1st March - Native Garden Awards

I have lived in the Aldgate Valley for over 40 years. In that time I have witnessed the gradual destruction of our natural heritage. One of the biggest causes of this has been gardening. A new house is built and a garden is developed. The indigenous flora is lost.

Forty years ago there were over 300 species of indigenous plants growing in the Aldgate Valley. In the last 40 years we have lost over 100 of these. Much of this loss has been caused by landholders developing their gardens. I am not talking about growing food or fibre here. I am talking about gardens that have no purpose other than pride.

In fact the destruction of the natural environment in the name of gardening is probably one of the best examples of why "Pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris, is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and indeed the ultimate source from which the others arise. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). Dante's definition was "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor." In Jacob Bidermann's medieval miracle play, Cenodoxus , pride is the deadliest of all the sins and leads directly to the damnation of the titulary famed Parisian doctor. In perhaps the best-known example, the story of Lucifer, pride (his desire to compete with God) was what caused his fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan. In Dante's Divine Comedy, the penitents were forced to walk with stone slabs bearing down on their backs in order to induce feelings of humility, (wikipedia)."

An example I recently watched went something like this: It consisted of about 3 acres of indigenous bushland covered with large stringybark trees. It even had those council tags at each end of the road frontage designating significant native vegetation.

Someone purchased the block and cleared some of the trees to build their house. There was a bit of an outcry but it was pointed out that they had every right to do this. They built their house. Then they developed their garden. There is no significant vegetation on their block or their road frontage now although the tags are still there. They are very proud of their garden and would be disappointed to find anyone critical of what they had done. Now multiply this by a few thousand and you have a good idea why our indigenous vegetation is disappearing in the Aldgate Valley and across the country.

Add to this the fact that Prime Minister Rudd tells us our population is to double over the next 40 years and there is little hope for our indigenoud vegetation unless we change our attitudes towards gardening.

Recently I noticed an article in the Advertiser about the "Native Garden Awards". It was promoted by a group called the Sustainable Landscapes Project. They are based at the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide.

It occurred to me that the Botanic Gardens have changed their emphasis over the years. I remembered when they developed the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden. I was a Stirling Councillor at the time. It was developed where the last tall stringybark forest in South Australia stood. Truckload after truckload of massive stringybark logs trundled past. I wept. I even tried to do something about it. But I failed and the forest was destroyed and the garden was developed. The exotics were planted to replace the indigenous plants. This act of vandalism could not be repeated today but, of course, the forest is gone.

The guidelines for entrants stirred my optimism further.
See www.environment.sa.gov.au/botanicgardens/programs/landscapes.html
I quote from the guidelines:
Eight principles to help achieve a sustainable park or garden:

  1. Design to suit local environmental conditions
  2. Select plants that survive and thrive on the natural rainfall of your area (in most parts of South Australia this will mean plants with low water requirements)
  3. Select non-invasive plants
  4. Conserve water through practical measures
  5. Provide habitat for local native fauna
  6. Avoid harmful chemicals
  7. Minimise non-renewable energy consumption
  8. Use sustainably and locally sourced products and materials

I decided that Wirrapunga conformed to these ideals absolutely. So we entered Wirrapunga into the competition. How could we lose? What a wonderful symbiotic relationship. Sustainable Landscapes would have an example that demonstrated that it could be done. Wirrapunga, on the other hand, would have succeeded in its aims in bringing indigenous bush gardens into the realm of real gardening and hence save a bit of what is left.

Unfortunately I was a bit misguided. Wirrapunga wasn't actually what they were looking for. They said,"Best described as a reinstated native flora site rather than a garden, the judges felt that Wirrapunga was worthy of a high commendation."