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Native Wisdom
Botanical missionary Andy Wasowski preaches the gospel of native plants

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When gardening activist and author Andy Wasowski comes to Colorado Springs next weekend to deliver the keynote address at the 2001 Peak to Prairie Landscaping Symposium, he'll be singing the praises of landscapes that defy the American way.

Up to now, says Wasowski in his book The Landscaping Revolution: Working With Mother Nature, Not Against Her, the manicured, water-hungry, chemical dependent bluegrass lawn has dominated American domestic landscapes for no good reason -- uniformity and the guiding ethos of conspicuous consumption being the main motivators.

"The average American homeowner would rather live next to a pervert, heroin-addict, communist pornographer than someone with an unkempt lawn," says humor writer Dave Barry in a quote borrowed by Wasowski. The myth of a native garden being an unkempt mess needs to be debunked, and that's why Wasowski and his wife Sally are traveling the country, speaking at conferences and landscape symposiums and publishing books that show how much easier, carefree and naturally beautiful a landscape can be that relies on plants native to the area where they are grown.

"What if your car needed a tune-up every month, an oil change every week, and the tires rebalanced every 500 miles?," asks Wasowski in Chapter One. "You'd call it a lemon and get rid of it -- fast! Now consider that your very own traditional American landscape demands watering two or thee times a week all summer, mowing once or twice a week, periodic pruning, lots of weeding and ongoing applications of herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Face it, my friend, that landscape is a sun-ripened, grade-A, all-American lemon!"

The charm of Wasowski's book lies largely in his humorous and down-to-earth approach. As for the "revolution," well, it's alive and well according to this landscape revolutionary. Here's just some of the evidence he cites:

National gardening magazines that rarely if ever mentioned native plants in the past now routinely include features on native gardening in every issue. Ditto radio and television shows on gardening.

A growing library of books by respected gardening authors promote natural landscaping.

A 1994 directive by President Clinton that all federal buildings and installations should landscape with plants native to their areas has been widely embraced and enacted.

Native plant societies are now active in virtually every state. (They're listed in the back of Wasowski's book).

Master Gardeners have added native landscaping to their programs across the country.

More nurseries now specialize in or at least carry a larger selection of native plants.

Water departments across the U.S. now promote xeriscaping as a water conservation measure and as an aesthetically pleasing, low maintenance gardening method.

Wasowski will preach his gospel on Friday morning at the Peak to Prairie Symposium, and will be followed by many other experts who will hone in on the specifics including use of low-water turf grasses, drip irrigation, plants in scale with smaller lots, insects and diseases of trees, and designing with ornamental grasses. During the lunch break, Wasowski will answer questions and sign The Landscaping Revolution for symposium participants.

Home gardeners and well as professional landscapers are invited to attend the event, sponsored by Colorado Springs Utilities, the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, CSU University Coop Extension, the American Society of Lanscape Architects, Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, the Colorado Nursery Association and the Horticultural Art Society.

Redefining Landscape Traditions
2001 Peak to Prairie Landscape Symposium

Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23 - 24
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
$45 Friday only (includes lunch), $55 Friday and Saturday (includes lunch on Friday, $20 Saturday only. Pre-registration encouraged; a limited number of tickets will be available at the door. Lunches available only to those who pre-register.

Call the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension of El Paso County at 636-8923 for registration information.


Book Info

The Landscaping Revolution by Andy Wasowski (The Contemporary Gadener series, Contemporary Books: Chicago) $27.95/hardcover

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