The Coastal Gardener: Environmental habits are constantly evolving

July 22, 2011|By Ron Vanderhoff
  • Big, green, lush, water gulping lawns, in full display in front of a house, are definitely "out".
Big, green, lush, water gulping lawns, in full display… (Ron Vanderhoff,…)

In case I forget for a mere nanosecond, my two daughters will quickly remind me that my plaid shorts are a bad choice.

When Adam Lambert comes on the car radio, the channel is quickly switched. Facebook sure, MySpace, not so much. What was in favor yesterday might be frowned upon or unacceptable today. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with the changes.

Gardening and landscape design is much about fashion and trends, overlaid by what is socially acceptable. Colors evolve from "hot" to "not" in a matter of a couple of years. Pottery styles are always evolving. Product brands come and go faster than a pot of blooming tulips. Of course, our gardens also reflect a certain level of what is accepted within our community.

Unlike the colors of flowers and finishes of pottery, some garden traditions and practices are not fashion driven, they're a result of different influences. Change is difficult for some people. A few will resist, ignoring or misinterpreting what is happening around them. Nonetheless, some activities and traditions in our gardens are well past their time.


Many archaic gardening rituals are blatantly wasteful and inconsiderate. They ignore the new reality that our gardens and our gardening practices ought to be thoughtful and respectful of our resources and our environment. Although some will resist, these outdated practices should be buried forever.

Leading off the list of obsolescence in a garden might be thirsty, water-guzzling things.

Big, green, lush lawns in full display at the front of a house say to the community "We don't care, we're going to use as much of your precious water as we want."

Sprinklers gushing and mower blaring, this is a scene from our past, not our future.

It's impossible to deny that water-wasting plants are out; but plants adapted to our climate are in. One of the most popular questions today around nursery aisles or at landscape design meetings is now "how much water will it need." Great question — keep asking.

Today, chemicals in the garden are like illegal drugs. Natural controls are in, ladybugs are in, tolerance is in. Organics in a garden are the standard, rather than the exception. Turf Builder, Miracle Gro, Super Bloom, Snarol and Ortho are done, hardly hip any longer. Addictions to malathion, diazinon, orthene, dursban, ammonia sulfate, 2-4-D and metaldyhyde have been cured.

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