Monday, March 31, 2014

Sustainable Gardening

But I'm frightened for the children
That the live that we are living is in vain
And the sunshine we've been waiting for
Will turn to rain
                             The Story In your eyes
               Moody Blues

In my brief lifetime the population of earth, roughly 4.3 billion when I was born has increased to 7.3 billion today. It has nearly doubled from my childhood. It took millennia for the population to get to 4.3 billion and as it’s been explained to me since I was a schoolboy population growth is exponential.

I talked about sustainable gardening recently to a large group who garden in the Laurentian Mixed Forest. The North Woods, transition from the Big Woods, Eastern Broadleaf Forest to the Northern Boreal Forest, lakes, bogs, glacial till, and rock covered by conifers and hardy broadleaf forest, USDA Zone 2 - 3.

We discussed the sustainability mandate; our need to act since we are outstripping our natural resources faster than they are created, the need to create quality of life versus a high standard of living. Gardeners add function and beauty to our landscapes; we need to use basic sustainable gardening practices in our efforts.

I encouraged gardeners to work with nurseries and designers to create a regional gardening practice based on native plants versus hardy plants from the wholesale gardening catalog.

We reviewed gardens designed from nature; creating, adapting native plants, renovating and rejuvenating local plant communities. Avoiding fragmentation of the environment and creating corridors for the movement of wildlife.

The final piece was on plant selection and here I went to my list of favorites from this biome. I am always astounded by the public’s lack of knowledge of our native plant communities. I showed my audience sources of native plant information and went through selected canopy, sub-canopy, forbs and groundcover plants. I mentioned how they could be utilized, for example, as turf replacements or rainwater garden selections, adapting plants to the natural landscape. Restoring what was lost, rejuvenating ecologies damaged, conserving threatened ecosystems.

I also told them to embrace the bog. These are often drained or filled for agriculture or another human use. A number of years ago I witnessed a northern bog maybe 30 yards in diameter. I was attracted by the Northern Blue Flag blooming. The site was full of carnivorous plants, colonies of sundew and pitcher plant surrounded by either cranberry or lingonberry, a varied beautiful microcosm.

I was pleased with the response to my presentation as gardeners talked of using Northern Mountain Ash, Northern Bush Honeysuckle, Bearberry as groundcover and replacing Barberry with native shrubs.  In the future I hope to see some outstanding examples of LMF native gardens.

Here is a partial list of plants we discussed:'

White Pine     Pinus stobus
Balsam Fir     Abies balsamea
Northern Mountain Ash     Sorbus decora
Hawthorn     Crataegus - various
Mountain Maple     Acer spicatum
Juneberries     Amelanchier - various
Labrador Tea     Rhododendron groenlandicum
Northern Bush Honeysuckle     Diervilla lonicera
Lowbush Blueberries     Vaccinium angustifolium
Bearberry     Arctostapylos uva-ursi
Bunchberry     Cornus canadensis
Arctic raspberries     Rubus x stellarticus
Northern Blue Flag     Iris versicolor
Northern Pitcher Plant     Sarracenia purpurata
Roundleaf Sundew     Drocera rotundifolia