We’ve already looked at the other side of this equation with the question Are Wildlife Gardeners Real Birders?
But if you’ve ever experienced that sucking of the teeth and aghast looks that some gardeners do when talking about your wildlife garden, you totally understand this side of the equation. So I ask Are Wildlife Gardeners Real Gardeners?
What are the “Real Gardeners” meaning when they suck their teeth at us?
Sometimes they think that our gardens are nothing but an ugly overgrown mess, because our gardens have been stereotyped that way.
They don’t understand that if we chose to, we could design a completely formal garden using nothing but native plants. Or a cottage garden, a Japanese Garden, or any style of garden we choose.
They don’t seem to mind our quaint exclamations of joy when we find a new bird or butterfly in our garden, they can even sometimes handle the fact that we’re thrilled to find caterpillars munching away on our plants. Gasp!
They’re not quite sure about encouraging rabbits to make their homes in our garden, and they are very skeptical about our delight when we find a snake. Oh the horror!
So what is the problem?
It’s our choice of plants.
I mean native plants, EWWWW!
They’re ugly. They’re boring. They don’t have fancy cultivar names.
In fact, some “Real Gardeners” get quite worked up over the subject of native plants. They despise them. I’ve even seen a very well known garden writer completely trash an excellent book because in three pages of it’s total of 389 pages it talked about the value of native plants in our gardens.
They don’t know (or don’t want to know) that without native plants in our gardens we would not have the wildlife that we do.
We know that if we want to create welcoming habitats for wildlife in our gardens we have to increase the amount of native plants in our landscapes. No native plants means no insects, which means no baby birds, no caterpillars, and no wildlife.
They don’t understand why we don’t fall into a swoon when some fancy new peony is released to the market.
They don’t understand why we’re not racing out to the nursery to get the latest fancy cultivar into our gardens.
They don’t understand our frustration because some native plants are quite difficult to find for sale.
And they don’t understand that the entire reason we garden in the first place is for the wildlife. My garden is for the birds (and the bees, butterflies, dragonflies, frogs, toads, bats, snakes and other wildlife that makes its home in my garden).
Wildlife gardeners know that they have a responsibility to become the steward of their small piece of the planet and make decisions that will protect the environment, contribute to ecosystem services, and provide for wildlife.
We know that every choice we make in our gardens can either positively impact the world around us or create negative impacts such as the chemicals that run off from gardens that destroy soil organisms, pollute our streams, kill off wildlife, and poison our waters.
If we look all the way back in our history to the very first gardeners we see that the first man and woman were told to take care of their space and become stewards of the wildlife that lived there.
Since that time we as humans have done a very poor job of taking care of our planet. Wildlife gardeners are working to reverse that damage.
So are wildlife gardeners “Real Gardeners”? I say yes!!!
Note: I really don’t believe in the Us vs Them mentality. I think most of us make the best choices we know how to make. Lack of knowledge or commitment to positive change are things that can be overcome. It is up to each of us to help educate our friends and neighbors about the benefits of gardening for wildlife and making our world a better place. Many of you are actively involved in this education and I say Kudos to You!
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You said it so well. I don't show people my garden much because I know they won't understand it. Have had two people criticize my use of natives even though I also grow non-natives. My garden is alive with birds, butterflies, skinks, lizards, frogs,toads, anoles, snakes, dragonflies, ants, possums, bees, wasps, and a large healthy variety of other pollinators.