Ending the dysfunctional relationship between you and your landscape

April 21, 2010 § 2 Comments

Cape Ivy wiping out native habitats. Photo courtesy Charles Webber © California Academy of Sciences. Image originally posted at calphotos.berkeley.edu.

Caught in a dysfunctional relationship with your environment? Awareness is the first step to recovery and moving on.

Readers who are ready to break up with the invasive species in their lives are in luck.  While we at Creekfreak enjoy lavender, fruit trees, and other innocuous non-natives as much as anyone, we also get more than a little grumpy when we are trying to hike a nice SoCal creek and end up wading through forests of palm, arundo, fountain grass, sticky eupatorium (which I call Sticky Yoopy), nasturtium, and fennel, or mustard, and cape ivy, or vinca, and himalayan blackberry and… anyway, you get the picture. “Dear Washingtonia felifera, It’s not that you don’t have wonderful qualities, but you proliferate, you hang around, you catch fire so easily… This is it, we’re through. I’m sorry.”

You may already be familiar with my invasive species mini-rants (for example: 1, 2), but maybe not. You may be thinking “who? what?” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, writer Ilsa Setziol’s LA Times series on specific weedy plants that harm habitat is for you. Check out her series, Gardening Hangovers.  There’s also Cal-IPC (California Invasive Plants Council) which brings science and policy together to address the issue at the governmental level.

Many of these invaders are garden escapees. Which is why Emily Green’s recent posts about the LA Arboretum’s interest in rethinking its mission is so exciting. As an institution that shapes how we landscape, the Arboretum has the potential to bring us to a new awareness of how to live in support of our native habitat – and end the bad habits of these gnarly invasives and water consumption. But the new director needs to hear from you as he did from Emily, so go forth…


Tagged: , , ,

§ 2 Responses to Ending the dysfunctional relationship between you and your landscape

  • Emily Green says:

    Thank you Jessica. I gave the Arboretum a hard time, but after a decade of covering So Cal horticulture, my patience is snapping at the inability of our region to do simple, beautiful things that will have profound impact. There is simply no excuse for our nurseries to stock vinca, fountain grass, pampas grass, arundo, nasturtiums and so on. The claim that they need permits to keep growing them to supply other regions where they are not a problem is lame. If these were cows with BSE, or oranges with fruit fly, you can bet the Department of Agriculture would not be sitting on its hands. We should have the same conviction about protecting our wildlands, not the lame leave it to the trade approach we have now.

    As for the Arb, I gave its new director a hard time, but his institution needs it. Our garden vernacular is rooted in waste; if the Arb isn’t to lead us out of it, then who is? Water companies? They do it during droughts, but never with the conviction it deserves. They’re in a tough spot. They are, after all, in the business of selling water and if their revenues drop, then they’ll need to hike rates. We all saw how well that went recently at the DWP — when the department was actually doing the right thing, the council went to war with it. We desperately need a garden vernacular that is well adapted to the region. Politicans can’t do it. Water companies can’t do it. That leaves horticulturists. Everyone who has ideas for the new Arb CEO should weigh in. It might not work, but it’s like that old joke. To win the lottery, you have to buy a ticket.

  • Shawn Richardson says:

    Ahh pampas grass, you do know that most of the currently available varieties don’t spread viable seed right? But that doesn’t keep people from demonizing those of us in the landscape industry that plant those unviable ornamentals. How about fountain grass? Oh that’s evil, except for the varieties that don’t produce viable seed. But again people can’t see nuance and want to ban them because one species escaped. Then the goalposts keep getting moved. We start planting native grasses like nassela. That is ok for a while until someone decides it’s not native enough since it is from Texas and New Mexico instead of California. The reality is that the vast majority of non-native ornamentals are not invasive. Especially the ones that require a good amount of water. Those water intensive plants can serve a very useful function around patios for the evaporative cooling effect which produces a miniature oasis. Combine that with greywater and you may not need as much interior space which everyone wants to air condition. The issue is not simple and it’s not black and white. Heck, the most invasive plant in Griffith Park (mustard) was put there on purpose and has nothing to do with homeowners. The other aspect to consider is that the push for low water consmption plants, or biome appropriate plants (garden vernacular etc.), is going to actually increase the threat of invasive speces because the climate is very similar to its home climate. It is therefore more likely thrive unattended. This is what happened with both fountain grass and arundo. The last thing we need is a draconian ordinace like the NELA hillside ordinance where people have to get landscapes approved by a building department that can’t even read a topo map. Unless of course the goal is to completely kill development like that ordinance has done.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Ending the dysfunctional relationship between you and your landscape at L.A. Creek Freak.


%d bloggers like this: