Phillips (Tracking the Vanishing Frogs, 1994) provides a lucid explanation of natural landscaping as she follows in the footsteps of one of its practitioners. The use of native plants—grasses, shrubs, trees, and flowers that predate European settlement of the Americas, species that would be found in vestigial wildlands—is gaining a firm toehold in the field of landscape architecture. It is a trend that bucks our culture's dominant gardening aesthetic: the bigger and brighter and newer and stranger, the better, and there will never ever be enough lawn. Natural landscaping builds on a distinctive regional identity, taking its cues from micro- and macro-climates, soil types and site grades and what grew there in the distant past, fashioning a place-defining wild landscape of native plants and natural terrain, complex and subtle and ecologically sensitive to habitat and biological community. Phillips narrates as Joni Janecki, a landscape architect working in California, tackles three projects: a residential job in posh Montecito, where she is given a much-coveted free rein in planning (though the project remains unstarted); a corporate job at Hewlett-Packard's main headquarters, where her plans get considerable manhandling; and a design for restoring an abused parkland in Salinas. Along the way, Phillips elaborates on the travails of landscape architects (and the four devils of money, time, taste, and client awareness), the history of the nursery industry, the place of sustainability in landscaping, and the debate surrounding ``nativism'' (particularly as it relates to Michael Pollan's controversial article ``Against Nativism''). And Phillips tracks the projects closely, detailing each move, going so far as to tell readers the fate of an asphalt parking lot on one job site, for she is broadly curious about every aspect of the landscaping process. No bones about it, Phillips is a partisan, but she makes an elegant and persuasive case for going native.
Read full book review >