Gardens of life
By Staci-lee Sherwood
When most people envision a garden they think flowers, trees and grass. For centuries a formal garden was the ideal many strived to achieve. In 2022 gardening isn’t what it used to be, this isn’t your grandmother’s Sunday pastime anymore it’s for active people. The model of what gardens are have evolved too. Once thought to be just a pretty patch of color they now have grown into a backyard ecosystem.
One of the fastest trending types of garden is one for pollinators, specifically one that attracts butterflies. No longer just a place to exhibit beauty more people are coming around to the idea their garden could supply food for life for many species, including our own. The next most popular type of functioning garden is one that grows food, followed by a new one the rain garden. Combining these different types of gardens adds to the richness of color and texture of the herbs, vegetables and flowers. It also creates a diversity of colors and shapes of the insects and animals that come to visit.
I spoke with Robert Hood owner of Fruit of Labor Landscaping about the different gardens and what each can offer. “If you want a successful foodscape then you really should be striving to build an ecosystem in your yard. Having a foodscape, pollinator garden, and rain garden allows you to bring as much diversity from a natural setting into a much smaller scale in the landscape.“ Each type of garden can be big and elaborate or small and simple. They can be combined or stand alone. You can dedicate a particular area or let nature take its course. Best of all they allow small ‘throwaway’ spaces to be utilized so any spot can be used.
Hood’s own yard is a combo garden as well with a “My front yard is a foodscape with pollinator plants mixed in. If you were a visitor with no knowledge of plants you would never know that my front porch has a hedge of perennial edible greens. Or that the area filled with pretty purple flowers is actually all eggplants.” When designing a garden best to use native organic non gmo seeds or plants. They require the least maintenance, help to restore the ecosystem and best of all nature doesn’t need a gardener.
Butterflies have always captured the imagination. With news of crashing butterfly populations, calls went out to the public for help. Many turned to landscapers and gardening sites for ideas on what plants would attract and feed butterflies; along with other pollinators like bees, wasps, moths and hummingbirds. Once the butterflies arrived many homeowners became avid photographers documenting each visitor. Word soon spread what a wonderful experience pollinator gardens are.
“Pollinator gardens should always be incorporated into foodscapes because pollination is an essential process in plants yielding food. By attracting pollinators yields will increase and so will taste.” Hood explains. As you will see there are many varieties of vegetables and herbs that add as much color as flowers. A garden where the plants have their own symbiotic relationship to each other and insects.
The beauty of wildflowers compliment any home style
A mini garden within a larger garden
Before we had big commercial agriculture we had small local farms. In many cultures most people had a small plot of land where they grew a few fruits and vegetables. Trading among neighbors helped balance out the food supply. For those new to gardening it pays to get advice from an expert before taking the challenge on yourself. Hood points this out “In Florida, you are wasting your time growing things like lettuce and squash in the summer. It is too hot and too wet. Gardeners need to focus on alternative plants that they can grow successfully. New gardeners (including myself) also under appreciate the necessity for attracting pollinators and beneficial insects.”
1) Dwarf blood orange 2) Lavender 3) Dwarf lemon 4) Rosemary 5) Loquat 6) Brazilian cherry 7) Edible begonia 8) Bamboo 9) Apple bananas 10) Low-chill apple 11) Low-chill peach 12) Nasturtium
“I think edible landscapes, foodscapes as I call them, will continue to grow as well. I see a growing movement of people wanting to become more self-sufficient. Plus the current economy has grocery prices on the rise.” Hood said. Looking at a global map of wildfires and droughts it’s easy to see how the food supply will be affected. Add the invasion of Russia into Ukraine and the domino effect is not far away. Anyone thinking about growing your own food might see all this as a sign to start now.
Walking by no one would know these beautiful plants are human food
For those seeking the formal ‘English’ garden look
These gardens can help with drainage and flooding. Function isn’t their only purpose. Studies have shown that being near water has a calming effect and given a choice many people would prefer to live on or near water. Spa’s have known this and try to incorporate that in their design. Office buildings have picked up on that too and many now have small indoor waterfalls as part of their design. A garden of function and beauty makes for the perfect combination and once set up requires little maintenance.
“Rain gardens are a little known landscaping tool that help make poorly draining areas of the garden purposeful. Rain gardens can also be used to help control roof rainwater runoff. Basically, the overall concept is to have an area designed to safely collect rainwater and allow it to drain properly back into the ground (eventually replenishing wells and the aquifer) instead of collecting in sewer systems that commonly dump rainwater into lakes and rivers. Rain gardens are low maintenance if done correctly. Occasionally any drainage piping may need a washout of debris. If plants are chosen correctly, then plant maintenance can be nonexistent..”
More of a ‘Zen’ look with the steps
“By incorporating rain gardens, we can help repurpose rain runoff to benefit our plants. Cucumbers didn't require hand pollination because bees are buzzing everywhere. Tomatoes didn't get demolished by hornworms because beneficial predators stepped in and took care of the problem. Thirsty plants survived droughts because rain gardens brought in the necessary moisture. Soil improved through root diversity, green mulching, and natural composting.”
Rain gardens with flowers
Even a small area can benefit from a rain garden. A parking lot, shopping mall, apartment building or driveway can be turned into a tiny oasis for pollinators and insects. Here you see what most would think useless space is a mini ecosystem using a hose to capture rainwater runoff. This could be a great way to prevent pooling of water in a driveway, parking lot or sidewalk during heavy storms.
Even a small area can benefit as a rain garden
To learn more about pollinator gardens click here https://www.yourgardensanctuary.com/pollinator-garden/
To learn more about edible gardens click here https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/vgen/edible-landscaping-mixing-vegetables-and-herbs-with-flowers.htm
To learn more about rain gardens click here
To learn about the benefits of pesticide free lawns and gardens click here https://perfectearthproject.org/
A great resource for both experienced gardeners and beginners is this site. They have a gallery to help ID flowers, insects and butterflies. They also have a forum to discuss ideas and questions. Located in Florida. Click here https://www.fruitoflaborlandscaping.com/home
Also published on Emagazine September 6, 2022