Does anyone else do 'all-volunteer' landscaping?

s8us89dsApril 21, 2012

I guess if I had unlimited resources, patience, experience, pr skill at gardening, I could plant exotic gardens from seed (or thousands of dollars of store-bought specimens). But I don't. But I've found that Mother Nature gardens a whole lot better than I do.

For example, in my bog garden that I started last year, at least 5 wild (weed) volunteer species have spread rapidly and flourished so far. So I looked at the 5, decided which 1 I liked the best, and have been ripping out the other 4 ever since. Now I have an entire bog garden nearly filled with a long clumping grass (kind of like a small Pampas Grass). I may use it as an edging and grow something else in the center. Or I may keep it with just 1 species. Or I may rip it all out and let something else grow next year.

But it hasn't cost me a dime so far. I didn't have to plant a single thing. I didn't have to research anything. No heartbreak of carefully selecting a species and spending hundreds of dollars on specimens and planting it...only to watch it struggle or die for whatever reason.

Maybe if I didn't grow up a thousand miles north of here, or if most of the native flora is this area (Houston) didn't already look exotic and fascinating to me, maybe it would be different. But so far Mother Nature keeps surprising me with gorgeous wild berry bushes that the birds love, gorgeous wild ivy-like ground covers, gorgeous grasses, and gorgeous wildflowers of all different colors.

Why would anybody waste the time and money fighting Mother Nature...when she can plant faster and select species better than I can? She seems to have a reservoir of dozens or perhaps hundreds of native species to surprise me with, enough to dazzle me for years. I just yank out what I don't want. It's like having half the stock of a garden store delivered to my doorstep for free every year - and I just throw away whatever I don't want.

Why don't more people talk about this? Why don't more websites or clubs focus on this "all-volunteer" approach to landscaping? It's so cheap and easy - anybody can do it - and replaces the ubiquitous turf grass or equally depressing alternative of many thousands of dollars spent on professional landscaping.

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I cultivate a garden because i have specific issues with my property that can only be address with proper landscape design. For instance, I have a septic field which needs soft-fibrous rooted plants. I also desire to increase native plant diversity; as well as, landscape for privacy, shade and shelter.

I think the method of gardening that you are suggesting when you say "all-volunteer" is "preservation". I'm at the point with my landscape where I'm more in the preservation mode. I'm letting nature do what it wants, but I'm still culling plants that I do not desire. I think my landscape looks more beautiful each year as I let nature incorporate it's influence over my original design.

When you stop cultivating, plants from neighboring sites will move in and expand their territory. It then becomes a choice as to what stays and what has to go based on your values. Some people value a weed free lawn while others value a "leave it to nature to take care of itself" and then there are those who are somewhere in the middle. Because you are selecting to remove some species, you fall somewhere close to the "leave it to nature to take care of itself".

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 10:32AM
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terrene(5b MA)

S8u, either you live in a location that is still dominated by native plants in the wild, or many of the volunteers that you assume are native are actually non-native invasive plants.

I would love to let portions of my lot go "all volunteer", however the big problem with that is that most of the volunteers in this neighborhood are invasive and are listed on the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant list. I have been removing invasive plants for 8 years now, and will continue to do so, even though it's probably a losing battle unless the neighbors also remove them and the next owner removes them. Otherwise they'll reseed from the seed bank or from neighboring sites (as Theresa2 points out).

Aside from that, I grow gardens and landscape plants because there are so many interesting and beautiful plants to grow, starting many of them from seed (cheap) and using a preponderance of plants that are native to eastern North America and are attractive to birds and insects (sometimes, too attractive!). Many of these species aren't going to "volunteer" here because they aren't growing anywhere near this location in the wild.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 6:49PM
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I am collecting seeds of local native plant that I like.

I will mix them with some filler and scatter them where I want them ... what likes the conditions will grow.

I'm also yanking out the species I don't like.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 2:13PM
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