We are infinitely perplexed by debates that arise between camps that should seemingly be in agreement and that are ostensibly working towards the same ends. Of late we have observed an artificially two-sided, black-and-white, green-and-brown debate over edible landscapes vs. ornamental ones. The most die-hard of edible landscape proponents insist that ornamental landscapes are wasteful and useless and that any available greenspace one has should be devoted to growing one’s own food. “Productive landscapes” they refer to them as. And so it goes that productive = good; ornamental = bad. In a flaccid attempt at infusing pop culture into the debate, one blogger went so far as to describe ornamental landscapes as “so ’80s,” in essence ignoring the 4,000+ year history of ornamental gardens. The whole debate recalls the native vs. non-native one in which native = good and non-native = weedy and bad. Black and white, green and brown, with us or against us.
Prairie-inspired front-yard landscape in Plano, TX
But what of those grey areas, and the proverbial areas of the color that green mixed with brown make? What of an ornamental landscape that is chock-full of pollinator-attracting perennials that provide food for the suffering monarch population? What of Perovskia atriplicifolia / Russian Sage, which, while not native to the US, blooms endlessly from June to October, attracts a staggering swath of pollinating bees, is remarkably drought-tolerant, and is completely non-invasive? Within these artificially two-sided debates, there is no room for these questions. It is as if, in an effort to bolster the validity of one’s mission – be it edibles, native plants, government spending, etc. – we feel compelled to eliminate the grey areas altogether, as they may weaken our respective missions or agendas. As a result, people working towards the same end of reducing the impact of humans on the environment are pitted against each other in a debate that shouldn’t be. The truth of the matter is that some people want to grow their own food, and some simply don’t (there’s nothing wrong with purchasing your produce from the farmers’ market, is there?). Some want a wild, all-native landscape, and some want something tidier while still including plants that will attract wildlife. Why we insist on diluting the validity of the sustainability movement through these artificially black-and-white arguments is beyond us.
For more on the subject and grey areas, click here.