Gardeners Can’t Control Nature.
Plants not only provide food. They can also become a source of pleasure when used in the landscape.
We even refer to landscape as an art form in which plants provide an important element of the design.
Gardeners however cannot control plants in the landscape. Nature has its own ways.
She writes, “As fall segues into winter, we are all relieved that the whine of the gas-powered leaf-blower has finally ceased.” Stern cannot understand the attempt of the homeowner to remove every single leave that obstructs the clean surface of the lawn.
She makes the case that trying to remove them with the newest machinery, or manicuring every shrub to perfection, seems beyond the demands of enjoying a landscape.
It seems like our attempt to control nature.
That is nothing new.
We have been involved in trying to control nature since the first garden. We use nature for our own purposes.
Richard Bushman in his book The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities writes, “Nature had been smoothed and decorated as assiduously as walls and paneling inside the house.”
Then he says, “Besides refining the environment for polite company, the plantings functioned just as pictures, ceramics, or books did – that is, as subjects of conversation”
So we use nature – in the form of plants in the landscape – for a mixture of purposes that reflect social needs and social status.
One of the strongest examples of attempting to control nature has to be the use of plants in a design in topiary like the one here. [below]
The image clearly illustrates the careful choice and maintenance of plants to create this bridge effect over water. It clearly shows how we can, in certain circumstances, use plants, as a form of nature, for the sake of creating a beautiful scene.
The nineteenth century garden industry knew that to sell seeds and plants a seed company or nursery had to promise some benefit to gardening.
In 1884 the Vick Seed Company from Rochester, New York wrote in its garden magazine Vick’s Illustrated Monthly, “What we do in the gardening way is done for the appearance, the respectability of the thing, done for the same reason that we have a coat of paint put on the house, or renew the wall-hangings.”
That view of nature continues.
We use landscape for all kinds of reasons, including for personal and social needs, just like anything else in our daily lives.
Stern concludes her post with these words, “As we move ever farther away from our agrarian roots, not only do we know less as a culture about how the natural world works, but we also have less curiosity.”