The First Day

The day I received the message to step out of the current flow of accepted landscaping dogma is one I’ll never forget.

I was to meet a good friend as his home in a mobile home park. Now my friend is a plant guy – chlorophyll running in his veins – so you can imagine the empty lot next to unit in somewhat the same sense as The Secret Garden. It was a magical place of wonder, loaded with plants of every description.

I planted myself in the wooden swing to wait for him and allowed myself to drift off into the garden. Then it happened: The Voice said to me, “Bring a new paradigm for landscaping in the Southwest.”

I don’t remember ever hearing The Voice before. It was loud and clear, and left no doubt as to its intent. I was already in a magical space so it didn’t seem as strange as might had it come at some other moment.

I felt empowered. I felt as though I had a mission. And a power back of me. I set to work figuring out what a new paradigm for landscaping in the Southwest might look like.

Being a landscaper ever concerned with “finding a better way,” I was already pretty disgusted with the odd combination of ideas and methods that had “evolved” into the current body of knowledge. We seemed to repeat old mistakes, and in our quest for something new, continually add new mistakes to the old.

In my thinking, it seemed clear that the new paradigm had to get nature back into the garden. I developed these principles, which I called Guidelines for a New Landscape Paradigm:

The Law: Work with nature.

1. man is part of, rather than controller of nature
2. plan the interaction between man and nature – organization of space and function, aesthetics, maintenance
3. nature must be alive on the site – in all its messy, unpredictable glory; minimal or no use of inorganic chemicals
4. care for and develop the soil – soil is the source of life
5. manage water effectively and efficiently – redirect water on site,  program runoff, improve irrigation tools and their use, provide water at the right time and place, and in the quantity appropriate for each plant, use water features
6. choose the right plant for the right spot – consider what nature would do there, match the plant to the microclimate, factor in design criteria, cluster plants as nature does, considering the evolution of each cluster
7. program wildlife into the design – mammals and reptiles, birds and bugs for pollination, bug control, and aesthetics
8. design takes place across time, in cooperation between man and nature
9. landscaping is three-dimensional, living art
10. connecting with nature is essential to man’s health

Anyway, that’s the root of our new paradigm, given on the First Day.

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