Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Let's Think About It For A Minute

Let's just put aside my general frustration with gardeners who want "all color, all the time."  What is really getting under my skin are gardeners who want lots of bright color all year long, in the shadeUsing only native Texas plants. 

Somehow, "native" has come to be synonymous with "carefree."  Of course, this is not true.  Dogwoods are native to Texas and do poorly in our zone 9 humid, hot climate.  They are much better adapted to the forests of East Texas.  Just because something is native to Texas doesn't mean it thrives in the urban/suburban environment here.  After all, plants aren't native to cities at all. 

And somehow, I think the whole concept of shade has escaped people.  Imagine a peaceful walk in the shade of a native forest.  There is very little color there, aside from green and brown. Of course, you'll see the occasional flash of red, purple, pink or white.  Maybe even, if you're lucky, yellow.  But the temperate forest isn't a riot of color naturally.  Even the tropical rainforest is a mostly green affair.

Which is why we import plants from foreign lands.  Why we hybridize plants in pursuit of outlandish color.  Even in the shade. So pick any two:  native, shade-loving, colorful, frost tolerant, drought tolerant, heat tolerant, flowering, dwarf, evergreen.  Pick more than two and your search query may return no results.

Photo courtesy Kurt Stueber via Wikimedia Commons.
This is Turk's Cap, or Malvaviscus arboreus.  It is native to Texas (1), tolerates shade (2), displays occasional color (3), is cold tolerant (4), heat tolerant (5), and moderately drought tolerant (6).  Unfortunately, it is not a dwarf and it is not evergreen. Oh well!

1 comment:

  1. The association of 'native' with 'carefree' is one of the biggest misconceptions out there these days; I've heard several landscape architects, talking at the regional trade show/conference for LAs, architects, contractors, and developers, about how native plants need no irrigation and no maintenance. I was walking through Boston's Prudential Center, a large mall, shortly after the conference, and saw a nicely designed mall kiosk sign (like an onsight Public Service Announcement) suggesting that people use native plants in their gardens, because (in bullet points) they need no irrigation and no maintenance. Argh! This is how myths develop!