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Planting A Sense Of Place
Planting A Sense Of Place
Published by Porterbrook
06-09-2009
Default Planting A Sense Of Place

PLANTING A SENSE OF PLACE

By
Frank W. Porter
Porterbrook Native Plants


Every plant is native to some place in the world. When humans move it beyond its normal range, it becomes an exotic species. A plant living in its natural range and habitat can grow and reproduce without outside aid. It is in balance and harmony with its surroundings. This plant is neither aggressive nor overpowered. Growing in its own special place, it will always be a thing of great beauty. Enjoying native plants you have established on your property truly gives one a sense of place.


Native plants exist in intricate communities. This association of plants and animals forms an intricate network of relationships, which are influenced by the soil, hydrology, and climate of the area. Today, there are more than 4,500 species of plants and animals now established in the United States that are of foreign origin. Although many of these exotic (non-native) species are harmless, approximately 15% are severely altering our environment, causing billions of dollars of damage to agriculture, recreation, forestry, industry, human health, and wildlife habitat. Of the more than 3,000 species of plants found in the Ohio Valley, about 25% are non-native. Nearly 60 of these have invaded our natural areas—woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, and savannas.


As more and more land is cleared for developments, highways, and timbering, we are losing not only our native plants but also the very insects and other wildlife responsible for pollinating specific species of plants. The wanton destruction of plant communities means coincidentally the loss of significant insect life within these communities. Furthermore, the continued and uncontrolled use of pesticides and herbicides kills far too many pollinators. The introduction of new diseases is also taking a toll on pollinators. For example, the population of honeybees has dropped 25% since 1980. This is of critical importance to us, because pollinators are crucial to one-third of our food supply.


Without specific species of native plants to feed on, their pollinators either die out or move to new habitats. These pollinators have a symbiotic relationship with individual species of plants. We do not fully understand or appreciate this unique relationship between individual species of plants and their pollinators. I have been studying the different species of Asclepias (Milkweeds). The intricacy of how pollination occurs truly amazes me. What saddens me, however, is to see a steady decline in the number of fertile seed pods produced each year.


Planning a landscape for wildlife, whether an entire yard or ten square feet, requires one simply to identify the creatures you want to attract, to analyze your present landscape, and to design your new one to satisfy the needs of your new tenants. Wildlife needs food, water and shelter. By selecting native plants that will allow for a maximum diversity of flowering and fruiting times, planting them in structural arrangements to provide cover, and creating a reliable water source, you will attract many different animals to visit and, perhaps, take up residence in your yard. Keep wintering birds in mind as you develop your plan. Learning to identify what wildlife visits your yard can become an enjoyable and educational family endeavor. A good pair of binoculars and a couple of field guides will make wonderful holiday presents.


Have you ever asked yourself why you have a manicured lawn and what are the costs to the environment to maintain it? The manicured lawn was a symbol of English aristocracy and wealth. Professional gardeners and groundskeepers kept these lawns neat and tidy. As plants from other parts of the world became available, they soon became prestigious additions to the landscape. After World War II, the rapid development of suburbia in the United States witnessed the appearance of our own version of the manicured lawn and the attendant rise of garden centers to supply non-native grass seeds, exotic flowering plants, and garden tools, machinery and chemicals to keep them tidy. Keeping up with the Jones often meant adhering to neighborhood rules and expectations.


The environmental costs of a manicured lawn are staggering. A grass lawn requires as much 18 to 20 gallons of water per square foot. In times of drought, which we have experienced in the Ohio Valley for the last three years, local government has at times curtailed the use of water on lawns. Even more staggering is that one-seventh of the herbicides and pesticides in the United States are used to keep these lawns green and healthy. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why lawn maintenance workers wear protective suits and respiratory masks? How safe are our children who play on these lawns where there are residual chemicals? Then there is the mowing. I am frequently reminded of Tim “the tool man” and his quest for more power. Lawn mowers have become new status symbols—the bigger, the better. In the end, we have become groundskeepers and not gardeners.


The time has come to reduce the size of lawns, lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and machines, minimize noise and air pollution, and create once again our own sense of place. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. By reducing the amount of lawn, you create space for beneficial gardens: beneficial to you and your family and to wildlife. How long has it been since you planted a vegetable garden, raised your own herbs, made compost, and truly relaxed outdoors? Maybe it is time to make some different New Year’s resolutions.



This article was first published by the Marietta Register
  #1  
By Equilibrium on 06-09-2009, 07:35 PM
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I ask myself every year why I still have a lawn... albeit not manicured. Great article.
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  #2  
By Porterbrook on 06-11-2009, 04:33 AM
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Everytime I look at the lawn mower and wonder if it will even start, I run for the spade, rake and hoe and create another garden space for my native plants. This is the kind of energy I like to use--and it is renewable! Thank you for your kind words.
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  #3  
By Equilibrium on 06-11-2009, 11:24 PM
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We're still slaves to a lawn by me. We reduce it when we can, don't water it any more, and don't fertilize it or use weed killers on it at all. Sooner or later it will all be gone. Little by little over the years and we whittle away at it. Very nice article.
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  #4  
By Pahinh Winh on 12-14-2009, 11:57 AM
dragonfly01 The only thing 'green'..

About the "American" lawn is its color. I've been "on" about this since I was a teenager, & I'm a great-grandmother now. Maybe with 2 of us raising stink about the utter stupidity of wasting over 12 million gallons of oil a year mowing, & who-knows-how-many gallons of oil on making pesticides/herbicides (which are all carginogenic, not only to 2-leggeds, but also to every other species..), maybe a bunch more people will climb on the wagon with us & quit making their lawns look like the tops of pool tables. Maybe. The difference between 'ignorance' & 'stupidity', I figured out when I was 15 or so is, ignorance means a person doesn't know a thing is wrong, so they do it; while stupidity means a person knows a thing is wrong & does it anyway. Ignorance is much easier to cure than stupidity.... But we have to keep trying. Mitakuye oiasin - All (are) my relatives. That means we all have an obligation to do our best to take care of all parts of the biosphere (our Holy Mother, the Earth); not do as some cultural nuttiness tries to dictate.
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  #5  
By Porterbrook on 12-14-2009, 01:33 PM
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We must all be teachers as well as students if we hope to change the attitudes of those who ignore Mother Earth and choose not to be a part of the Sacred Hoop.
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Native Plants and a Sense of Place This thread Pingback 12-04-2013 07:52 AM
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