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Noah's Garden - Chapter 1: Unbecoming a Gardener

If you wish to purchase the book, Noah's Garden can be purchased here.

The opening sentence points the direction of this chapter and though I haven't read the entire book yet, I suspect it also applies to the entire book. It reads:
I CAME INTO GARDENING backward, from the wild verges instead of the garden gate.
The first chapter is a fairly good overview of the problems associated with conventional gardening methods that seek an artificial order to a garden. When the soil and local ecology don't cooperate, she describes how the standard response is to resort to workarounds that still do not take into account what nature would prefer, tricks that works against the natural tendency of the soil, plants, and local ecology.

She discusses her own first by-the-book gardening efforts and the subsequent realization that many of the critters- grouse, frogs, foxes, butterflies, grasshoppers- that had lived on her property had fled. And worse, that she was responsible.

A quibble
She points her finger at America's "gardening tradition" and I have to quibble about that and disagree on the point that it's a distinctly American form of gardening. I would rather call it a Modern Gardening Tradition because the style, I think, is fairly global. Here is what she wrote:
America's clean, spare landscaping and gardening tradition has devastated rural ecology. The relentless spread of suburbia's neat yards and gardens has caused lcoal extinctions of such important predators as foxes, had dangerously reduced habitat of many kinds of birds, and has threatened the total extinction of fragile species... Entire communities of plants and insects... have been wiped bare.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Noah's Garden - Chapter 1: Unbecoming a Gardener

I had to find my copy and start re-reading it. Hey everyone, get on board. This book is wonderful. Reads like a novel. In places it reads like poetry....

"When Marty and I bought our land [six suburban acres], it was in just that stage of regrowth from pasture to forest that is among the most productive ecosystems on earth. It was covered with brambles, bushes, vines, and grasses that supported a large and varied animal population. Our footsteps stirred up flights of grouse, grasshoppers that rose on rattling wings, and panicky rabbits. Frogs of assorted size and voice croaked loudly by the pond. A woodchuck family lived below a large boulder; a fox had its den nearby."

Chapter 1 is an overview that sets the themes for the book. She talks about how she became a "gardener" ripping out all that eco-system to plant lawns and flower beds full of exotic ornamentals.

"Most suburbanites have never searched for frogs eggs, caught fireflies in a jar, or peeked into a grassy nest of adorable baby mice. As the years pass, fewer and fewer people will long for the call of bullfrogs. Today's children, growing up on lawns and pavements, will not even have nostalgia to guide them and soon the aninmals will be not only missing but forgotten."

But it is not just sad, it is also inspirational: "We cannot in fairness rail against those who destroy the rain forest or threaten the spotted owl, when we have made our own yards uninhabitable. Yet how quickly we could grow this land, spangle it with blazing stars, stripe it with red winterberries and white summersweet, let it wave again with grass!"

re Roger's quibble, she does at times talk about American way of traditional gardening. But she does also point out that this is something we brought with us from England/ Europe: " These have historically encouraged an esthetic based on class distinction and reducible to mere symbol. The great lawns from which our little ones descended [this would be English manor houses] proclaimed the extent of the landowner's holding. The grand hedges and topiary [English and European formal gardens] that spawned the shorn foundation plantings around our houses, required crews of gardeners to maintain them..."
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gardeningwithe
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Re: Noah's Garden - Chapter 1: Unbecoming a Gardener

I just ordered a copy of the book so it will probably be a few weeks until I can contribute, but I shall enjoy reading what others say.

gardeningwithe
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Re: Noah's Garden - Chapter 1: Unbecoming a Gardener

I just got my copy today, so I can't wait to read and discuss.

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Re: Noah's Garden - Chapter 1: Unbecoming a Gardener

Cool, enjoy! Glad to hear what people think of it.
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Re: Noah's Garden - Chapter 1: Unbecoming a Gardener

It is interesting reading how she evolved from knowing nothing to having a successful to garden to realizing it was not the way that nature intended it to be. The consequences being that local wildlife had lost a haven.

Her writing style is nice to read and I like how she describes something as mundane as not feeling up to par with gardening in such a neat way:

My growing suspicion that I could never come up to gardening standards, my uneasiness about being caught with my slug holes showing, and my annoyance that primroses and their problems should cause such anxiety...


I do like how she points out that if people could have some little ecosystem in their gardenscape it would be helpful. Maybe it is because I agree with it and maybe it is because I do keep some parts of my yard what you would call "free". Just a strip down the side near the creek and a smaller strip in the back. It does mean that we have many animals (from skunks to opossum, to frogs, and birds) that live in these free zone. But it makes me happy to give them a home.

It does look much less tidy than other areas, and I had recently starting getting rid of some of the back strip to tidy it up.


So far the book reads well, but I do feel like she is a bit too reproachful to others. I am assuming that is because she is passionate about the topic, but it just feels like a lecture at times. This is just chapter one though so perhaps it gets better. However, she does have some good points and suggestions so I shall keep reading.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Noah's Garden - Chapter 1: Unbecoming a Gardener

The whole story is sort of summed up in the first chapter. In other chapters you will see more of her evolution from a lawn and exotic flowers gardener to a natural gardener and I think it is interesting. The basic point she makes is how much like a desert a grass mono-culture lawn is. Even though I'm pretty educated on all this stuff and have never really been a lawn person, I understood this in a different way reading her book.

If your natural areas look more messy than you like you can always make a mowed / edged/ or paved (narrow) strip around them. That gives it a more intentional, controlled look.

I love making a home for all the critters in my yard, even if some of them do eat my garden. Anything I really want, I fence in, and we coexist. My garden is "certified backyard wildlife habitat" by the National Wildlife Federation. Yours can be too:

https://www.nwf.org/How-to-Help/Garden-for-Wildlife.aspx
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Re: Noah's Garden - Chapter 1: Unbecoming a Gardener

We had a power outage for the last couple of hours, and both my iPad and my iPhone batteries were reaching single digits and I was just getting ready to plug them in (talk about a panic moment! not doing THAT again :roll: )

After feeling bereft and aimless, discarding other activities like cooking (no power to electric stove), sitting down with some hot beverage (no power to the Keurig), not even simple salad since I didn't want to leave the fridge door open too long (no phone meant I couldn't find out more about the extent of the outage) ... I finally cracked open this book and read the first chapter and came back to this old thread and book club that I'm sorry to say I neglected and it didn't take off before.... So late to the party, but here I am.... :>

Writing style -- lots of big words! I had to put on my grown up reading glasses and switch on higher vocabulary processing centers of my brain, which I realized had been idle for longer than conscionable. :oops: But after I got in the rhythm of it, the words started to flow much easier....

Oh, and I marked that sentence too rainbowgardener --
We cannot in fairness rail against those who destroy the rain forest or threaten the spotted owl, when we have made our own yards uninhabitable.
I also liked this part about "an ecosystem's intelligence" --
Removing an element unplugs many connections and therefore has a stupefying effect [...] By removing many parts and thus unplugging the connections, we have left our land too retarded to take care of itself, much less to be of any help to us.
Now that I started, I hope to continue reading it. It's been an auspicious start and I'm agreeing with so much of what is being said. :D
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Noah's Garden - Chapter 1: Unbecoming a Gardener

So glad you finally started reading this, applestar! It's one of my favorite books, that I frequently recommend to others. Gets you thinking about gardening and landscape in a whole new way....

The worse things get re habitat loss, species loss, etc., and climate change, the more critical it is that those of us with little plots (that are next door to our neighbor's little plot, and so on) manage them to provide habitat, support birds, butterflies, pollinators and other beneficial insects, plant trees, add lots of organics to our soil (good rich lively soil is among many other things a good sponge for soaking up excess greenhouse gases).
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Re: Noah's Garden - Chapter 1: Unbecoming a Gardener

That sounds interesting. I have to admit though, that I always had a jungle and hated the barren monoculture of lawns.
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