Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Politically Correct Gardening...

Every Christmas we spend 2 weeks visiting family in Chicago. Since I’m a cold weather wimp, I usually spend most of this time indoors.  This year, while trying to stay warm, I read Thoughtful Gardening by Robin Lane Fox. A book I can only recommend to hard-core gardening types. It contains page after page of detailed growing information on plants that A) I’ve never heard of or B) won’t grow in our area. There’s also a great deal of information on gardens (worldwide) that C) I’ll never have the opportunity to visit. One thing I did like about this book was that the chapters were only 2-3 pages long – totally consistent with my attention span.

While reading Thoughtful Gardening I kept thinking – where’s the thoughtfulness? But, every once in a while  Mr. Fox tosses in a thought worth pondering. For example, in the introduction he writes:
“Above all, Thoughtful Gardening helps gardeners to realize what flower gardening is about. It has been confused with so many other aims – saving the planet, working for biodiversity, reviving a lost world or creating a matrix of lost habitats. It is none of these things. It means trying to grow plants well, whatever their origin, and placing them in a setting that suits them and us.”
For me, gardening centers around the opportunity to be outdoors, getting some fresh air/exercise and the sheer pleasure of making plants grow. I also enjoy sitting in the shade with an ice cold beverage, taking in the environment I’ve nurtured.

I agree with Fox’s assessment – how did gardening become so entwined with issues ranging from preserving and protecting the environment to concerns about invasive species? Seems like these days there’s more emphasis placed on the social, political and philosophical aspects of gardening than actually growing things. I don’t deny that gardening touches many of these issues but “politically correct gardening” seems to have replaced those things I enjoy most about horticulture.

Don’t get me wrong – I understand and appreciate the organic/sustainable gardening thing, native plants, invasive species, protecting native habitat et al. I just think we need to “tone down the rhetoric” and have an equal opportunity to enjoy gardening at its grassroots level (Oops – forgive the pun).

I know there will be some folks that read this and claim, ”if everyone shared your opinion our planet would go to hell.” Frankly, I’m a little skeptical that what happens in my tiny little yard has global implications. OK – I know, think globally act locally – I get it. But for me the message is overshadowing the pleasure of gardening and I’ve grown weary of evaluating every gardening practice to ensure it is compliant with the latest politically correct movement and/or trend.

Yes – I use pesticides now and again to kill a particularly harmful insect/disease/weed. I throw out some chemical fertilizer in spring and fall and I probably use a little too much water when I irrigate. I use plants from all over the world, not just Texas and I like a well-groomed yard, not one that looks like a brushy Hill Country landscape.  Does this make me a bad person/gardener? 

After witnessing several debates between various gardening factions, I’ve come to the conclusion that the trend towards politically correct gardening is as much about the “discussion” as it is about the issues. Seems like some people just enjoy conflict and debate – really doesn’t matter what the topic is. I’m not one of those individuals. Generally speaking I believe that one should never openly discuss religion, politics or gardening philosophy(s) unless asked - and even then it is probably not a good idea.

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