Saturday, May 25, 2013

Don't Dominate Your Site!

     My ex-husband died last night and it made me think about a lot of things.  Not all of our marriage was bad; in fact, some of it was quite good.  The really bad parts had to do with him trying to control and manipulate those around him, especially as he descended further into his dependency problems.  Your site, whether it be many acres or less than one, is very much like that too.  Attempt to manipulate and control it, and you will be in a constant battle over dominance.  Let it have its own nature and work within those directions and you will live in harmony with your site.
     I have seen people, especially with single family residences, work constantly to have their property look 'nice' in their definition of a pretty site.  They mow meticulously, edge along their curb, hedge and clip every shrub to within an inch of the 'perfect' shape (although I have yet to understand the reasoning behind creating great boxes, funny inverted cones or giant bowling balls out of their shrubs) and use ridiculous amounts of chemicals - both fertilizers and pesticides - in an all-out and on-going assault on their land.  The end result is indeed something very neat and tidy.  It is also something very unnatural and uninviting, and it is a harsh place for the owner who has to maintain it, anyone planning to spend any time there and for the environment in general.
     Does that  grass really look better with a perpetually severe low cut and a permanently blunt edge just back of the curb?  Have they really even looked at it, or is this simply ingrained into their psyche as the 'way to do things.  Does that roll of bowling balls culminating with an inverted ice cream cone really look better than a shrub that is allowed to maintain its shape?  Does an absolute monoculture really look better than something with multiple plant species?  These are questions that only you can answer.  Perhaps to you they really do look better.
The natural shape of the plants comes from and annual pruning.
     I would like to expand your horizons a bit though and ask you to look beyond this contrived and beaten site.  Every plant has its inherent mature size and shape.  Each has their own particular color, fragrance (even if it is simply the smell of the leaves), and blooming.  When thinking about your planting, why not consider the mature size and shape of each plant (shrub, tree and also herbaceous plant) that you intend to use.  If you want a conical shape, why not plant a shrub that will naturally grow that way and will reach a height that is close to the height that you need for that spot.  A choice like this does not mean no pruning; it simply means no hedging and minimal (most likely annual) pruning.  The same thing can be said for color.  If you want dark green, why not plant something that is naturally dark green rather than adding tons of fertilizer to your site to force your plant into that color.
     Do you want and need a lawn?  If so, does it really need to be a monoculture of a single grass?  What is  that lawn providing for you?  If your answer is a football field or a golf course, than that monoculture makes sense.  If you are using that lawn for occasionally walking across the grass and as a backdrop, then why not plant a mixture of grasses or better still a mixture of grasses and legumes for your lawn.  They will still function and be green when mowed plus they will not need to be mowed as meticulously or fertilized as often if ever.  Finally, have you ever noticed how pretty plants can be when they are allowed to tumble over hard features.  Grass and legumes can be just as pretty when allowed to tumble over a curb.  Edging is not a necessity; it is a style choice.
     Stop fight with your site and the plants that you use in it.  You do not need to dominate.  Try working within their inherent nature and you might find that you like the aesthetics you obtain.  You might also find that you like the reduction in work and stress.

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