I grew up in a suburban neighborhood. There were no leafblowers, no ride-on mowers. Few people chemically-treated their lawns and those neighbors were generally seen as uptight, they were people who didn’t have kids or pets and their behaviors were generally frowned-upon. The neighborhood looked rather overgrown. There was a fairly dense canopy of trees, such that Wood Thrush nested in the neighborhood, and there were no Northern Mockingbirds or Song Sparrows or other birds that prefer more open habitats.
Nowadays there are fewer trees. There is no Wood Thrush nest. There are Northern Mockingbirds and Song Sparrows. Many people hire teams of landscapers that use gas-powered leafblowers. Some people have taken out all their gardens and replaced them with lawn. Some people use ride-on mowers to mow their lawns. And then there’s the mulch. I hate it. People heap huge piles of mulch on everything. No one used to use all this mulch. The use of mulch is so excessive, I regularly see it kill trees…people heap it on deep at the base of trees, the “mulch volcano”, and it kills them. I’ve seen dead plum, dogwood trees, dead oaks, from overmulching. And the black mulch, which is really common, it heats up intensely in the summer sun, so the combination of killing and removing trees and covering everything with bare black mulch makes the outdoor environment so hot during the summer.
Because there is less shade and vegetation, and thus less transpiration, and more of this heat from the black mulch everywhere, it is more unpleasant to walk places, and to be around in the hot summer months now than it was when I was a kid. These factors make it more expensive to cool my home in the summer too, and unfortunately I can’t convince my landlord to plant more trees, for some reason that completely eludes me.
Where the freaking heck did these culture and practices of landscaping come from?
Like, over the course of my life, I was learning about the value of importance of trees, of wild areas, and as I got older, of the importance of growing locally native plants, of how many landscaping plants became invasive, etc. I was moving more and more towards ecologically-sound gardening and landscaping practices. As was everyone around me, my parents, my friends.
But the society around me was moving in the opposite direction. College campuses, not just one, but many different ones, a big state university, a small private college, they were cutting down trees and not replacing them. They were switching to more open expanses of lawn, less shrubbery, less groundcovers. They were slow to get onboard with the native plant movement. Even the University of Delaware which houses the famous Doug Tallamy, one of the world’s foremost, if not the foremost public advocate of native plants, was still planting non-native, marginally-invasive plants in landscaping only several years back, and has done almost nothing to remove invasive plants in their landscaping. Like I can literally see two huge Norway Maples out my window, and they are on UD property.
And the landscapers…ugh. It just gets worse and worse, it’s been getting worse and worse for years. Louder and louder, gas-powered equipment. It’s an escalation. No one used to use equipment so loud that I couldn’t even hear my music when I was inside my apartment with the windows closed. No one used to use equipment so loud it would hurt my ears if I did not cover them as I walked down the sidewalk. No one would kick up huge clouds of dust with blowers. No one used to use leafblowers outside of autumn and even then they were rare and they were never as loud as the ones nowadays. And the duration escalates. I heard a team of people with 3 different guys with those incredibly loud blowers, blow for 2 hours straight one day, and in spring, they weren’t even blowing autumn leaves in the season when they mostly fall, it wasn’t even clear what they were blowing. People often will blow the soil until the topsoil is totally stripped, and then put down mulch. It’s completely puzzling behavior that seems entirely irrational to me, like people are just escalating for the sake of escalation? Why is it growing, why is it escalating? How and why is this culture becoming so extreme?
Where does this culture come from? I hate it so much. I want to fight it with every core of my being.
But it’s hard to fight an enemy you don’t understand. Like I said, literally everyone I talk to about this stuff agrees with me. They think the sterile monoculture landscaping is ugly. They hate the noise. They hate the dust. They hate the overmulching that kills trees. But like…this culture has continued growing, surging around me.
It clearly has its roots, its origin, and its power in a place that I am totally unfamiliar with. It’s like an alien invasion and I don’t see where the aliens come from until they’re in my face destroying my home and killing my friends and family.
I don’t understand the origins fo modern landscaping practices.
So people please help me out. Where in the heck does this horrid, destructive culture come from? This enemy, this foe? How can I understand it so I can defeat it? Why is it surging and thriving when I see no evidence of surging roots in the social circles I travel in? I want to fight it and win. I want to vanquish it, to rid our society of this scourge that hurts my ears all through the growing season, that destroys the environment all around me. But I can’t fight an enemy that I can’t understand. I want to see its roots and I want to pull it out by the roots. And I can’t find them.