Karen Zacarías’s Native Gardens hits Geva’s Wilson Stage March 26th. In this brilliant backyard comedy, a little squabble over square-footage turns into an all out turf war as a quartet of people from completely different corners of the country come together as next door neighbors, and inevitably clash in their attempt to clean up their back yards.
Frank and Virginia Butley, owners of a beautiful prizewinning garden, are [understandably] skeptical about Tania Del Valle’s idea of cultivating a “native garden.” Like the Butleys, I too at first found myself wondering…what the heck is a native garden? What does that mean?
Well, I did some digging (yay gardening puns). Not only did I discover that Pennsylvania State University has a horticultural page—and that it’s surprisingly informative and helpful—but that planting a native garden is a way of being “neighborly to nature”:
“Homeowners across America are changing the face of the typical American lawn. Using gardening and landscaping practices that harmonize with nature, they are diversifying their plantings, improving wildlife habitat, and reducing lawnmower noise, air and water pollution, and yard waste.” —Penn State Extension
Wow, thought I. That is pretty cool. They’re doing all that just by planting some flowers? Essentially, it’s replacing foreign plants with a Mid-Atlantic forest bed—a.k.a. things that actually grow here in American soil on their own. Ferns, mulberry bushes, wildflower meadows, butterfly gardens, woodland habitats…all low maintenance stuff that sustains the environment by feeding bugs, bees, and birds, while also not requiring fertilizer and needing fewer pesticides. To me, the laziest landscaper known to man, this native gardening deal doesn’t sound half bad.
Well, here’s the kicker. Having a native garden means your yard looks like it’d be good for frolicking through to “The Sound of Music.” They are not popular amongst neighbors that like a tidy lawn. Natural landscaping can be viewed as messy, overgrown, a threat to property values, and sometimes even a health hazard. Cultivating a native garden also means cutting out bigger, prettier foreign plants like peonies, hydrangeas, azaleas, autumn olive trees…because even though these plants have been flowering in American gardens for generations, they’re not native to our soil—ergo, less beneficial to our environment. Who knew?
Native gardens are meant to ensure biodiversity. An interesting irony, as it means taking out English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, Asian azaleas…many diverse aspects of American gardens that have already been long rooted here. It’s easy to see how defending these types of things might easily shift from a fight over plants to a fight over places…or maybe even people.
Native Gardens will be running on Geva’s Wilson Stage from March 26th through April 21st, 2019.
For more info on native gardens, check out these nifty pages!