A landscape ethicist answers the call of nature
We largely live in a world of carefully manicured lawns, where rows of flowers and meticulously trimmed topiaries signal our commitment to order and control.
But what if we let things get a little wilder? What if we could cede an element of control to the natural world?
Rick Darke thinks it would be a lot cooler if we did.
Darke is an author and naturalist who describes himself as a “landscape ethicist”. He has spent years cultivating his own property in Pennsylvania in the kind of vibrant natural environment that is increasingly rare in a world of hyper-developed lawns and gardens.
Darke describes waking up in the morning to the sight of a hawk outside his bedroom window, perched high in an oak tree among a thicket of other plants. He looked to see his dog just as delighted at the sight.
“A landscape that is practically alive like this will entertain you more than any number of plants lined up in an orderly row,” Darke said.
Darke has practiced horticulture for over 40 years. His work is based on observation – an ethic of responding to the natural world rather than imposing it. According to him, gardens and landscapes are less a question of upkeep than of upkeep. This philosophy gives birth to a practice which fits naturally in phase with nature.
“Because care and stewardship is constantly reiterated, you are constantly reacting to changing times,” Darke said. Much of what we understand about landscaping is about imposing our will on the natural world rather than submitting to it. But according to Darke, there is beauty in allowing the natural to take hold.
“You will lose your fear of change when you devote yourself to these dynamic and resilient landscapes,” he said.
Darke will be featured at a virtual event on January 10 hosted by the Illinois Prairie Chapter of Wild Ones, an organization that promotes biodiversity through the preservation of native plants. In his presentation titled “What is wild and why it matters” Darke will discuss the ecological and personal benefits of cultivating a wilderness landscape.
Darke is a great advocate for what natural landscapes can do for wildlife like foxes, hawks and pollinators. But he also swears by the benefits of cultivating and managing the land, which gives life.
“You will live longer; you will live better; you will be in better health; you will be less stressed. You won’t use as much data on your plan, ”he said.
And for anyone worried that there isn’t a lot of inspiration in the flat and unchanging Illinois landscape as it can often appear to be, Darke said there is a lot of material to work with. .
“You can create a garden on a simply spectacular apartment. You have to think about the space, the revelations, the discoveries, the directionality, all the dynamics between the interacting spaces on a plane. It is quite possible to do it, ”he said.
Darke’s presentation “What is Wild and Why It Matters” will take place on Monday January 10 at 7:00 PM. Registration information is available here.