Search This Blog


This content is not yet available over encrypted connections.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Encouraging Diversity by Doing Nothing

When we first moved here, there were a number of cultivated flowers growing  by the lagoon that were very pretty to look at. Irises and daffodils, and peonies and yucca all had been planted by the previous owners of the property. We also noticed some daisies growing wild by the fence line, and all of these flowers occasionally made beautiful arrangements.

Sword and Bow in 2002 by the lagoon when the irises still bloomed
I have not been tending the flowers, but the daffodils have been coming up every year, anyway, and the peony still manages to bloom helped by the black garden ants. The yucca plant is going strong, but the irises have not bloomed in years. Some plants need work to make them grow and bloom. And other plants prosper in neglect. If you are looking for beauty free of charge, your best bet is the natural beauty that no one has to work at.

I have been preoccupied by other matters besides gardening, and I have let things go. Meanwhile in my pasture, which used to be a monoculture of well mowed grass, all sorts of things have planted themselves, trees and shrubs, and many, many different kinds of flowers.

This blue and yellow flower is sometimes found in cracks in my cement driveway as well as in the woods.

By the path in the pasture you can see the Something Else flower in all its multitude of incarnations. Sometimes it grows side by side with honeysuckle.

I think the Something Else flower is just as lovely as any other rose, and quite possibly more radiant.

No two of them are exactly alike.

Is this closed center a different stage in the flower's development or a different variety of the flower?

Is the darker coloring on these petals due to nutrients in the soil where the seeds happened to fall? Or is it a genetic variation?

It's been raining a lot lately, so they have all received plenty of water -- and it was free of charge!

Different varieties of clover flowers bloom side by side.

One of the things that struck me while on my walk today is that if I had had to plan a garden of wildflowers, I would never have been able to include so many different varieties. Many of these flowers are the same, but different, sometimes in small  gradations, like the colors of the rainbow which imperceptibly change and blend into one another.

Others, like the yarrow above, are very different from most anything else.

There are daisies everywhere, no two alike. Some are more different than others.

These flowers look like daisies, too, but how different they are, and the difference is not a matter of color.

You can recognize the center of the daisy, even when someone has eaten all its petals.

Some insects are pollinators, and some are not.

The butterfly helps select the best daisies from the consumer's point of view. It is a kind of quality control.

But some insects are not interested in what a flower offers in exchange for propagation. Some just want to devour its flesh.

 Is it exploitative when they eat the petals and give nothing in return?

Is it only all right if they go straight for the pollen?

I like that nature is so non-judgmental. Anything that works is okay. Anything that does not is automatically eliminated.

Even when the Something Else flower has been denuded of all its beautiful petals, some insect might still come by and pollinate it. Even in extreme devastation there is hope.

Sometimes I wonder whether I am exploiting the beauty of my flowers. After all, I don't pay them anything to grow, not even minimum wage!

Certain moralists believe that we can only reap what we sow. But I did not sow any of this. It sowed itself. Or if it had a little help, it was not from me.

Central planning is what produces monocultures. Diversity is what results from letting things sort themselves out. I wish more nature buffs understood this, as it applies to both ecology and economy.

Bow looking at an old photo album

One of the ironies of the current conservative versus liberal dichotomy of outlook is that conservatives believe in central planning when it comes to speciation, and hence many deny evolution could have happened, since they think it requires planning to come up with different species, and they cannot conceive of it happening without a central designer. Liberals believe in evolution, but they think that central planning is the only way to run an economy or to save for the future or to secure good health for a population, while conservatives understand that allowing those things to evolve organically works better. The problem with both views is the lack of integrity -- not in the sense of ethics -- but in reference to the ability to integrate information from different areas of life to come up with a world view consistent with itself.

Some wildflowers for Bow

The beauty that we find in flowers is not magnified when they are cultivated -- the flowers get bigger, but the smaller sized wildflowers are actually prettier. When we cultivate fruits and berries and try to plan for speciation by genetically modifying them, the fruit gets bigger, but the flavor is often reduced, I have eaten wild strawberries in Idaho, and they taste so much better than the kind we get in the supermarket, though admittedly they are tiny in comparison.

Life does not get better with central planning. It may get bigger in some cases, but that's not the same thing. You can feed more people on modern grain than on a hunter-gatherer diet, the experts will tell you. but each of these many people will be less healthy as a result. They used to tell us to eat a high carb diet for our health. It was in the dietary guidelines. Then studies showed it was not healthy at all. Lately the gloves have been coming off in the departments of food planning, (HHS and USDA) and we are told we should eat less meat out of reasons of sustainability, not nutrition.  In a natural ecology, sustainability takes care of itself.

I could put in a big effort to plant a garden full of cultivated plants, but I prefer the wildflowers that grow by themselves. They don't cost me anything, and they're also prettier. And they smell good, too! Have you ever noticed that flowers in a florist's shop seem to have no fragrance?

I may not be the one who selects the varieties planted, but I trust the creatures who do, because of their inherent interest in the matter. It's precisely because they do exploit the flowers that the flowers they plant smell so sweet.

 The less I interfere in the process and the more I allow the insects and the wildlife to decide what flowers to plant, the greater the variety I find in my garden.


  1. I like the diversity of flowers on your land.

    1. Thanks, Julia. It's kind of amazing!