Restoration vs. Landscaping: Is the Tension Necessary?

Restoration vs. Landscaping: Is the Tension Necessary?

By Aryn Young

Archive Assistant at Botanical Research Institute of Texas

Although seemingly straightforward, landscaping is a tricky word with a lot of context. On one hand, landscaping allows us to create something that is visually pleasing and desirable. It is an outpouring of creative energy, much like painting. Through landscaping, we get to use aesthetic discretion and our own two hands to make an idea reality. There is something satisfying about pouring your hard work and intellect into something, and seeing it come to fruition.

But there’s another side to this elusive word “landscaping.” The idea of traditional landscaping hinges on the removal and deconstruction of something already there in order to create an altered reality. The common perception is that we must disregard most of the plants and start over. Native plants have spent an unknowable amount of time evolving to know how to inhabit a very particular place. Do we really need to be the new masters of our own space?

So this is where landscaping stands at the moment: A black-and-white choice of either destroying in order to create, or subscribe to “wildness” while our innate creative energy languishes. But, as with many things in life, this topic of land tending is never as black and white as presented. What if, instead of choosing between our own creativity and what the land so obviously wants to be, we choose both?

We can use our desire to create something from our space for the restoration, stewardship and celebration of that space. We have faculties to change the land we occupy — as humans we are extremely good at this. Instead of desiring a blank canvas, what if we discern what the land wants and say, “What already exists is beautiful. Let me help you and build off this!” Or, better yet, “I love what you used to be. Let me help you get back to that point so we can work together.” Our creative energies then turn from destruction into stewardship. We allow our energies to create something not only beautiful, but something that evolved to develop a sense of our own place. At that point, we find the marriage between our aesthetic tendencies and how the land natively functions. At that point, we discover where we are.

Native American Seed and organizations like the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) based in Fort Worth are seeking to give people the opportunity to discover what it means to pour themselves into the place they occupy. By deciding to occupy your landscape with native plants and seeds, you actively participate in the restoration of your place. Creative discretion and aesthetic desires within the native-plant palette are pleasing to the eye, but also foster the spirit of restoration, good stewardship and sense of place within yourself. BRIT strives to give people the chance to experience their native landscape firsthand for themselves, knowing that as we experience it our love for it grows, as does our desire to see it thrive. Through hands-on education, securing available resources, harnessing an urban prairie space, BRIT shows citizens how much there is to love and take joy from within our local native landscapes. This is done with the idea that once others experience the native prairie firsthand, they will seek out resources like Native American Seed and actively become a part of the land-stewardship story themselves.

We don’t need a blank canvas. We have a painting already started — a style laid out that begs us to add our own brushstrokes.

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