Sep 21, 2010

Space Invaders

Yellow swallowtail
enjoying Buddleja
'Nanho Blue'
One of the greatest benefits of having a National Wildlife Federation-certified wildlife habitat is all the critters it invites: hummingbirds, songbirds, lizards, butterflies, honeybees and newts, just to name a few.

And one of the greatest drawbacks of having a NWF-certified wildlife habitate is, yes, all the critters it invites: squirrels, gophers, raccoons, yellowjackets, ants and rabbits, jut to name a few.

Lately it seems my nice little domesticated yard has been invaded by wildlife. The ants are colonizing the fruit tree containers; the squirrels are busy burying acorns which the scrub jays promptly excavate; the towhees are kicking my mulch all over the place looking for — well, I don't really know. My Cistus and Heuchera are keeling over since they have no roots anymore, courtesy of the aforementioned gopher; and the aforementioned cute and fuzzy bunny has begun nibbling the Anigozanthos, which is just not cool.
Towhee. So cute. Such a kick.

But this is just how it goes in nature, the joy and the pain of gardening. It's not limited to animals, either: I was amused by the latest issue of Fine Gardening, which on one page explores Connecticut nurseries' self-imposed ban on invasive Berberis, while another page extols the virtues of Berberis among mixed grasses. That article also celebrates Verbena bonariensis' ample reseeding, as in "you'll always have more." But wait: couldn't that be a wonderful euphemism for "invasive"? Apparently we cannot both have our Nasturtium and eat it too.

I've long believed that gardens are chaotic systems, hurtling toward disorder, their entropy both restrained and hastened by our best attempts to own them. I use Berberis all the time for its fall color, its spines, its berries — it is a fantastic ornamental plant for a wildlife habitat. At least, around Palo Alto. In Connecticut, not so much.

For those of us who feel closely connected to nature, watching this chaos is mesmerizing. We observe the long-term interplay between plants, soil, climate, humans, and other creatures; and find that how we relate with each of these elements defines our relationship with the total landscape. Did they invade my space? Or I theirs?

Whatever that relationship, though, the more we observe, the more wonder we get to experience; and the more we marvel at the life force that can create such a beautiful mess.

Sep 15, 2010

Hurry Up and Wait

In my last post I promised to review the more landscape-relevant features of Vectorworks Landmark 2010. Since then, the company has not only changed their name to Nemetschek Vectorworks Inc., they've also released Vectorworks 2011, including more robust 3D features as well as scalable symbols — one of the features I really missed from previous versions. So rather than continue looking back at 2010, I'll use a future post to look forward to 2011. If there's a feature you'd particularly like me to explore, please let me know. Thanks!