Just as with fashion across all areas of our lives (clothing, furniture, hairstyles and social trends), it seems that we constantly see what’s old being touted as new again. As it turns out, this is no different when it comes to gardening.
Just like trends for fashion and the like, we see cyclical changes in style that is supposed to be the “latest and greatest answers” to improving either our lifestyle, our surrounding environment. Some trends are even touted as helping us to deal with dealing with a specific issue, as with flared jeans (but I am not sure what problem they were supposed to solve!).
In fact, the fashion world is more connected to gardening than we’d imagine. Each year a “Color of the Year” is selected by a select group within the fashion world and the color chosen then becomes one that’s touted and used in a variety of situations – from clothing and home decór to garden design.
I have been reading with great interest about the current concerns over the drought conditions impacting the Southern California region, and the subsequent reactions of government leaders who are primarily targeting gardeners with mandates on how to save and/or improve the efficiencies of water use. Targeting water use by gardeners – who we know from our own experience are probably the most conscientious when it comes to the use and re-use of valuable resources like water – seems like a bit of an easy “solution” on politician’s part.
Governing bodies who are looking at ways to improve water efficiencies need to be reminded that there are many other industries out there that could do with improving their water use, including transportation industry, manufacturing, car dealers, etc.
Coming from Australia (a land which seems to survive well enough even through cyclical droughts – the most recent lasting more than 11 years), we know that water is a precious resource. However, we also know that limited availability doesn’t mean that we cannot garden. It also doesn’t mean that we need to restrict ourselves to the fashion trends of mid-1970’s (native gardens) or the 1980’s trend of xeriscaping, as is currently occurring. What is old is becoming new again….
Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the term Xeriscaping, it is method of landscaping or gardening that reduces (but it doesn’t eliminate) the need for supplemental watering. And for the most part, in my opinion, it looks great for a short period of time, but then begins to look ordinary from an aesthetic point of view after a couple of years, with plants looking straggly and unattractive. In my opinion, this is why most people end up pulling out many of their xeriscape plants and redoing the garden in a more traditional style.
None of the tips for maintaining your garden during times of limited rainfall are new and they can be found in almanacs going back many years.
Most important: choose plants that are right for your conditions and don’t base assumptions on what is or isn’t low water use just on guesses. Instead, look around your area to see what is working for others, especially in areas where there appears to be little garden maintenance carried out.
For instance, just because a plant flowers doesn’t make it high water use (for example, roses are among some of the most efficient users of water). Likewise, just because a plant is predominantly foliage like a Phormium, this doesn’t make it water efficient. Phormiums, in fact, require a lot of water to look their best.
Where possible, ensure that you use tried-and-proven gardening techniques such as watering in the early morning or late evening to minimise evaporation, or use recaptured water from your sinks or showers.
I understand that having a bucket in the shower whilst washing can be a bit of an inconvenience but you will be surprised by how much this captures on a daily basis – good water that can then be used on the garden.
There are of course a multitude of other tips to ensure you can garden in drought conditions, such as using mulch, drip irrigation, planting similar plants in clusters etc., but none of this information is new and it is readily available on the web for your reference.
What we do need to consider is that all of this is cyclical (like the clothes that are at the back of the closet). Today’s trends (including hipster beards) have been here before and will no doubt reappear again in the future.
Until next time, Garden on Good people – and don’t succumb to trends when we know our practical knowledge and garden decision-making is sound.