Wednesday, August 15, 2012

grounded design by Thomas Rainer: Why I Don't Believe in Low Maintenance Landscapes

I love this blog post I came across.  I personally believe landscapes are meant to be productive elements of our lives, and this requires maintenance.   This maintenance, and the products of the landscape, benefit us in innumerable ways.  From: Grounded Design

grounded design by Thomas Rainer: Why I Don't Believe in Low Maintenance Landscapes: The American obsession with low maintenance landscapes is a problem. Here’s why. There are several phrases I’ve learned to dread from clients. “I want to swim by Memorial Day,” is always a heart-stopper, particularly when you were hired in March to design a swimming pool and garden. “I want this garden to look perfect for my daughter’s wedding,” is perhaps the most dreaded phrase of all. If you ever hear that one, run far away. But the phrase that makes me cringe the most is a phrase I hear all the time: “I want this to be low maintenance.”

A low maintenance landscape is a rather innocuous request. It is also, of course, an absolutely sensible one. After all, who has the time or resources to pour endless hours into a landscape? Plus, traditional maintenance often focuses on chemical inputs and gas-powered machinery, all of which are bad for the environment. Perhaps low maintenance landscapes are both good for people and the environment, right?

Yes and no. “Low maintenance” is not just an idea, it is an ideology. It is the promise of more for less. As Americans, we still believe cheap, fertile land is our manifest destiny. We deserve bounty without labor, satisfaction without commitment.

The ideology of low maintenance has received new fervor from advocates of sustainable landscapes. In eco-speak, maintenance is a dirty word. Maintenance means gas-powered machinery, irrigation systems, and petro-chemicals. A low maintenance landscape is natural.

The promise of low maintenance landscapes is an empty one. The very idea that you can do less and have more is a mythology. Landscapes constantly change and require input—lots of it—to look the way we want them to. Lines blur, plants suffer without water, and weeds move in. Nothing stays the same. Even naturalistic and native landscapes require heavy interventions to look natural. In nature, thousands of years of natural selection create relatively stable environments. In our yards, our active engagement is the sine qua non of a garden. The less we do, the worse our yards look. 

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