Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Planned Reading: "Rambunctious Garden" by Emma Marris

This is my current interest. I'll be buying their book hopefully by the end of the month. The author, Emma Marris, was on KUOW's Greenday Gardening Panel earlier today; here is the direct link. Basically she takes an ecologist's point of view to gardening (and managing wildlife habitats?). She points out calling something native simply because it was growing at date X is arbitrary when we consider the millions of years of history before. Native Americans starting wildfires, driving large mammals to extinction, glaciers rampaging down the continent, etc...

Normally I'd brush this off as a boo hoo argument by the ornamental industry who have been pushing nonnatives on the average home owner since the dawn of time. However, Emma makes some surprisingly well thought out arguments. The problem, for me at least, is she sounds both smart or stupid at the same time. She encourages people to plant natives but also non-historically-native plants as long as they help pursuer a certain goal (look nice, birds, butterflies, pollinators, bugs, other wildlife). And this can be a stupid idea if someone has no idea what's native and what's not. The ornamental industry and most nurseries certainly don't make it easy to tell the difference. So the real beneficial gardens are only going to come from the people who've researched the topic of native plant. This movement could greatly benefit from a little education which might well be in her book, but this also contradicts her earlier point of just planting whatever helps you reach your goal. See what I mean by smart and stupid at the same time, for lack of a better term?   

Her point of view seems to be so broad that it's almost impossible for her to be wrong on the top of what's right to plant where. Hopefully her book has lots of substance and personal touches as I'm looking forward to reading it sometime in the near future.


  1. I have not read the book yet but all of her interviews annoy me. You word it well.In one interview she actually says she went to a local woods but when it was deemed trash instead of pristeen nature she stayed away from those sort of places for ten years. Who would do that? No one thinks these places have no value only that value is relative and management can help in some instances. She didn't think this up. The Nature Conservancy and and restorationists have been at this for years. Its like she is missing something I can not put my finger on yet.But I know that mainly its that use of "pristeen nature", like "purist",which of course makes her notion more valid than those of an "extremist tree hugger".
    I will read the book, hopefully soon, and try hard to see past my prejudice.

  2. I'm about half way thorugh so I can't judge it perfectly but after chapter one I wanted to throw it in the trash. Thankfully things have gotten a lot better towards the second half of chapter 2. She just doesn't present her argument or spell the problem she's trying to address well enough. It's more understandable when you read 10 or so examples of what she's getting at. And she seems to have 100's of them! So it's not total tripe.

    I'm past chapter 5 now and I'm predicting another nose dive in how much I like the book. The next chapter is titled "Learning to Love Exotic Species"