Declaration of Independence
Now is an excellent time
to state another declaration of independence. It includes truths which
have not, unfortunately, been self-evident. They are: 1) all landscapes
are not created equal and should not be clones of each other; 2) a landscape
is most efficient when it comes closest to the climax flora of its region;
and 3) ease of maintenance provides much independence.
ôKing Lawn" has made weekend
slaves of too many and our landscapes monotonous. It can be said
that our lawns are quite American and egalitarian in the manner they bind
us to a community. Their uninterrupted spread, unhindered by property lines,
echoes shared values and standards. But that lock-step march of rhizomes
attempts, at great cost, to disregard soils and climate. Suburban lawns
from Los Angeles to Phoenix to Atlanta to New York do look quite similar.
But their water bills do not.
Lawns crept out of large
English estates into the middle-class Victorian aesthetic in an island
where turf grows rather well. Transplanted across the Atlantic in the decades
after the War to Prevent Southern Independence, lawns grew in the cooler
and wetter zones of the Northeast. But, many factors, one being the increasing
popularity of golf, ensured lawns would take root throughout the land,
wherever civic pride and appropriate seed came together.
What happened to American
individuality in this case? Self-expression was limited to the selection
and extent of foundation shrubbery. A nation of free thinkers was left
with the option of boxwood or holly. Some choice!
My rebellion against the
Lawn Cult began thirty years ago. The most colorful result of that militancy
are the many landscapes I have designed in the last twenty years. The second
most colorful was my Live Oak, Texas wildflower landscape. The City of
Live Oak charged me with growing weeds and we went to trial in the summer
of 1990. The jury, who knew the difference between weeds and wildflowers,
found me not guilty.
Fear not, your landscape
does not have to resemble in all regards the climax flora of central Texas,
but at least avoid those plants guaranteed to die young. The farther you
stray from the thousands of both native and non-native plants that thrive
here, the more dependent those plantings are on your constant and perpetual
Horticultural novices should
be aware of a major impediment to freedom from excessive maintenance. There
are times when nurserymen (especially the big-box, mass marketers) are
so much like morticians. They keep the soon-to-be-compost Azaleas, Gardenias
and New Guinea Impatiens quite life-like for the viewing period. You, ignorant
of the smoke and mirrors and cosmetics, soon have a vegetal cadaver on
your hands or worse, a comatose specimen in a permanent vegetative state
requiring round-the-clock intensive care.
Just because it is sold in
a local nursery does in no way assure a plant's fitness for growing here.
Become better informed so your garden is not a hospital or cemetery of
flora. Study the listing of selected plants recommended
for San Antonio and vicinity.
Everyone wants the independence
of a low-maintenance landscape, but few reach that blissful state. Some
get there by sloth and a rare retinal deficiency that blinds them to weeds.
Others reach paradise with good plants and excellent designs.
My freedom has come from
eliminating maintenance by prevention. But there are build-a-better-mouse-trap
jokers who do so by invention. Is it not better to minimize irrigation
by selecting drought-tolerant plants than to achieve that goal by installing
the newest and most expensive underground, root-zone sprinkler system?
How do you prefer to allocate your resources?
As for me, give me liberty,
or give me weekend-dread!