Monday, September 25, 2006

Lawn Bowling and Native Plants

There is a lawn bowling club near us; we walk past it between parks along the river. This afternoon we went for a walk and went past the lawn bowling green. The wind was high and the clouds were moving fast. This morning's weather forecast called for rain this afternoon, and for rain on two or three other days later this week. There were large puddles in the gravel driveway and parking lot that surround the green. My point is it's been wet and they're calling for more wet. But there were big sprinklers watering the green! It looked like the heavens were about to open any minute and they're watering the green?!?

Recently I've been noticing new signs around Guelph like this one. I don't know very much about this issue but it is my vague understanding that the municipality has created a 50-year water plan and are proposing to build a pipeline from Lake Erie to meet the city's increasing water needs. I understand there will be another pipe that runs alongside it to take waste back to Lake Erie. People are up in arms because of the enormous economic and ecological impact such a pipeline would have. I intend to do more research about this issue but haven't yet. People are rising quickly to protest and the signs are multiplying. My husband joked that all the people who have been fighting Walmart for the last several years need a new cause now Walmart has made it in. (It's just a joke, not intended to offend anyone. We opposed Walmart too.)

I guess the main reason we need more water is because Guelph is developing like mad, especially in the south end, which is close to Highway 401 and therefore very attractive to commuters. Every time we go out of town, it takes longer and longer to get out of the city and there is less and less green space between it and the 401.

On one of those 50 degree days we had in July, a Very Kind Mum invited Swee'pea and I to hang out at her air-conditioned house deep in the south end. As I drove through her subdivision at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, I saw a woman watering her grass and the sidewalk -- on a day when it really did feel like I was in a sauna! First off, I absolutely don't condone watering lawns; well, I just don't see the point. My lawn is mostly full of weeds that stay green in droughts but even if it weren't. Lawns go brown in summer; who cares? BUT, if you are going to water your lawn (and some of my friends do and I'm still friends with them so I'm not that militant), DO IT IN THE EARLY MORNING OR EVENING, PEOPLE! Not at the peak of heat in the day when it's so hot I can guarantee no water is actually making it to the roots of your grass because it is evaporating so fast.

Wow, this has turned into a rant. I intended for it just to be a series of observations but I guess I'm a bit passionate about this. So... if you want to conserve water, which we all should if we want our children and their children to survive and thrive when we're gone, a great way to do it is to do away with your lawn and grow native plants. They're also beautiful and provide habitat for the creatures that live near you, including all the pretty butterflies and birds. Since I began gardening with native plants, my standards of beauty have changed. I have learned to identify invasive aliens and many native species and I find that some of the invasives I once thought pretty are no longer because I know they are destroying wild plant communities and threatening our forests. I still love lilacs -- after all they're pretty well-behaved and aren't much of a threat -- but I find more and more I love the native berrying shrubs that flower in the spring and early summer, the midsummer milkweeds and autumn asters.

It really annoys me when I watch a gardening program and the 'experts' talk like watering your garden is just a fact of life. I have seen many segments telling you how you can go on vacation and still have your garden survive. Mostly they involve planting in new absorbent materials so water is provided slowly. But it doesn't have to be this way. If you use native plants you only have to water them while they're young; once they're established, unless you have a crazy, unusual for your area drought, you don't have to water them again.

There are many great websites and books that can help you if you want to give it a try:
And there are no rules. Just try planting one native species and see if you like it.

Swee'pea with (red) Cardinal plant (lobelia cardinalis) and (pink) Joe Pye Weed (don't remember the latin).
I saw HBM's call to action to write about a passionate cause. I didn't do anything about it because I felt like a knob writing about this piddly little cause when compared to the real human causes others have written about, particularly HBM's piece about the disease her nephew is suffering from. I was paralysed by that piece. But my post today has come about organically, like my garden, and I realize that it is not a piddly little cause at all but is also a human cause. We are all 80 per cent water and our lives and children's lives depend on it.

Oh - and while I'm on my soapbox about green things, buy local produce.

My garden in July, L to R: (white) foxglove beardtongue (penstemon digitalis), puple coneflower (echinacea purpurea), (yellow) mexican hat (ratibida columnifera), (yellow) shrubby St. John's wort, (red) blanket flower (gaillarda or something like that), and (yellow) black-eyed susan (rudbeckia something).


Her Bad Mother said...

I think that this is a great cause. What a difference we would see if we all let our gardens take a natural shape, if we conserved our water, if we stopped trying so hard to bend nature to our will. It'd be huge.

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