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Guest Rant by Fran Sorin

There has been a tremendous amount of often rancorous debate about the use of natives vs. non-native plantings in designing gardens over the past several years.

Thanks to the internet and our ability to take advantage of viewing photos and videos of gardens around the world, if you’re curious, you can learn a tremendous amount about garden design, xeric gardening, and just about anything else that your heart desires when it comes to gardening.

But what is still lacking is a focus on beauty and how being surrounded by the beauty of nature is absolutely necessary in order for the human spirit to soar.

Oh, not that beauty doesn’t matter to gardeners! Indeed it does–as witnessed by the millions of us who are working non-stop to transform our plots of land into a personal paradise.

This is a tricky subject to discuss because Western culture, by in large, is of the firm belief that beauty is an individual undertaking; not to be disturbed by us disrupters who think that the concept of  “responsible beauty” takes precedent over “freedom of choice” when creating a landscape.

Now I’m not talking about the beauty of the natural landscape. Or sitting on a park bench and watching the sun glistening through the leaves of a tree.

I’m talking about the wholesale and retail nursery trade making a commitment not to market plants as clothing manufacturers and retailers would in the rag trade—always needing to come up with the latest fashion in order to keep their buyers’ appetites whetted.

I’m talking about our public parks and gardens raising their standards to a higher level so that we are exposed to and can take advantage of unbridled beauty. When we spend time in a public garden or park, we should have such an awesome experience that it leaves an indelible footprint on our consciousness and affect us in ways we can’t even imagine—but at the same time inspires us to plant responsibly.

I’m talking about home gardeners educating themselves on what specimens to plant that will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and beneficial insects; as well as specimens that offer food and shelter to our beloved wildlife.

Quite frankly, the conversation about having the right to choose what we plant in our garden has run its course. Letting everyone define their own aesthetic makes no sense when the very existence of bees, butterflies, beneficial insects, wild life, and the native plants that they depend on is now in question–as well as our own health and survival.

We are at a tipping point in the world of garden making.

Responsible beauty in the garden not only matters but is critical!

We don’t need to re-create the wheel when it comes to designing glorious landscapes that will catapult us into a state of awe but at the same time create a healthy and thriving environment for all living things.

There are several talented designers throughout the world who already exemplify this model. Piet Oudolf, the world renowned Dutch landscape designer, may be the leader of the pack. But dozens of others, including my colleague Noel Kingsbury, are leaving a positive imprint on this treasured earth of ours.

So wake up and make the commitment to plant a responsible and outrageously dazzling garden! If you don’t want to do it yourself, then be discerning enough to hire the right people to do it for you.

After all, we’re talking about the future health and well-being of our children. Isn’t that enough of a reason to take action?

Fran Sorin is the author of  Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through GardeningSign up for Fran’s Newsletter and gain access to her free 1000 Digging Deep Book and Online Course Giveaway which has just gone live on her website.

Posted by

Fran Sorin

on October 14, 2016 at 7:59 am, in the category Guest Rants.


  1. As much as I want plant propagators, nurseries, garden centers, and home gardeners to be environmentally responsible with the plants they sell/buy, for the most part, I don’t think this will happen.

  2. Responsibility isn’t an aesthetic. That’s like telling architects that they need to design buildings that don’t fall down in order for those buildings to be beautiful. I don’t know anyone working in the industry that doesn’t take environmental considerations to heart as part of their every day practice.

  3. Okay, I know your comment was aimed at the article, and I’ll probably regret my response, but “I’ll bite.” (I don’t feel like cleaning my bathroom right now.)

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