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Where has all the greenlife gone?

Neil Williams has his say...

I rather suspect I've been invited to add my sixpenneth to this bubbling cauldron of controversy, on the grounds that I'm so conservative and established in my world of the quarter acre home garden (my pride and joy), that I will quite understandably create further controversy and passion which of course, is the stuff on which any media survives, 'Greenworld' very much included. Okay, that said, let's begin.

Plants could be eliminated from the contemporary landscape!
A power statement maybe, but let's face it - how from the truth is it?

I refer of course, to the apparent disappearance of a diverse range of traditional greenlife from modern day home gardens, be they the ubiquitous courtyards, balcony gardens or whatever, plus the same trend now clearly evident in major public flower shows throughout the country. The trend was clearly evident in Brisbane at the recent National Horticulture on which I've had a bit to say elsewhere, at Melbourne's MIFGS and in New Zealand at Ellerslie and elsewhere.

The sterile, minimalistic, non-plant landscape fad
While there was some excellent greenlife on offer in Auckland at an industry trade day I attended, as is the case in Australia, the New Zealand industry too, is suffering immeasurable damage from the sterile, minimalistic, non-plant landscape fad currently running rampant. Given full rein, this regrettable and totally lifeless 'fashion fad' in conjunction with 'pocket handkerchief' housing allotments, has all the potential to entirely eliminate plants from the contemporary urban landscape.

What a sorry situation it is, but then in many ways nursery persons have only themselves to blame for failing to support major garden events such as MIFGS in Melbourne, and Ellerslie in Auckland. With the show gates open wide and empty sites to burn, this was all the catalyst needed to motivate the anti-plant minimalists who were overjoyed to find their work elevated to the big media spotlight.

Plants are no longer the priority

But of course there's a little more to it than that, for you've also got to look at changing consumer preferences. In that regard we've all heard repeated accounts of the so-called 'time-poor' 'yuppies' and 'dinks' who have buckets of disposable income but don't particularly relish the thought of getting a little dirt on their hands. After all, they don't want to soil the new Beamer by carting around 'dirty plants' do they?

But there's still more to it than that, for as Colin Boucher pointed out in his article, plants are no longer the priority. Colin went on to say and I quote : "The general public perceives more value in the hard landscape element, so planting is not always the priority with landscapers.

"The other problem", he continued, "is the fact that the plants are last on the agenda ....landscapers generally have a warranty period within which they have to guarantee the project. This is also the reason why contractors are less likely to get too exotic on the plants because after all, it's the wholesale supplier who must replace his plants if they die!"

But what of the joy of the seasons?
Colin Boucher is quite right in his explanation of the reasons why landscapers use such a limited palette of plants, for money speaks all languages and after all, it's the customer's money Ralph!

But let me close by saying in this obsessive age of Mondo Grass and yucca, tormented artefacts and tricks with mirrors, what is to become of the joy of the changing seasons? Where will the birds roost and sing their melodious songs, and what of the glory of the spring blossoms; the welcome shade of trees in summer; the vivid tints of autumn and the heavenly bare tracery of silver birches in winter gardens?Sure it will be easy to maintain, but will it have any soul? I rather think not! `

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