Sunday, February 7, 2010
A brave new ecology
Peter Del Tredici held an educational session at this year's New England Grows conference. As a long time Senior Research Scientist at Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum, Dr. Del Tredici has led the way in studying our contemporary landscape. His new book "Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast, A Field Guide" challenges traditional views of "native" landscape design and gives a glimpse of what our future cityscapes might look like. A lot of species, formerly seen as invasive weeds, may become an appropriate part of our plant palette as gardeners and landscape designers. Although there will never be a use for poison ivy or rag weed, there are some "volunteer" plants that deserve a second look because they require little to no maintenance or irrigation. As municipal budgets dwindle and efforts to conserve water increase, using or preserving some of these plants just makes sense. For instance, instead of clear cutting vacant lots, selective weeding could be done instead. "Green is good" even if the plant was once called a weed. Certainly, some of the 158 species outlined in this new book are worth a second look.
Please note: the Phragmites australis depicted above is not an appropriate landscape plant for our wetlands. However, on large industrial sites, this species has been successfully used to clean up contaminated soils.