some plants do a better job of being planted in wetlands to help create a layered infiltration dynamic!
      And does EVERY plant need to win the title of “Best Plant at Sinking Carbon”? These are all straw men to this particular dialog we are having today.
      THIS conversation is not THAT conversation…

      • “using the Conservation Research Institute as a source in this dialog is like using the bible as a source in a debate over the existence of a historical Jesus. Maybe you can find a less biased place to draw a conclusion from?”

        I don’t understand your analogy here.

        Dr. Gerould Wilhelm heads up the Conservation Research Institute and wrote the paper to which I referred. The author of Plants of the Chicago Region is generally recognized as an expert botanist in this field.

        “Not that I disagree with his position on this issue – but to assert that a similar plant from another place can’t do the same thing without “behaving badly” is a far reach. Yes, some plants do a better job of being planted in wetlands to help create a layered infiltration dynamic!.”

        I don’t understand this paragraph either. Did Dr. Wilhelm assert this and if so, where?
        As I mentioned in my other response, no, non-native, shallow-rooted plants do not give the environmental services that deep-rooted prairie plants do here in the midwest. I’ve never complained, nor do I know of anyone who complains, that, say a daylily behaves badly. It just takes up space that could have used by an equally beautiful plant that would give back to the environment.

        One more thing you mentioned previously. I have never known or heard of anyone who wouldn’t plant a vegetable or an herb garden because the plants aren’t native. In fact, vegetable and herb gardens do very well planted next to prairie gardens because of all the bees attracted to the prairie plants.

        • Always Skeptical says:

          See below, Patricia. Wilhelm’s essay does not say anywhere that grasslands store more carbon than forests. You shouldn’t pretend to cite a scientific source when 1) it isn’t scientific, and 2) doesn’t say what you claim it says. You just make native plant fanatics look like the anti-scientific ideologues that they are.

        • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

          Patricia, I can’t help if you don’t understand what i’m saying. I’m truly sorry about that. I see that you are determined to think that all plants are bad other than those that are an easy list someone made up for you to source from – which is probably a good thing for you. Much better to make things simple and just go with natives only. There are others of us for which gardening is a more complicated, more layered, richer practice. I refuse to make things simple – I like to use my brain and I like to be in dialog with people who use their brains, which is why I like discussing this topic with fans of natives who can follow along with the conversation. I love using natives. But I don’t and won’t stop there. Until someone convinces me to abandon the palette that I have worked with for decades; a palette that continues to evolve, I will continue my practices. I’m eager to continue the keep this dialog about natives going – I’m glad you’ve told me the limitations of your understanding! Thanks for your comments!

          • “using the Conservation Research Institute as a source in this dialog is like using the bible as a source in a debate over the existence of a historical Jesus. Maybe you can find a less biased place to draw a conclusion from?”

            Actually,I was trying to let you off the hook–are you accusing Conservation Research Institute of being corrupt? That they know the answer they want and their conclusions don’t match the evidence? Do you have any evidence of this?

            “Not that I disagree with his position on this issue – but to assert that a similar plant from another place can’t do the same thing without “behaving badly” is a far reach. Yes, some plants do a better job of being planted in wetlands to help create a layered infiltration dynamic!.”

            What I’m asking here is if you are accusing Dr. Wilhelm of “asserting that a similar plant from another place can’t do the same thing without “behaving badly” ” is a far reach.

            If so, when and where did he say it? I’ve never heard him say anything remotely like that.

          • You seem to be accusing me of being a lessor designer than you because my pallet is limited? As I said before, I have 169 forbs (perennials) 160 grasses, and 37 trees, shrubs, and vines to choose from. I would maintain that it’s more difficult to design with native plants only, because most native plans have more exacting cultural requirements than the exotic generalists found in most nurseries. But I assume that you are, indeed, a creative designer–I don’t understand why you think I am not.

            If you go back through my correspondence, I have refrained from attacking those who disagree with me–I’m just trying to make my case for planting natives only.

          • skr says:

            You have to understand Patricia, not everyone is in your biome. I’m guessing 90% of those plants would never survive where Ivette makes gardens. There are something like 6 species of tree native to Southern California. On the positive side, the nursery industry out here is amazing because of the 12 month season. One wholesaler I know routinely has 300 page availability lists. Now that’s what I call selection.

        • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

          Take it easy, we are having a conversation here! Nobody is accusing you of being a lesser designer (I for one, have never seen your work, so you could be the most fantastic designer around – that still doesn’t change the facts of the conversation) and I truly don’t know where you came up with me or anyone accusing anything of being corrupt! I love a person who is passionate about a topic, but let’s keep our wits about us and not go over the edge. I’m sure you are a perfectly fine garden designer and I have absolutely no knowledge about any corruption in the conservation institute you cited … breathe deeply.

          • you are determined to think that all plants are bad other than those that are an easy list someone made up for you to source from – which is probably a good thing for you. Much better to make things simple and just go with natives only. There are others of us for which gardening is a more complicated, more layered, richer practice. I refuse to make things simple – I like to use my brain

            You flat-out accused me of being a simple designer, incapable of a complicated, more layered, richer practice that you do. And I find that quite insulting.

        • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

          Patricia Hill, when someone flat-out calls someone something, that means they flat out call you that thing. You are INFERRING from my comment that I consider you a bad designer, and that’s on you, not me. Like I said before, I have never seen your work, so I have no idea what kind of a designer you are. You could be a genius of garden design. Also, I have no problems with simple palettes. I DO use a complicated palette, because I utilize more than natives plants, and because I like complex plant associations … it is just a fact. If you want to INFER that I think you are a bad designer from what I said, that is your right. And you also have the right to be insulted. Enjoy!

    • Always Skeptical says:

      So typical!
      Your citation is not to a scientific paper, does not appear in a scientific journal, and is written by someone who appears not to publish in refereed scientific journals. He specifically says that this essay is not a scientific paper, just an essay.
      But most important: The essay does NOT SAY that grasslands store more carbon than forests. I suggest you read the essay again, more carefully, before you cite it again as a source for the clearly false statement that grasslands store more carbon than forests.

  17. kermit says:

    A few comments, if I may.

    In the (too many) revolutions and ideological conflicts I’ve seen in my life, it seems that often the enemy camp isn’t attacked so enthusiastically as allies who fail to toe the most severe party line. In the Ulster conflict during the twentieth century, in the end of apartheid in south Africa, the moderates were often attacked more than the ostensible enemy. In the 21st century gardening subculture we usually ignore folks who build and move into suburban developments – other than a passing comment on the boring lawn monoculture – but attack gardeners who aren’t “doing it right”. However I do recognize that we hear the loudest voices most easily.

    Surely, with the exception of the truly invasive species for that area, or using the very toxic poisons in significant amounts, gardening of any aesthetic encourages not only biodiversity but an attitude more in tune with a healthy world.

    I have dumped a few plants that I bought on the spur of the moment at a nursery (“Ooh – that would look good right in that spot!”) only to find, upon looking them up when I got home, that they were invasive in that area. Why are nurseries even allowed to do that?

    House cats, non-native gardens, and the like are probably not doing but a small fraction of the damage that destruction of the habitat is doing to local species. Moving to the big city might do more good for the planet than tweaking an otherwise healthy garden.

    We are facing a true cataclysm in the next few decades. Yes, the Earth has survived them before, but mass extinctions are still bad news for those species that disappeared. It took ten million years of for “normal” biodiversity to be restored after the Chicxulub asteroid wiped them out. We don’t know which plants will minimize or exacerbate problems in the problems ahead.

    My sweetie and I are mentally prepared to (if not looking forward to) allowing succulents and other drought tolerant plants to take over our garden, and we will water our food beds and fruit trees by hand if necessary. Here in the American northern desert we currently have irrigation rights in our development, but I assume we rank lower than the established farms and orchards (and should be!). When the rivers start running lower, we will be cut off from the cheaper irrigation water and restricted to house tap water (which will likely be more expensive for the same reason).

    And I love and am appropriating the term “assisted migration”.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Kermit, you are my hero. Thank you for your thoughtfully considered comment. i am, right at this very moment, singing “The Rainbow Connection” and dedicating it to you. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

    • If we don’t know which plants will mitigate or exacerbate, why do we take the risk and assume we can do whatever we want and everything will just sort itself out? Folks, humanity is an extinction level event. Why do we not trust millions of years worth of evolution and claim we know better? That’s hubris at the highest level and in no way makes us better in tune with our planet, let alone our home place. I can’t wait for the monarch butterfly to vanish, because maybe then people will connect the dots and take some responsibility, instead of working so hard to avoid the emotional process of healing — doubt, guilt, rage, fighting back / fixing things. (See The Green Boat by Mary Pipher)

      • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

        Benjamin, my point is EXACTLY that food is linked with all gardening practices and we can’t be drawing hard and fast lines about what is “good” and what is “bad” – when we do we become the types that can’t see the forest for the trees.

        And by the way there are quite a few food forests I know of, as well as a few public fruit parks … the rest of the country (and world) does this stuff too!

        Good luck with your food forest project!

  18. BooksInGarden says:

    My opinions and choices: I enjoy natives enormously and do my best to make them my first choice (in Southern California) where appropriate. All my veg. and fruit are non-native. I also use mediterraneans, aussies, south africans in concert with my natives. In response to skr: You appear more intolerant than native plant enthusiasts. I find numerous gardeners only too willing to plant highly invasive plants. I do not find native enthusiasts intolerant of non-natives. Yes – I am sure that there are some, but apparently they are seriously outnumbered in my area. Here the nativists have a much smaller effect than the nurseries selling acacia, pampas grass, green fountain grass, english ivy, iceplants such as Carpobrotus edulis, not to mention turf.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      You sound like a very reasonable gardener. I agree with you about nurseries selling horribly invasive species. But I get ALOT of native native nothin’ but native propaganda coming at me … and so do others who, like you and I, decide to adopt a palette that allows us to focus on what actually works in out climate rather than horticultural dogma. So … well, I don’t know … good on you! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • skr says:

      you’re right. I’m completely intolerant of native plant evangelicals who won’t tolerate me planting harmless exotic species. I also have no patience to tolerate people that use logical fallacies like, “short rooted exotics are terrible compared to deep rooted natives,” as though every exotic has shallow roots and every native has deep ones.

  19. Chris says:

    Whoa! This is fun.

    What I have learned is that what is considered a “native species” can be invasive if planted in a different eco-system, even if it is less than a hundred miles away.

    My dad grew up just east of where I live, except it was just on the other side of the Cascade Mountains. One thing he loved doing is to gather thimble berries. One time on Highway 410 just a few miles east of Chinook Pass (and Mt. Rainier) he pulled off to gather a few of the berries.

    So for my mostly edible garden I decided to plant some thimble berries near my huckleberry bushes in the more shady part of my garden (closer to a forest floor). Those things are invasive! I was pulling thimble berry plants away from my apple trees and my more well behaved naive American high bush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum). It was as bad as our invasive Himalayan blackberry.

    I finally tore out the invasive plants. I know if I want some thimble berries there are some along a bike trail that go by the local university.

    Now here is a question: If I have a fruit tree or other plant like a strawberry that was developed at Washington State University (Puget Gold Apricot), Oregon or British Columbia (Stella Cherry)… is it considered a “native plant”?

    Also, I have a rockery. To keep the rockeries from being covered with weeds and grass I planted succulents and other drought resistant plants (we have dry summers, and rockeries don’t hold water). Most are not native. One is a miniature ice plant that comes from South Africa. I bought it because it reminded me of swaths of ice plant from living in Pacific Grove, CA when my dad was in stationed Vietnam, and in Ft. Ord, CA across the bay the two years after he came back. ;-) And I do have to make sure it stays within its bounds (I bought two kinds, one is gone and the other is growing in mass).

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Chris, you are what I hope all gardeners are like – thoughtful, watchful, respectful of climate and environment, and able to make a good decision when presented with a problem. Your rockery is something that gives you gratification, aesthetic and emotional – and as long as you are respectful of the behavior of your plants and responsible, I think you should be able to plant what you can and want. And unless your plant is indigenous to a few miles from your home, it isn’t strictly native, nor is anything that was developed by any school even if it was in your backyard. Pretty limiting, isn’t it? And you bring up a very good point – natives can behave invasively! Our native scrub oak here in SoCal is terribly promiscuous, with a huge number of acorns sprouting under the canopies, making baby oaks that become large communities of trees that are protected so they can’t be cut, and then here comes that pesky fire season again. There is a huge disconnect between the theory of native plant preservation and the practical applications. You saw that firsthand with your berries – native doesn’t always mean these plants are the right things to plant within a specific context. Thanks for your comment!

      • Chris says:

        “able to make a good decision when presented with a problem.”

        One can always edit the garden, I have shoveled pruned more than one plant.

        First it was the Darts Dash Rose, which is just about as invasive as the thimble berry, then there were the elderberries (also invasive and ugly) and finally there was the 4 in 1 pluot tree. It was only a year after I bought it that the nursery recommended it should not be planted north of California. In my northwest maritime garden it was lichened to death.

        By the way, I do have several wonderful “native” plants, many from the local naive plant society. They include a couple of vine maples, kinnikinnick, nodding onion and camas lily. They are all very nice for what they do. Though I would hate to live without my “Herbes de Provence” patch of rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, lavender and bay laurel just a few steps from my kitchen door (especially today, when they played a big part of Thanksgiving).

  20. Steve John says:

    Well I also love all the herbs just a few steps from my kitchen in garden. I have all these herbs in my garden and take complete care of them.

  21. I suscribe the the Gondwana garden principle, so its all native to me.
    Organic no Panic.

  22. I may be side stepping what appears to be the main point of your rant Ivette, but no one is holding a gun to your shovel and I doubt you will be taking Benjamin plant shopping with you any time soon. Your are ranting against an opinion of a rare minority that has no bearing on your own garden or your professional work. In the 30 years I have been designing, installing and maintaining gardens, no list and no purist has ever cramped my style. Only the budget and the client can do that.

    The truth is the increasing interest in and availability of native plants over the last few decades has significantly increased the plant palette that gardeners and garden designers can use. Using native plants does not limit and restrict you. It does exactly the opposite. It expands your choices. The increasing awareness of native plants helps bring a focus to the changing role that gardens must play in a changing and stressed planet.

    That’s a good thing for your garden, your clients and your craft to continue as a cutting edge and viable art form.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Sigh – I wish that were so Christopher C! I am currently working on a dream project that is in a protected native chaparral, and the restrictions and rules about what I can and can’t plant are big. Not big enough to cramp my style – I’ve got style to SPARE, my friend – but these rules are so contradictory and maddening as to make my head want to come to a point.
      For example – fire! The coast of Southern California where Ventura meets Malibu is a high fire zone, but the native chaparral is ESHA (an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area) so it can’t be cleared. The zoning laws will not let us cut back the native scrub so that it can grow back green and lovely, because of the wildlife (mostly snakes, rats, mice, gophers, rabbits) make their homes in the dry brush. Okay. We also are under orders to do mandatory fire clearance and remove fire ladders – of which the ESHA is the biggest part! The biologists that are on the coastal board that I have been dealing with know that this is crazy, but there is a very vocal lobby of native plant and wildlife activists that have passed certain laws that DO put a gun to my shovel. I understand much of what the native plants activists are doing, and think it is good – but it goes much too far when the plant lists and maintenance requirements are just arcane beyond all reason. So this isn’t just an academic conversation, there ARE things at stake. And actually, I’d like to go plant shopping with Benjamin Voight – I’m always looking for cool plants that might work for me … but his plant palette would be exotic in my neck of the woods, so I don’t know if he would want to be in collusion with me! What if I loved some of his favorite plants and wanted to use them in Los Angeles? EGADS!!!!!

      • So in other words, this one client’s choice of a home site in a protected and high fire hazard location comes with rules and restrictions and that reflects badly on native plants in general. Got it. Hope the view is worth it.

      • Another thought for you. Your dream job sounds like a bit of a headache, but it speaks directly to what Benjamin has been harping on for the last couple of months. As human encroachment in multiple forms continues unabated into more and more protected wild lands, as humans continue to take and take habitat from other species pushing many to the brink of extinction, do we as gardeners have any moral obligation or special duty to give something back to the creation which sustains us? If so, can native plants be a part of giving something back?

    • susan harris says:

      Whoa, lots of assumptions there about the political climate along coastal California, from your perch on a mountain in Western North Carolina! Increasingly there are restrictions here in Maryland affecting planting on public land, and on private property, too. One way it affects even private property is when rebates are given for certain landscaping changes like ripping out lawn, but only if natives are used. And whether or not any natives suit the site.

      • Susan my assumption is that in the vast suburban sprawl of Southern California the only real legal gardening restriction that will affect most is likely to be based on water and not native plant use. We certainly never got any hint of such restrictions to natives only from the now undefunct Garden Design. I’ve never seen any reporting on constant battles over the issue. You would have covered it.

        When someone chooses to build a home in protected wild lands, well then just like an HOA, they gonna have to go by the rules.

        I’m lucky. My little perch high on the low spot of a North Carolina mountaintop in the Southern Appalachian mountains has the most diverse native flora in all of North America.

  23. Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

    The Dream Job IS worth it – the client is not a developer who is razing the landscape to create condos surrounded by lawn, he is utilizing a small portion of the 428 acres that he purchased and is donating the rest back to the land trust, making sure that this land is taken out of the vagaries of the market and is held protected.
    Yes, the view is worth it!
    And yes, if I were my client I may not have purchased this land, but he did – maybe i should have passed on this job and allowed him to work with someone who would plant pampas grass in stream beds and California Pepper trees (I took 10 out of the property against my clients extreme protestations – but I consider my job is just as much educating as giving him what he wants.)
    What I would like to know is this: what is it that you find so terrible about my practice? That I use natives, but not exclusively? Would my practice be a better one of I was someone who didn’t give a damn about habitat and ecology? Because I don’t see at all why you should have a problem with someone who gardens responsibly – but just not the way YOU want me to garden responsibly. I as a gardener with sound organic practices who designs drought tolerant landscapes as well as encourages local food growing/gleaning I AM giving something back to the creation that sustains – but it isn’t within your rules and regs, so I must be BAD. I have birds and bees and hummingbirds and lizards and all manner of wildlife flocking to the gardens I make. I don’t use an excess of water. I grow food and show others how to do it, too. By the way, I find it funny that no one who is so vociferous about natives only wants to take on the question of growing FOOD – do you have anything to say at all about that? We would be very meagerly sustained if all our food crops fit into your native paradigm. So please, set me straight – enlighten me! Because until this makes good common sense, you are losing me and many others like me.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Christopher, truly have to thank you for your thoughtful, earnest engagement on this topic – I believe these backs and forths really help people come to their own decisions about difficult topics, so you and I are doing more than tussling it out amongst ourselves – we are showing differing sides of a very important debate! Believe me, I wouldn’t spend my time on this if I didn’t think it was a vital public dialog to hash out! So keep it coming! I appreciate this!

    • Ivette I have absolutely NO PROBLEM AT ALL with how you choose to work and garden. I work and garden the same way. I have a most lovely and productive roadside vegetable garden, thank you. That’s a dead red herring anyway. Time to toss it overboard.

      I have stated my problem with your rant twice now. Maybe the third time will be the charm. Your repeated implication that using native plants is restrictive and confining to the art of gardening is a disservice to the public. The growing availability of native plants have only increased your ability to be creative.

      You can make a fine case for using appropriate exotics to your climate based on their benefits without making native plants out to be a stifling concept.

      • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

        Well Christopher I was HOPING you’d be the one to take up the issue of food in this conversation, but I guess not. You calling it a red herring doesn’t make it one – the growing of food it a vital issue and seems to run completely counter to the desires being expressed by natives-only activists. I was hoping someone with good, clear logic could further the conversation on this (or start it), so boo for not taking up the challenge.
        Again, thanks for your opinions…

        • Growing food and ornamental gardens are two different things with different purposes serving different needs even when the are beautifully intertwined. It is a red herring that has no point in a discussion about native plants except as a diversionary tactic.

          It is serving you as a diversion right now because you have failed to address my single point after I have repeated it three times.

          “the growing of food it a vital issue and seems to run completely counter to the desires being expressed by natives-only activists”

          Please. Point me to one single native plant activist who has expressed a desire not to eat.

          • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

            Christopher your last line goes to my point. The hard and fast lines that certain (not all) native plants activists hold to so fervently MUST be blurred when it comes to the growing of food, so it is often not addressed at all (or called a red herring when it isn’t one at all – a food plant is a plant and many behave invasively and most take more water than native plant advocates consider acceptable, at least here in my climate). Of course no one is going to express a desire not to eat – but isn’t that the point? They have to step back their native only stance when it comes to food, and I want to take note of that and explore it. I think if one believes a hard fast line is crucial to a movement, with an exception, then I’d like to understand the reasoning behind the exception, and if there are exceptions to the exception.
            I’m not trying to divert anything – the question of food is very important to me, as I integrate food into every garden and try to figure out how to make it work under all circumstances.
            If you still want to engage in this conversation please repeat the point you wanted me to address (for the 4th time, sorry!) because I re-read all of your comments and thought we had been touching on all of the issues. Sorry! Sometimes I miss the forest for the trees, my bad!

        • That is indeed a red herring–I have NEVER, EVER heard any native plant gardener say that he or she wouldn’t grow vegetables or herbs because they aren’t native. In fact, growing a vegetable garden next to a prairie garden makes it even more productive because of all the bees (pollinators) the prairie garden attracts.

          I mentioned this earlier in the conversation, but you chose to ignore it.

          • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

            My issue is EXACTLY the fact that they DON’T mention it – how easy to have such an exception to what is otherwise such a hard and fast rule. Think about the SENSE of it – food crops are for the most part exotic non-natives but we make a HUGE exception for them because they feed us, yet we make NO exception for non-native ornamentals because they can’t possibly feed wildlife, even if they are biochemically and horticulturally similar, often in the same family as native pollinators? HELLO! To me, this is a very convenient and telling blind eye being turned here.

          • What strikes me as odd is that we see vegetable gardening as getting back to earth, fighting the good fight, going local, saying no to big ag — and then we harp on native plant gardeners saying how DARE you limit my choices and make me go local, think about the planet, make a statement against big ag or big anything. They are linked! Here in Lincoln, NE we’re building the first food forest in the nation — a veg plot with fruit trees and prairie swaths to attract pollinators. I don’t think you can have a veg garden without encouraging native plants.

  24. Another 2 cents worth of opinion , perhaps I might even get a few words spelled correctly this time around. ( wonders never cease)
    I feel Ivette’s pain when she expresses frustration in designing with a palette of native plants only here in California because lets call a spade a spade and note that a California native landscape can look rather dried up and down right boring at certain times of the year… er um… most of the year.

    Add to that fact there are so many freaking fantastic plants from around the world that will grow beautifully here , its hard not to resist the plant porn temptation.

    But I also have empathy for the Native Plant folks who are looking out for the health and welfare of the native habitat , especially in sensitive open space areas such as the one that Ivette is currently working in .

    I do think as plantspeople and professional duh-ziners we have a responsibility to plant non invasive plants in sensitive habitats and that abiding by a Natives Only rule in these ‘protected areas’ is not asking too much.

    But in a large densely populated urban and suburban area though, having a diverse palette to choose from is the benefit that you get from living amongst the unwashed masses.

    Personally I find that planting with only natives stretches the imagination of a designer, especially one who is used to having the big 64 count crayon box at their disposal and now has to use the 12 count crayon box. – — I like my crayons.

    A favorite mantra that I heard 30 years ago when I first started working up on The Sea Ranch ( a strictly enforced native only community) still rings true to this day, “ One man’s restrictions is another man’s protections.”

    • Well said Michelle and I did not see any spelling errors, but then spelling isn’t my strong point either.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Thank you Michelle! Very well said! And by the way I LOVE SEA RANCH! Because I straddle the fence and use both a native and exotic palette, I get exactly what you say – hence my inherent ambivalence. I’m actually really enjoying my project that is focused on natives, it DOES stretch my skills and I like seeing what I can do when challenged. But my heart sings when I can play with all the crayons, and the aquarelles, and pantone markers!

  25. Nina says:

    Anyone living in Southern California can get great information, plants, etc. from the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants, Inc. at http://www.theodorepayne.org. They are in Sun Valley, CA, in the San Fernando Valley. I live in the Santa Clarita Valley and grow veg in raised beds; the only plants that thrive in clay soil or sand in our desert here without copious amounts of water are the local plants (I’m avoiding pampas grass and other imports).
    Hope this helps others find what they need.

  26. Denise says:

    Isn’t it ultimately a question of scale? Intuitively, I would think using native plants becomes important if your property is extensive in size and/or is adjacent to wild, open spaces. To save species and habitat requires a public commitment to protect acres, miles, wildlife corridors, and that’s where I’d like to see pressure applied. But bullying urban gardeners with small gardens of, say, 1300 sq feet to plant only natives? Here in So. Calif. I’ve seen plenty of tiny, tiny lawn-to-native plant conversions whose result would dissuade anyone from further exploring the art of making gardens. My little garden has a mix of global mediterranean plants, and we recently received a rebate of $200 from the water dept. Three adults here are using less water than the daily average for one adult. Lots of issues to keep in mind.

    • Mary McAllister says:

      Native plant “restorations” on public land are equally controversial. When there ARE native plants and they are being preserved, there isn’t an issue. Unfortunately, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, that’s rarely the case.

      Our public lands are being converted from non-natives to natives. That conversion requires wholesale destruction of trees that have been here for over 100 years. It also requires that our public parks be repeatedly sprayed with herbicides to eradicate non-native vegetation and prevent the trees from resprouting after they have been destroyed.

      The non-native landscape is habitat for wildlife and the trees are performing valuable ecological functions such as storing carbon and reducing pollution. These massive projects are rarely successful because the native plants are no longer adapted to a radically altered environment, but when they survive the resulting landscape is grassland and dune scrub which few people prefer to a forest.

      Sorry, sending the native plant advocates to our public lands is NOT a panacea. The native plant movement has caused a full-scale battle in the Bay Area.

      • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

        Yours is such an important point, Mary – NO PLANTS are without problems. The Native Plant activists who are bent on “re-nativing” our public lands are doing so at a pretty big environmental cost, ironically. No one seems to see the contradiction in what they are doing, using glyphosates to kill exotics in the name of making a better “natural” habitat.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Denise, yes – scale is a good point to being up. Natives are well-used in the outer edges of large properties – BUT they will still have to be irrigated for the first couple of years, weening them off of water until they are well-established, and then they will be able to deal with the heat by going dormant rather than dying. It is much better to have these summer dormant plants further from your house, and keep the well-adapted exotics, like our wonderful plant friends from the Mediterranean, South Africa, and Australia close to the parts of your home where you want to enjoy the summer beauty. And YES, using these drought tolerant plants can bring down a water bill dramatically! Good work! Enjoy that low-water garden on yours!

  27. Amy Campion says:

    Where are the diehard native plant folks advocating the planting of ragweed? Native plant, excellent wildlife forage. The seeds are among the nutritious available for birds. And poison ivy–berries for wildlife and beautiful fall color. We all have to make choices about what is allowed through the garden gate, and I prefer a sensible approach that admits both natives and exotics based on their merit. I guess I suck, too.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      We, the Sucky Ones, must unite! Let’s hear it for a thoughtful and expanded palette! Let it be known that just because we plant well-chosen exotics that we are not BAD gardeners bent on ecological destruction!

      • Your THOUGHTFUL and expanded palette is due in large part to the ever increasing availability of native plants. The fact that you have been unable to discern that has been my point all along speaks volumes.

        • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

          Christopher, YES – I have said NUMEROUS times in this conversation that I USE NATIVE PLANTS – just not exclusively. That was actually addressed in the original post. YES CHRISTOPHER YOU ARE CORRECT – NATIVE PLANTS HAVE HELPED TO CREATE MY PALETTE. So have well-chosen exotics. I guess I have to spell that out in caps, but it I thought it was so obvious and stated so many times that I thought it was understood. So, yea…

  28. andrea says:

    Not sure if anyone cares about what happens over here in SW Idaho (Boise area) but if we only gardened with natives, the gardening season would be about 3 weeks in the spring and then be pretty much over for the year. Just brown, crispy and oh shades of gray… since there is a lot of sagebrush. So where would that approach leave all the people that love to garden (edible and ornamental) but live in areas that have a limited natural growing season. I completely agree with Ivette’s approach although, I don’t know that I’m using lots of exotics, but just beautiful plants that grow all over the country when there is moderate, regular moisture. Where I live, the entire area is set up on a natural irrigation canal system that provides water for the entire Boise valley when the rain shuts off in early June. The water is running by the back of my house no matter if I use it or not, so I figure use my share but definitely under best watering practices for high heat areas. My garden takes extra water and is not filled with natives, (but no thugs either) and it provides shade, habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and food for my family that would not be there otherwise. That said, I AM learning more about natives and trying to mix in clumps of natives for bee health in particular. Just sharing from a high desert perspective…

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Thanks so much for adding to the conversation Andrea – I’ve met some great gardeners in Boise! And I think you are saying what many of us who garden in challenging regions feel – if we are limited to a pre-colonization native palette, then we are kind of screwed as passionate gardeners. We aren’t living in temperate climates, we may live in extreme cold/heat zones – here in Southern California our plants are adapted to a drought/dormancy/burn cycle. Every region has its challenges, but we have to allow for another expression other than the rugged wilderness re-creation landscape. We live in cities – totally “un-natural”. The land and its ecology is always changing, and I think we can be a good part of that change in ways other than trying to set back the clock to that perfect time before the hand of man came and ruined everything. It is great that you are incorporating native plants into your garden! But that said, don’t think that bees are not attracted to non-natives; yesterday I was strolling through a beautiful mixed native/ornamental garden in Ojai, California and there was a bronze loquat that was so alive with bees I could hear it from almost 50 feet away! It was in a garden with at least 65-70% blooming California natives, but the bees were feasting of the loquat while they were lazily sampling the sages and tagetes. The loquat is native to China – and bees LOVE IT.

      • Amy Campion says:

        I hope it was only full of native bees–honey bees are exotics introduced by Europeans.

        • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

          Well, I didn’t check for their green cards, and I didn’t want to racially profile them because that would be rude – but they looked very native bee-like and much smaller than the honeybees I know, but not as small as the scary africanized bees that I got swarmed by once!

  29. Great article, Garden design in Australia is so much easier. We have great weather. for most part of the year. Sometimes water can be a problem, we are often in Drought…

    So natives are a great idea…

  30. Amy Campion says:

    Ivette,

    You’ve inspired me today to take a page out of your book and not just write about plants, but write an opinion piece with a strong point of view. I hope you’ll check it out on my website. It deals with garden snobbery, if you will, of a different sort.

  31. Tom says:

    It would be interesting to know the differences in viewpoint based on the area a person lives in. I live in a Maryland suburb of D.C. While we do have parks, and rainwater control is being pursued, I would guess that pavement, buildings, and lawns have covered over 95% of the area. That leaves very little room for native plants. Our area is infested with English Ivy, porcelain berry vine, Japanese stilt grass, garlic mustard, barberry…the list goes on. I have begun using almost all native plants because there is very space little left for them to grow. I do use a few non-natives for nectar sources, mostly potted and known to be non-invasive in this area. This is not snobbery. It’s an attempt to save the little we have left.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      Good for you! Plant what you believe works in your particular situation … I’d never tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t plant (unless I’m feeling particularly bossy that day – it happens!)
      I’m happy that steps are being taken in my community to increase permeability of all landscapes, so (hopefully) the template of a hyper-paved urban/suburban landscape becomes less aggressive to the plants and plantings.

  32. Stephanie says:

    I realize this conversation is probably running itself it out, but it has me thinking about something I think about a lot–gardening and landscape practices and habitat loss and species extinction.

    For me, I have moved from planting whatever grabbed my fancy to then planting specifically to support butterflies and birds and other creatures, which includes some useful non-natives (in my location zinnias and tithonia re annuals and super-useful as nectar plants) and natives to support all stages of butterfly life cycles and birds. Some non-natives get used by butterflies as host plants, and I usually include those too.

    Here is the link to endangered species just to give that perspective; there are SO many in CA; what is needed for many is inclusion of their host plants in the landscape since so much habitat has been lost.

    http://butterflyrecovery.org/species_profiles/

    Anway, I think the main problem is that we humans have basically taken most of the land in the US, and what has been left is so fragmented. We probably won’t be able to fix that–so to many of us, it seems that our yards and other landscapes need to become habitats if we don’t want to lose the wildlife that call the U.S. home.

    Here is a link to endangered and threatened species in CA; now, obviously a home landscape doesn’t offer every single butterfly an ideal habitat, but if there are many people providing the food plant for the caterpillar stage of the butterfly in many home landscapes, well, then the butterfly might have a chance.

    To me, since you are thoughtful about not planting invasives and using plants that work with your region (e.g.drought tolerant), you are vastly better than most landscapers who plant something because it’s cheap and common.

    I just don’t understand (well, I do, it’s probably lack of education) why in the midwest people plant burning bush for fall color, but it doesn’t do anything else.

    For instance, a serviceberry will offer comparable fall color AND spring flowers (nectar) host plant to different butterflies and moths AND berries for birds and people.

    Everyone plants pachysandra and english ivy, when there are so many wonderful beautiful native woodland plants like ginger, foamflower, meadow anenome, ferns, that are vastly more beautiful and useful than the typical shade ground cover.

    Plus, invasive species cost us taxppayers millions of dollars because forestry and other governmental agencies have to work so hard to defeat them in the field. If there is going to be a limit on what’s available in the plant trade, I do hope it’s focusing on the destructive invasive species.

    So, if a non-native is being considered, perhaps one should reflect upon what are the qualities of that plant, and then is there a native plant suitable for that site and what does that plant have to offer? If it has more to offer, then it should be given more weight.

    But I do agree that those of us who are moving toward thinking of our yards as habitats need to acknowledge that there is a little bit of a middle-ground, and there might be more of a middle ground if most home/public landscapes incorporate native plants. The more native plants, the more wiggle-room. Plus, we do not want to alienate anyone.

    From my perspective, I think a garden can be made even more beautiful by the presence of native plants, and then add an extra layer of that beauty by the attraction of wildlife, like butterflies, birds, turtles, etc. We need to acknowledge that the time has come to share the land.

    • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

      I like the way you think, Stephanie – what a great way to state your case without resorting to the aggressive dogma usually voiced! Thank you so much for that. I agree with so much of what you said, especially about sharing our land, BUT … with the lovely wildlife like birds, butterflies, turtles, frogs, lizards also come their predators and other forms of prey (depending on where you live). Here we get snakes (which I myself don’t mind, but some people really object to). raccoons, skunks, all manner of rodents, coyotes … also deer, bunnies, hawks (GORGEOUS!) … creating an open wildlife habitat in your back yard might be more “wild” than the average person may be comfortable with. I don’t mind seeing opossums and baby skunks and snakes in my yard, but I know so many other people who freak out! Where do you stand on the “other”, not so picturesque wildlife?

    • Stephanie, I think the answer to your question why people plant non-natives like burning bush or pachysandra when they could have native plants like serviceberry and wild ginger that deliver so much more is that the nurseries sell the non-natives.

      Having recently moved and experienced again that flurry of buying plants so I could have something in the garden RIGHT NOW, I can see how it happens. It takes more effort and research to find growers who are selling natives. If you just walk into a garden center, you are much more likely to find a collection of plants from all over the place, some of which may be perfectly well-behaved and great for wildlife, and others of which may be aggressive or only give a one-season show. For some reason, there usually isn’t even a “natives corner” where local plants are highlighted. You really have to know your stuff to recognize the few natives among all the others.

      I would love to see the garden centers make a special place for plants from their locale or region, and maybe educate people a bit about how come they’re good additions to a garden.

      However, another problem is that the soil in a home landscape may not be native either. It has likely been destroyed by building the home. So natives won’t necessarily grow there anyway. And furthermore, natives may not thrive with the same care that folks are used to giving their garden plants, so it comes back to education and research. Garden centers would probably have to offer more support in terms of care instructions for natives in order for customers to succeed with them.

      So it sounds like it comes down to money, as so many issues do…

      • I moved into a new home with topsoil removed, leaving only hard clay underneath. Planted prairie plants. They took off with great ease. Of course, I made sure to pick clay loving natives to eastern Nebraska. They are now slowly rebuilding the soil. It can be done. There are answers.

        • Ivette Soler says:

          That is fantastic that you are having success with your garden – Yes of course building soil works! It is one of my favorite things to do, and there are different ways to get there.
          I have no issue with using natives – it is so funny to me that people seem to only enter into a binary discussion here … either one uses ONLY natives, if not, one can’t possibly like natives. Natives are a great part of a palette, just not the ONLY part of MY palette.
          I try not to have either/or responses to things – in my experience, life is endlessly complex, so making a thing either black or white, this or that, all or nothing, etc … has always ended up coming back on me. The things I thought were firmly true at one point turned out to not be so years down the road. I find this true of gardening as well as life in general, so allowing for more flexibility of processes and ideas works for me.

  33. Stephanie says:

    You are so right Evelyn! I have just finished reading Teaming with Microbes and another one along those lines Life in the Soil, and wow what eye-openers about what is in there and how much we owe those little creatures! Everything!

    One of my little dreams is to open in my local area a little retail shop selling nothing but natives–maybe a couple of annuals specificaly for nectar plants (zinnias, tithonias) which aren’t invasive (at least yet).

    I understand about the nurseries–my sister has been listening to me and wanted to really help out the butterflies and bees, and we went to her local nursery, and there was an area of natives, but wow, it’s so hard to walk past all of the other fun plants! :) So, we ended up with some of the fun plants for her and with some natives, and her garden looks great! And she was happy, until the bunnies ate all her fun plants. Anyway, over time hopefully education and native plant gardens will be more and more showcased. Out here in Chicago, we have the Lurie Gardens in downtown which have lots of natives. There are other places that use them in formal designs too. Why not?

    To me, a formal design of natives plants is so interesting because not many people know the plants! :) Or as is the case for California where native plants go dormant–do plantings like you do for out east–with spring ephemerals and then other plants that come up later and then bloom later.

    Plant natives and then have some non-natives that screen the plant going dormant? But I’m sure that’s being done. There are all kinds of tricks to hide some of the less desirable characteristics of plants.

    To me, it seems that the landscaping and nursery trade and professionals have been and will be highly influential in what happens in the future with either species extinction or recovery.

    Will these professionals (and I use the term loosely–many landscapers just know how to push a lawnmower and turn on the leaf blowers) educate their clients about the how necessary it is to have SOME natives–or just start with a FEW natives–to feed the food web and why that’s important?

    Why not learn about what species are endangered in your area and simply put in a plant or two (as long as it’s well-behaved some can get aggressive in happy conditions for them) that will take feed an endangered species of butterfly? Why not put in a native bush that does 4 things for your yard and not just because of one quality? That’s what I don’t get-not looking for everyone to overhaul their non-natives–just put in some natives to help the other creatures out.

    Over and over it’s the same out here: grass and yew bushes or the tired old shade plants or impatiens and petunias. (They have their place, but when it’s the only thing flowering, that’s a problem.)

    For anyone who is struggling to understand why people love natives and think they should be planted more and why, here is the NYT article about the decline of the Monarchs, but it also spells out why our yards are needed now more than ever: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/sunday-review/the-year-the-monarch-didnt-appear.html?_r=0

    Sorry just saw Ivette’s post–I think with the less desirable wildlife–don’t they usually come around no matter what? And aren’t they usually looking for garbage? The coyotes are probably looking for rodents. The skunks are pretty well-adapted to urban and suburban areas and looking for an easy meal or grubs in the lawn. Snakes upset me when I get surprised by them, and you would probably get poisonous ones too? That would freak me out.

    Out here just outside Chicago, we are getting more of a coyote population–lots for them to eat: squirrels, bunnies, rats, mice. People who don’t know any better are completely hysterical and would like to see them wiped out. But what they don’t realize is that these coyotes are keeping in check the populations of animals that would put their health at threat and that of their pets (squirrels and other rodents could possibly carry leptospirosis and worms); would like for there not to be so many of them leaving their droppings etc in my yard where my kids play. We’re also getting Hawks now too.

    I only know about some of the typical snakes out east, and I always had a place for them as long as it was under my feet! Usually, they would be in my garden. I would imagine snakes go where there is food and warmth and where they won’t be bothered?

    It’s always helpful to learn about exactly what is the animal, its habitat, diet, etc., and then figure out what to adjust so as to not attract the animal or to learn how to live with the animal.

    So I understand that–used to get porcupines in my yard out in NH which is scary, but we did take their land (new development), so I kept my dogs on leash when they were around. And they were cute from a distance, but many of my neighbors would call animal-control!

    I understand that most people are unfortunately biophobic simply because they have had no experience with wildlife–they’ve been taught that anything non-human is bad unless it’s a charismatic specimen of megafauna. They don’t know what’s dangerous, what’s not, and how to behave around animals, which is sad.

    Thx for the discussion!

  34. Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

    Stephanie, you are right – people ARE biophobic, and it’s sad, because it is delightful to see animals in the garden!
    I guess what my point boils down to is that once you let a thing in (or take a thing out), your environment is changed. When a group of women in my neighborhood removed all the feral cats to shelters, our gopher population SOARED – they lost an important predator. These cats have become a part of urban wildlife, but they aren’t “native” wildlife, so there is a righteousness on the part of people who want to be rid of them because they don’t like their behavior. I think this is analagous to the native-only discussion.
    Just like we have to leave some aphids on our plants if we want ladybugs in our gardens in order to control those same aphids, if we want wildlife in our gardens we have to let them be and accept the entirety of the food chain that brings them “to the table” so to speak. I see hawks floating in the air above my garden all the time, looking for rats and mice and other small prey… it is a magnificent sight, and wonderful that they have an abundant food source in their urban habitat!

    • It’s a shame you are so focused on this Natives-Only strawman argument that might only register as a blip among people who advocate for the use of native plants. Nothing like that has appeared in the comments to this post at all and you keep harping on it over and over. It prevents you from having a truly thoughtful conversation on the matter and does nothing at all for making a persuasive case for the use of exotics. Nothing.

      • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

        I don’t know, I’ve had a great time conversing on this thread, and considering all the time you’ve spent here, it has been fairly compelling to you as well – or do you make it a habit of wasting your time on thoughtless conversations? Count your comments to this thread. Surely there is a better use of your brainpower and time than continuing to post on an conversation you find so unimportant!
        Or maybe you just like arguing your point over and over and over and over…
        That’s cool…

        • I am often provoked to comment when I am feeling annoyed.

          • Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

            Christopher, since my words don’t interest you, maybe the words of Toby Hemenway, the author of Gaia’s Garden, will show you where my issue lies:

            “Unwanted species generally arrive because humans have changed the environment to make conditions more favorable for the new species. And when we “restore” landscapes, or more often, introduce a set of species that we have decided are the ones we want to see there, we are altering the landscape to suit our idea of what should be there, not to match some divine plan. These two understandings burden us with a huge responsibility to make intelligent choices, but more importantly, to recognize that we are often arbitrarily making a choice based on our own preferences, not because there is only one right choice for a landscape, When we put resources into landscape management, however, we direct the shape of that landscape toward only one choice. That’s the best we can do. Thus I’d like to see us be less dogmatic in the way we cling to those choices.

            Unfortunately, dogma is present on all sides. Friends of mine approached the Portland city government with a plan to create some edible plant corridors along Springwater Trail, a 40-mile bicycle and pedestrian loop around the city. Their idea was for bikers and pedestrians to be able to snack on berries and fruit. The city official in charge said, “Nope, we have a natives-only policy on the trail.” The trail is a paved pathway that goes through industrial areas and along backyards, road right-of-ways, and scrubby vacant lots. It probably goes through a dozen or more different environments, based on soil, water, sunlight, and all the other factors that determine what plant communities will grow there. But the policy is natives only. Wouldn’t it make sense for the primary species that will be using that trail to have a habitat that suits that species’ needs for food and comfort, particularly since it’s in a busy urban area? But instead the landscaping is to be driven by an idea, by dogma. I totally support the idea of having natives-only areas on the trail. But let’s allow the new landscaping to serve those that it’s being built for, too.”

            http://www.patternliteracy.com/116-native-plants-restoring-to-an-idea

  35. Ivette Soler Ivette Soler says:

    I’m VERY happy to be so provocative! Thanks!!!

  36. Stephanie says:

    My problem with the negate the native and cater to humans only is that we humans have done a destructive job on this planet, and it is only a matter of time when the other creatures who call this place home die out because not enough people have planted what they need to survive.

    Sure some insects (they are at the foundation of the food web) can eat non-native species, but overall, native plants support more animals than non-natives can.

    That’s what we’re talking about–it’s not some eugenics or metaphor about how to treat other humans–it is about the other animals who share the planet.

    Once you truly understand the plight of other animals, then you understand why some people feel so passionate about natives(though personally I think there is a middle ground–probably balanced more towards natives over time).

    I am confused about why there couldn’t be any edible native berries on the trail. That does seem silly. Out here a lot of native bushes are native and offer berries and other fruits.

    • Ivette Soler says:

      I don’t know the specifics about the project Hemenway referred to – but my guess is because native plants are different from one area to another. Maybe where you are there are many easily edible native plants, but that isn’t the case everywhere. And where there have been rules made about limiting new plantings to native-only species, the plants allowed can be very very limiting. It could be something like that.

  37. Stephanie says:

    Having visited Portland, the idea that there would be no native berries struck me as being a bit of a stretch. Apparently huckleberries are a big thing there.

    http://edibleportland.com/2012/03/wild-food-foraging-resources/

    http://urbanedibles.org/

    http://www.wildfoodadventures.com/

    http://www.portlandnursery.com/plants/natives/edible-fruits.shtml

    I did a quick look, and there are blueberries native to Oregon.

    Dogma can happen on both sides. Now, there could be restrictions against harvesting natives but that tends to be because of the possibilty for over-harvesting.

  38. Stephanie says:

    Having visited Portland, the idea that there would be no native berries struck me as being a bit of a stretch. Apparently huckleberries are a big thing there.

    A quick google search showed that there are indeed many edible natives there.

    I did a quick look, and there are blueberries native to Oregon.

    Dogma can happen on both sides. Now, there could be restrictions against harvesting natives but that tends to be because of the possibilty for over-harvesting.

    • Chris says:

      Though the huckleberries tend to like thicker brush, so any cyclist or hiker would have to go off the trail a bit. The same goes for thimbleberries (though I now where some are just off of a major “rail to trail” path).

      The Pacific Northwest is blessed with all sorts of native edibles, the problem is that they sometimes need a bit of work. The camas lily bulb should be cooked, and the high bush cranberries are only eaten if you are really hungry (though the birds seem to like them). Then there is the problem of getting the berries before the wildlife.

      Of course, the same climate that favors berries, also makes non-native plants too happy. We are always fighting back the Himalayan blackberries. Near where we live is the Union Bay Natural Area, which is like having an almost wild area on a lake just a fifteen minute walk away. But when we moved into this neighborhood twenty years ago a walk through it meant just going on the paths with walls of blackberries on either side. Over the years there has been considerable work (mostly using college students as slave labor) to get rid of the invasive species:
      http://depts.washington.edu/uwbg/research/ubna.shtml

      Oh, and fifty years ago that area had been the city’s garbage landfill (from 1925 to 1966, see the pdf paper at the end of the above link).

      • Ivette Soler says:

        Thanks for this, Chris – an interesting project!
        Ugh – I know ALL about getting rid of monster invasives on wild land. Some genius planted wild bramble roses on the banks of a pristine creek in the project I’m doing, and getting tid of all of the runners, roots, and tiny bits that rejuvenate and become ALIVE again after clearing has been hellish work. Two years so far on clearing what amounts to half an acre of land. Sigh. I’ve HAD it with invasives!

        But funnily enough, the native scrub oak on the same property is also incredibly invasive, but protected – so we can’t touch the seedlings that sprout everywhere. To my mind, an invasive is an invasive, native or not – the oaks are changing the habitat of the creek so much so that water can’t run through it easily and native steel-head trout can no longer use it as a throughway to their spawning waters. But the oak is considered native, so it’s bullying behavior is overlooked. The contradictions in this way of thinking are HUGE!!!!!

    • Chris says:

      This is the pdf on the work needed to turn a landfill into a natural area with wetlands, and get rid of invasive plants like purple loosestrife, Scotch broom and blackberries:
      http://depts.washington.edu/uwbg/docs/SER.pdf

    • Ivette Soler says:

      Stephanie, again – I can’t respond directly to your comment because I was quoting Tobin Hemenway’s experience up in Portland. If I was involved with that project, I could answer you specifically. The only thing I can assume is that within the rules and regs that decided one could only plant natives, the dogma overruled the sense – which is what happened down here in Southern California. Also, gardening on a large, public scale is far more complex than a google search. Just because there are native edibles on a plant list for a specific area doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own problems. I know that many native fruit bearing species where I live have invasive tendencies and shouldn’t be planted in certain microclimates – it may be something like that. We don’t know, and if you are interested in further exploring what went on with this trail up in Portland, I suggest you contact Tobin Hemenway via his blog and get deeper into it. I was just using his statement as an example of where the perfect gets in the way of the good, over and over again. And yes, often it makes absolutely no sense. My sentiments exactly.

  39. Ellen O. Bender says:

    Just a question…. is there a reason my links didn’t show up on my reply to SKR’s link on NOV 27th? is there a lag time for links? Thanks….

  40. Ellen O. Bender says:

    This is a test to see if this link shows up on this running dialog… The links didn’t show up on my reply to SKR’s comment about Dr. Tallamys research disproving his own theory….
    I have links to Doug Tallamy’s research papers on facebook…. Edens Natives Nursery …. If anyone wants to make their own conclusions on what his latest research actually proves or disproves……

    • Ivette Soler says:

      I have no idea why your links aren’t showing up- maybe too many within the comments section already?
      Doug Tallamy is one side of the issue, just reading his research alone will not help formulate an opinion – one needs science and dialog from many sides of an issue as well as an ability to think through ideas for one’s self in order to formulate an opinion that is more nuanced. Building an opinion from one side of an issue and believing it as absolutely true is the definition of dogma.
      Since the natural world is a place of flexibility and grace, one that refutes dogma at every turn, I like to go with that.

  41. Ellen O. Bender says:

    Funny that links don’t show up even when put into computer language….

    • Ellen just copy and paste your links. DO NOT USE Html to make your link. That is the problem.

      • Ivette Soler says:

        Thanks for helping Ellen O Bender out Christopher C NC – since I’m one of the new bloggers here I’m not very familiar with the ins and outs. This is a village! I very much want all of the info readers are generously sharing to show up in this conversation.

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