Lesson Learned From 'Bucket List Of Gardens In England': Plant For The Future

Feb 7, 2014

  From growing your own food to planting native or drought-resistant plants, sustainability themes abound at this year’s Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. At least one presenter took that idea to the next level by sharing a lesson she learned while admiring some of the world's most famous gardens. 

Nan Sterman is a garden writer from San Diego who attends the show in Seattle just about every year. This year, she presented a talk titled “From Sustainability to Stewardship” based on a tour of old English gardens she led last summer in the U.K.

The purpose of the tour, Sterman said, was to "see kind of the bucket list of gardens in England and Sussex and Cotswold."

"So all of the gardens that everyone always wants to see,” she said.

As she led the tour through public parks and private homes, she had a big realization: the landowners there don’t just plant things with their own needs in mind; they’re thinking about what their land will look far into the future.

“What you plant today, you want to have present for people hundreds of years, you know, dozens of years, decades from now,” Sterman said.

That means replanting big trees where others did the same a century ago, or preserving habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators like bees.

“Even in the most formal garden with the most formal displays, there are vast areas of what we would look at and think, 'Oh my God, it’s weeds. Why don’t they cut that?' And actually what it is is perennial wildflowers and grasses that are serving as critical habitat for pollinators,” she said.

Sterman recommends thinking about the garden as part of the big picture, no matter how small it is.

That’s a familiar concept to longtime author Marianne Binetti, who writes a syndicated column that appears in the Tacoma News Tribune. If you have pest problems, think simple and old-fashioned, she says.

“It’s homeowners that put the most pesticides in our waters,” she said. “So I recommend kitchen-cupboard remedies like vinegar to kill weeds, a strong jet of water to kill aphid. Those are the things you can do when you have pest problems instead of reaching for a chemical."

And If you’re wondering what to grow, she advises checking out an admired garden of a neighbor.

The theme of this year’s Northwest Flower and Garden Show is “Art in Bloom.” The exhibit at the Washington State Convention Center runs through Saturday.