It would have been easy, upon the death of the plants in the Mitigation Plan, for me to have said ‘&*%$# THIS!’ and gone on to just do whatever I want. After all, once my $5,000 Survival Bond was encumbered and locked away for five years, I don’t have it, can’t use it, and can’t get it back until the Politicologists say so; I might as well just kiss it goodbye. There are plenty of beautiful plants that would look right at home in my forest and clearing, and unlike Northwest Native plants they are easy to come by. But I want my five grand back and so I quest for Native Plants.
Acquiring the correct Northwest Native plants for my property reminds me of shopping for men’s suits. There is a world of great clothes out there, but in my size (52 long, if you’re interested) I can have whatever I want, as long as it is a Navy blazer. Twenty years ago, shopping for NW Natives might have entailed hours on the phone with far-flung specialty nurseries and a lot of driving around; thanks to the internet, it now involves hours online with far-flung specialty nurseries and a lot of driving around. Or I can have Evergreen Huckleberry, which fortunately I like…I’m not a fan of Navy blazers, however.
Not that I think the quest is necessary. From my neighbor the forester (‘You can’t mitigate a clearing’) to the man from the Washington Native Plant Society (‘What harm could an azalea or hosta cause a forest?’), most plant people I come in contact with think the restrictions I am under go a little far. The case for a more reasonable view is made perhaps as eloquently as I have seen by Noel Kingsbury: the ‘polemic (for native plants) can overwhelm the science.’ I know a little of Mr. Kingsbury, though I’ve not read the sources he makes reference to; still, he is British and undoubtedly sounds extremely intelligent when he speaks, and his ideas are very similar to mine. Therefore he is an Authority.
Even more interesting, perhaps, are the comments below his essay. For those who controvert his points, their anecdotal views are that animals and insects prefer their natives to their other plants, that their natives perform better in their growing conditions than their other plants, that when faced with the choice between native and non-, they choose the native. Without intent, these fine folk have made themselves the exceptions that prove Mr. Kingsbury’s rule: they have a choice, and they choose some native plants to go with their other garden flora. Their plants are not all native.
Mr. Kingsbury advances the view that in the debate between
Native and non-native plants, Nature itself cannot really tell. While I tilt at Paxistema myrsinites windmills all over creation, I probably could just plant a common boxwood, $3.95 for my choice of one out of a thousand at the Orange Apron Store. Not only can Nature not tell, I don’t think it cares. Don’t believe me? Take a look around. Nature is EVERYWHERE: it’s that crow eating out of my dumpster, just beyond my office window; it’s that owl, crunching the bones of a Mountain Beaver in the woods beyond my clearing. But look a little closer…that’s an Eastern crow, an invasive that followed the grand expansion of dumpsters into the West, and the owl? Barred owl, expanding far beyond its native territory. Probably because they are completely badass. And the Mountain Beaver, well, it’s Native…but fat on the hybrid Asian Rhododendrons in my front yard. There is nothing unspoiled about Nature. It is not Wilderness…but then again, neither is Wilderness.
Next, green or ‘Green?’ Part Four: Cultivating Nature, the contrivance of Wilderness, and why I am the only person who can do what I am doing, and the City should be glad of it