I remember a gardening advertisement. An urban male homeowner was standing in front of his garage, with the door open. With facial expressions of fierce determination he was beginning his weekly battle with his garden. He was supported by every means of engine — string trimmer, blower, mower, chainsaw, hedge trimmer. Backup support came from an arsenal of rakes, shears, sprayers, pole pruners, hoses and trash cans.
With Rocky music playing in the background, he dove headlong into the overgrown, weed infested jungle that was his back yard. The camera cut away while all we heard was machinery, snapping branches and primal grunts. When the noise ceased, he reappeared, triumphant in his weekly confrontation – the battle was won, but the larger war still loomed.
With the smirk of glory on his face, the now-tamed-and-sanitized landscape had been cut, whacked, sprayed and scalped back into submission. I don’t remember who the sponsor of the advertisement was; it could have been any of the several companies well known to most gardeners.
Is this the garden we are creating for ourselves? Is this what we sign up for when we decide to have a garden?
For those who have entered Orange County’s California Friendly Garden Contest, the answer is no. California Friendly gardening, while fundamentally about less water, less runoff and less green waste is, ultimately about less effort. The entrants in this year’s contest remind us that a garden doesn’t have to be a battle, gardener against nature – a weekly regimen of supplements, prunings and sprayings.
California Friendly gardens are gardens that need less; less water, less maintenance, less pesticide, less fertilizer. California Friendly Gardens are also about less leaving the garden: less water runoff, less green waste, less pollution, less invasive plants.
If you’re interested in entering, the deadline is tomorrow. If you’ve been waiting until the last minute to get your entry in, this is it. Take three pictures, answer five questions and you’ll be in the contest.
Even if you don’t enter, everyone should vote. Click on to the website (www.rogersgardens.com/gardencontest) and look through the entries. Each front yard garden is represented by three pictures. Look at them carefully. You will see that there is not just one California Friendly landscape style; included are mixed gardens, cottage gardens, native gardens, succulent gardens, Mediterranean gardens, palm gardens, country gardens, contemporary gardens and even subtropical gardens. Tiny gardens as well as large gardens are entered. Twenty-eight cities in Orange County are represented.
As you consider which garden to cast your vote for, imagine being the owner of each of the gardens. Notice their beauty, but look deeper into the garden. What is it “using”; and what is it leaving behind. Does the garden suggest a battle, like the television commercial? Or, does the garden suggest harmony?
The winning garden will likely be a garden that does not suggest work, but appears to fit its space and its location. It will appear as if the garden belongs exactly as it is and where it is – not contrived or out of touch.
What should a garden be? Imagine a calming garden where the sound of blowers, mowers and chain saws are not heard. Imagine a garden that acts as a climate control for the house, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter, a garden that brings rainwater into it, rather than directing it away. One where rainfall recharges the ground water, one where wildlife is encouraged and food is offered for people. Imagine a garden that truly works. This is the California Friendly garden, not barren or sacrificial, but as lush and beautiful as any other, without the battle.
While looking through the entries, imagine a garden that rarely needs pruning or fertilizing and little external water. One where natures systems take care of pest problems before the gardener even becomes aware of them. It really is possible.
The entry deadline is tomorrow, while the on-line voting period continues for two more weeks. Vote wisely.
Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar