Thursday, October 8, 2009



Behold! yon bordering fence of sallow-trees
Is fraught with flowers; the flowers are fraught with bees:
The busy bees, with a soft murmuring strain,
Invite to gentle sleep the labouring swain.

from Tityrus and Meliboeus, by Virgil

Dr. Ken Thompson, senior researcher at Sheffield University in England, says flat out that untidy gardens make the best habitat for wildlife, basing this on a study of biodiversity in town and city gardens in England.  They “offer a vital refuge for animals and plants - provided that those responsible for their upeep are not too fastidious as gardeners”.   “Britain’s 16 million gardens are a haven for hundreds of species of animals and plants that would find it impossible to survive on intensively farmed land”. [1]
  To create an untidy garden he suggests we:
*Plant large shrubs and let them grow big. Shrubs and trees produce more vegetation where wildlife can live and eat.
*Allow at least some flowers to turn to seed and the lawn to grow tall. Don't be in a hurry to clear up fallen leaves.
*Create a pond for insects, frogs and toads. Think before stocking it with fish which will eat insect eggs and larvae.
*Don't illuminate your garden at night with bright lights. This will disturb many nocturnal creatures, such as moths.
*Create a compost heap – they are miniature nature reserves in themselves. Compost also enriches the soil.

America seems addicted to the too tidy garden and its companion, the American lawnscape,  its green carpeted lawn mowed, trimmed, watered within an inch of its life, doused with pesticides, secure against any intrusion of nature, until it has the look and all the wild natural charm of a pool table.  Valerie Blaine, columnist for the Daily Herald, calls  the American lawn “an ecologically unstable, chemically dependent monoculture of alien plants . . .  in which only one plant species grows, at the expense of anything and everything else.” 
 It's made of nonnative species ill-suited to our climate's precipitation. It's dependent on artificial precipitation - meaning that it must be watered regularly to stay alive. It's dependent on herbicides to keep any and every other species of plants from encroaching on the troops of turf grass. It's addicted to pesticides to keep viruses, fungi, and bacteria at bay. It's got to have fertilizers to ensure the greenest of greens.
. . . . There must be nary a weed, nor a blade out of place, nor a renegade weed. And one must not allow the grass to grow tall enough to flower. Flowers - a plant's way of reproducing sexually - are anathema to the lawn. [2]
Carol Rubin, a Canadian, was moved to take action when it was proposed to spray 2-4-D over her water supply and on an area adjacent to a salmon spawning stream.  She wrote a book entitled How to Get Your Lawn off Grass, or,  
 how we can conserve water and prevent its contamination by taking up our water-sucking turf grass lawns (and ornamental, exotic, garden plants) and replacing them with gorgeous native ground covers, flowers, shrubs, trees and grasses that need no fertilizers, chemical controls for pests, mowing, and after establishment, no water. [3]

Hear now the voice of Robert Frost, America’s pastoral poet, who wrote of nature with deep reverence.[4]
  In Rose Pogonias, he tells of a small. lovely spot of nature, 
A saturated meadow
Sun-shaped and jewel-small
A circle scarcely wider
Than the trees around were tall
Where winds were quite excluded
And the air was stifling sweet
With the breath of many flowers
A temple of the heat.
and his prayer that it might be permitted to survive.
We raised a simple prayer
Before we left the spot,
That in the general mowing
That place might be forgot;
Or if not all so favored,
Obtain such grace of hours,
That none should mow the grass there
While so confused with flowers.

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