This NYTimes article has the local green listservs chatting and I’d bet my house that GardenRant readers have some thoughts about it, too.
First it describes some native plantings along a Delaware highway – aster, amonsia (sic), thoroughwort nestle and golden Indiangrass – but has this to say about the larger movement toward more natural plantings:
But the movement, which began before World War II in the Midwest, well before Lady Bird Johnson’s
beautification project in the 1960s, has more heart than muscle.
Roadsides fulfill a variety of engineering functions. They must provide
clear lines of sight and easy drainage. As for aesthetics, a Delaware
poll showed that the public prizes neatness more than nativeness.
so the pushers of native plants must fight endless battles with their
economic and aesthetic opponents: turf-grass vendors, lawn mower
jockeys who make a living cutting 20-foot median swaths in the summer
sun, or garden clubs that favor manicured beds of tulips, poppies and
lilies over meadow grasses that can look downright blowsy.
Gee, are garden clubs really the bad guys, right up there with turf-grass vendors and lawn mower jockeys?? Maybe. But it’s more complicated than good guys and bad guys:
- Switchgrass is highly flammable, so there’s the fear of lit cigarettes being thrown from cars.
- Pennsylvania has planted crownvetch along highways for decades now – it thrives in poor soils and on steep banks – but crownvetch is now targeted as "villain of the native-plant proponents." Yet here’s Penn State still weighing in in favor of it. (Confused yet?)
- Ditto the oxeye daisies planted in North Carolina but considered a noxious weed in Tennessee.
- We know from our nursery friends that some jurisdictions have mandated the use of plants that aren’t actually available on the market.
- And then there are commenters like this one: “I like long hair on a woman but not on a man and not growing around my house.” And the commenter who thinks the local planting of native grasses looks like "a botched hairtransplant." What’s up with the hair analogies?
While people are arguing about plant choice, can we at least stop mowing, as they’ve done in Nebraska? You know, save lots of money, create lots of wildlife habitat.
Photo credit – oxeye daisy.