I wish, as my construction project was drawing to a close, someone from the City would have called or come out and said, ‘Well, you’re almost done. What have you budgeted for landscaping?’ After I replied ‘Nothing,’ they could have handed me some papers and told me, ‘Here is a list of things we would like to have planted, and here are some things we don’t want at all. You have five years to get this together; we’ll be checking back from time to time.’ That would have been swell, because I really didn’t budget anything in my construction financing for landscaping. I wanted, as I did in my front yard, to get a sense of the land, the light, the soil (minus the brief setback I encountered there by not accounting for the phenomenal amount of runoff and then installing a french drain system.) While this approach would have been a bit less Orwellian and likely would have brought about a very similar result, it also would have been significantly less expensive.
Between ‘Planning Services,’ plant installation, the plants themselves, and the replacement, addition, and enhancement plants I have put in, I am out about $15,000 over this, not counting the $5,000 I have secured as a Survival Bond, or the additional $4,500 I was to have paid the Mitigation Planner for compulsory inspection and monitoring, which I politely declined to pay. For those doing math at home, that is nearly $25,000; and with the exception of those plants and processes I have planted and placed on my own, I don’t think I (or the City, or the forest itself) received good value for any of it. I have never paid anyone to so much as mow my lawn, so I don’t know how much landscaping you can get for twenty-five grand; but I suspect it could be a lot. If I had it to do over, or one day hit the MegaMillion, maybe I could hire these guys: award-winning landscape restorations, and I am pretty sure no one needs a faux-basalt escarpment with a trickling seep more than I. But that isn’t the way this works, and anyway, complaint is the refuge of the powerless, and the law is the law, and applies equally to everyone, right? Or does it?
While I stay off my easily offended earth (except for when I am spending money on it or toiling over it), not far away from me the City has crafted itself a new park…on a wetland…with a parking lot…and public toilets and a nifty new boardwalk going out into the wetland. Is their wetland less sensitive, or do they just know better than I how to manage it? Or did the City afford itself development rights it doesn’t afford to individuals? And what about my neighbors, the ones nearest to me or not too far away. If I am restricted on and about my property and Must Plant Only Native Species, is the City enforcing noxious and invasive weed and plant restrictions to ensure and preserve the work I am doing and the health of the Nature all around me? Not a day goes by that I don’t cull an English Ivy sprout or slash some part of my body on the barb-y thorns of Himalayan blackberry, so I think not.
This is not a manifesto. I am not lifting my kilt and crying “HOSTA!” I know that I literally cannot fight City Hall.
Outside these digital walls, there is debate over the environmental impact of Native vs.
non-Native plants, there are folks who would take up their pitchforks and torches rather than submit to property restrictions, there are people who are dying for the government to save them from themselves no matter the cost of salvation, and folks who would mow down a whole forest of teak saplings so they can pay thousands for one eco-friendly twenty-person outdoor dining table. I hope to speak to all of these, but for me ultimately the conversation is not my plants or my property restrictions or my frustrations with arbitrary and burdensome regulation, but the conversations that happen inside my home: where do our guests go when the weather is nice, how can we have dinner outside? Why my daughter can’t have a treehouse, and how to have a pair of swings so that she and a friend can giggle and pretend and whisper the kinds of secrets that pass between seven-year-old girls…because time is fleeting, and living without these things or being punished for having them may be ‘Green’ in someone’s opinion, but it is not sustainable, in a couple of different ways.