- The Wildlife Forest Garden
- Celebrate the vernacular garden
Celebrate the vernacular garden
Home grown is a good thing
The literal meaning of vernacular is "native to a country" but it is generally used in relation to language and architecture. I think it is time to start using it for gardens.
The unthinking use of non-native plants as mere ornament for human gratification is part of a colonial and anthropocentric world view. The philosopher and ecofeminist Val Plumwood articulated this as “the standpoint of mastery” which involves “seeing the other as radically separate and inferior, the background to the self as foreground, as one whose existence is secondary, derivative or peripheral to that of the self or center, and whose agency is denied or minimized.”
Now is the time we need to start building climate resilience at a local level—food, energy, housing, transport—and it also the time we need to shift to post-colonial ecocentric gardens. Yes, we can still grow non-natives for food but this needs to be balanced with consideration for wildlife, by providing a diversity of habitat and native plant species.
The key argument is that native plant species have co-evolved to be eaten by the larval stages of insects, thus providing the foundation of the food web.
We also need to re-evaluate hard landscaping in gardens as well, by minimising the use of non-renewable local materials such as gravel and stone, and where possible using recycled material. For example, the wildlife garden designer John Little uses a Recycled Blended Fill for his hoggin gravel paths, and crushed building ‘waste’ for his gabions.
And this is where the vernacular comes in. Every area in the UK has a different climate, geology and wildlife. Every garden in every area has site specific water flow, soil and conditions. This is an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of UK native plants rather than mimic the aesthetic of whatever non-native happens to be in fashion.
Thanks to the last ice age, there are “only” about 1,500 native or near-native species but this limited palette should be a liberating constraint for UK garden designers, particularly when this is supplemented by a whole range of edible and useful non-natives.
Plants For A Future useful plants
Plant Atlas of the British Isles
My aim is to publish this newsletter once a week on a Monday, it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride so far, I lost a post for a few days, but I should be on an even keel now.