Mar 31st, 2020

Garden Activist Calls for Revolution

“Gardens are a primary way to connect with the world,” said Benjamin Vogt, columnist for and author of “A New Garden Ethic.” Gardens also support natural communities within urban and suburban developments.

Revival, social justice and defiant compassion marked the pleas of Benjamin Vogt, owner of Monarch Gardens, a prairie-inspired garden design firm in Lincoln, NE. During Lewis Ginter’s Winter Symposium in Richmond, Vogt passionately advocated for the voiceless: plants and their extended communities around the globe.

“The greatest injustice of our time may be the eradication of native ecosystems, the erasure of life forms and the capacity for one species (humans) to ignore those injustices,” Vogt said. In his book “A New Garden Ethic,” Vogt challenged gardeners, horticulturists and designers to revolutionize their approach to landscaping, as well as their expectations for the garden.

“What we honor now in our landscapes is what will give life to future generations of humans, plants and animals,” Vogt stated. He urged critical thinking on an expanded scale before installing more grass, deforesting more woodlands and selecting more non-native plants.

A Garden Revolution

“As we erode diversity of species and places, we erode not only nature’s resiliency but our own,” he said. Conversely, when humans recognize and support nature’s needs, they support their own wellbeing.

Man lived in a wilder environment in centuries past, so today’s widespread disconnection from nature negatively impacts our psyche, biology and ethics. Vogt said humans need to reconnect, not through attempts to interpret and control, but through the preservation of biological integrity and humble integration of himself.

“The true challenge, and the greatest opportunity, is in seeing all life as equal, all life as contributing … and all life as essential,” Vogt suggested. Humans should rethink their self-proclaimed entitlement to plunder and reshape natural landscapes as desired. Vogt encouraged all to “see our world through the eyes of another species,” where we ethically consider not only our needs but the needs of plants, animals and other living organisms.

In his book, Voight suggested that humans often limit their gardening goals to aesthetics alone. He encouraged redefining aesthetics as far more than visual appeal.

“Plants are not art,” he said. “What we do with them, how we honor their life processes as part of creating ecological functions — that’s art.

“The more we check our egos at the garden gate, the more we’ll make gardens that work for a common good, that reconnect us to the world we’re erasing and even bring us closer to one another,” Vogt said. “Each garden places us firmly in the context of all life.”

This article first published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

About Lynn Kirk

Lynn Kirk, a freelance writer and marketing consultant, has collaborated with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden since 2002. She considers it a joy and privilege to write newspaper articles and member newsletters for such a top-rated (and utterly gorgeous!) public garden.

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