I have debated when to publish this post, and have finally decided that now is as good a time as any. We are fast approaching Earth Day, a time to consider our commitment to the Earth we live on. So I am adding an extra post in honor of the Gardeners’ Sustainable Living 2011 Project at Thanks for Today. I plan to blog about sustainability in another post next week, but this is a good place to start.
Where hope grows, miracles blossom.
Be warned that before you read further, these are my informed opinions influenced by my beliefs and principles as well as life lessons handed down from my ancestors. First and foremost my parents taught me to treat others as you would want to be treated. It is a hard lesson to learn and practice, but one I base my actions on continuously. It keeps me grounded and behaving in a respectful, kind, courteous, caring manner. I am not a saint nor do I act like one regularly. I am human and I make mistakes, but I am not above admitting my mistakes, taking responsibility for them and passing on the lesson. So fasten your seat belts…here is my rant on this subject…….
Recently there have been many conflicting reports about native plants, so-called exotic plants and what are termed invasive plants. We can all debate these definitions (native, exotic, invasive) until the cows come home, and we can read the articles and research, but let’s dig right in and see what is at the heart of this issue. One side says we need to be careful about what we plant because it could invade the natural habitat and do harm. Those on the other side of the issue feel we are overreacting and that these so-called invasives are not all that harmful.
Here’s really what it all means simply put: Do we pay attention to how our actions affect the land and those that live in and on this land as we garden it, or do we just do as we please and to heck with what ever happens? Can you tell where I stand on this issue?
I advocate that we always must be good stewards of the land. If you have read any other posts I have written, you know I have blathered on about this stewardship idea often. It is a type of Hippocratic Oath for gardeners. If we can follow this premise, to do no harm knowingly, then we are being good stewards. Really why wouldn’t you want to be more cautious in case you might be doing something harmful? Why side with let’s not overreact and wait to see? By the time we see the real “total” effects, it could be too late. Whole species of insects, animals and plants are going extinct daily in our world, and many because of what we are doing.
I believe in Karma, and I believe in sharing the land, air and water responsibly. You see I really care about what harm I may be doing to plants and animals and insects. Native plants are tied so closely to the entire habitat in which they reside…the plant influences the way other plants grow; they influence the habitat for insects, and all sorts of land, water and air critters so intricately that I would need to write a book or whole website to give you all the info. But that has already been done so many times, and all you need to do is read the research, not just one or 2 lone articles that say, ‘oh now maybe so-called invasive plants aren’t all that bad’. Really!!
And I’ll take it one rant further by saying perhaps we want to believe that these plants do no “real” harm so we do not feel guilty about planting invasives, and because we like these plants and don’t want to give them up. Of course there is the talk that it is too hard and expensive to get rid of these invasive plants so let’s just live with them. Again, REALLY!!!! Are we that lazy and cheap or greedy a society that we would destroy habitats…wait what am I thinking…yes we are aren’t we….
And what are some other excuses for not planting natives….I love this one…they are also invasive or aggressive. Yes many of the natives are aggressive…by that I mean they will colonize and take over whole areas of your garden, but that is what they are meant to do as they create a nurturing habitat for living things around them to survive. So you have to be aware of how they grow, and how and what to grow for your garden. I am by no means an expert, and I have been an ignorant gardener for a while now (maybe I should change my blog name), but ignorant because I did not have the knowledge not because I chose to ignore the facts. Once I am educated on a topic, I will research it more, and then I feel it important to pass along that knowledge for others to have so they can make informed decisions. So that is what I am hoping to do here.
Why are invasive plants so harmful? Well here are a few facts:
- They are prolific and can multiply rapidly taking over an area and choking out native species especially if there is nothing holding them back now that they are out of their more restrictive natural habitat.
- They adapt easily to varied growing environments thus increasing their survival.
- They spread rapidly with the help of animals, wind etc.
- It is being debated if the loss of natives or their replacement by invasives harms the wildlife dependent on the native species for survival. Read all the research, it does.
I will confess, out of ignorance, I have planted invasive types of plants, and I will likely have to take responsibility for those actions and clean up any harm I am doing. Come on people, that is what it means to be a responsible citizen of this planet. So, I will be checking the “forever green” area behind my property to make sure I have not unknowingly let invasive plants, groundcovers especially, get a foothold in a native protected area.
And I hope to chronicle natives in my yard (like the photos here-all are natives growing in my gardens) and in my area of the country through some sort of publication so I can continue educating people. But finding some of these native species will be hard. Many are protected by law and in some areas their whereabouts kept secret (really they are) so we won’t go and dig them up or trample on them. Well someone has to protect plants that have become in short supply.
So what can you do:
- If you are a grower, I hope you will cultivate more of the natives so those of us who want to grow more of them can.
- Encourage nursery growers and local stores where you buy plants to stock more natives, and get rid of invasives especially those most harmful to your area. If they are non-responsive, then do not buy from them.
- Be careful how and where you dispose of invasive plants. When in doubt throw it out in the trash. I wouldn’t even trust composting some.
- When going into “the wild” be careful what you bring with you. Your clothes can harbor seeds from invasives growing in your yard.
- Become more knowledgeable before you plant.
Here are a few links for you to check out, to make sure you know what plants are labeled invasives in your state so you can make informed decisions:
The United States National Arboretum-Invasive Plants (lots of useful links for states and areas of the country)
If you have followed me to the end, I really appreciate your readership, and hope you will educate yourself and maybe start looking at what you are doing to uphold the Hippocratic Oath of Gardeners. Look everyone has to make their own decisions here based on their knowledge and perspective, but I hope you will consider what you do as you garden so indeed you ‘do no harm’.
Special Note: Thank you to Vincent Vizachero of Roland Park Native for keeping the dialogue going on a recent post I did, Going Native, and spurring me to write this post. In one of his comments on the post Vincent said, “The really good news is that if, over time, gardeners simply increased the percentage of their gardens planted with natives, they would see a dramatic increase in wildlife. Doug Tallamy has a great book about this (called “Bringing Nature Home”) and his website lists some of the most valuable plants for butterflies and caterpillars.” I strongly recommend Doug’s website and book which I am now reading. Check out Ecosystem Gardening‘s post last week where Carole Brown talks with Doug.
- You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety. ~ Abraham Maslow