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A gentle plea for chaos in the garden

About 20 years ago I read a book by Sara Stein called Noah’s Garden and it transformed the way I think about gardening.  In her book, she describes the way nature plants.  There are no lines, or sharp angles; everything has a place and purpose.  She referenced a book by Mirabel Osler called A Gentle Plea for Chaos, and that idea became the model for me and my garden.

Nature abhors a vacuum

For some reason, we tend to think of our landscapes like we do our home décor or furniture.  However, the landscape is a living organism and more like a living painting that is always changing, adapting and maturing.  A great landscape has opportunity to grow into itself, and not require constant discipline. With proper planning and choice of plant material, a Florida Friendly Landscape can become beautifully diverse, healthier, and lower maintenance than those that must be tamed on a regular basis.

Bio-Diversity brings rich rewards

Research shows time and again that bio-diversity is the key to managing many of the problems we deal with whether insect infestation, or disease, and yet, our landscaping practices tell a different tale.  Most landscapes continue to limit, control and confine our plants to what we think they should be, leaving no room for the beautiful weaving of edges and serendipitous surprises.

You can attract rare and wonderful Atala Butterflies with the right plant choices

Atala Butterfly larvae are almost as beautiful as the adults

Maintaining a static landscape can be daunting

It’s no surprise that many people are hesitant to garden, or get discouraged trying to maintain their landscapes, because nature has “the audacity of growth” factor at work all the time.  I realize that not everyone has a taste for what some may deem “overgrown”, but if you ask the butterflies, birds and beneficial insects what they prefer, they would cry out for a little bit of chaos: some messy left here and there, a more diverse and native palette.  They would lobby for more trees, and hiding places, more ground covers and less turf.  “Loosen up!”, they would scream.

Real beauty is sustainable

If you are expecting your garden to remain in bounds and be subdued, think again.  Why not respond to this “gentle plea for chaos” with some understanding and even indulge this playfulness?  When your garden sings with more birds, when the butterflies fly thick beneath the dappled shade and ladybugs and dragonflies abound, when you are on top of a hammock instead of behind a lawnmower, you just might begin to view this as the best kind of landscaping.

Sweet Almond Verbena attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects all year in South Florida.

Bio-Diversity brings beneficial insects that help keep the “bad guys” under control.

3 Comments on “A gentle plea for chaos in the garden

  1. I believe that Mirabel Osler, not Sara Stein, wrote the book A Gentle Plea for Chaos.