"The Landscaping Revolution" - Review of an Out-of-Print Marvel

Much as I support my local book store, I do like online book shopping. You look up one book and Amazon shows you ten other books you might like to read. That's how I came across The Landscaping Revolution: Garden With Mother Nature, Not Against Her by Andy Wasowski, with Sally Wasowski. This book was published in 2000 and no doubt some of the statistics quoted could use updating, but the points are all still relevant today.


At first I was, in a weird way, totally dismayed by this book -- It's so good -- what's left for me to do? Andy (with Sally) Wasowski has said it all! And in such an entertaining and engaging way!

Andy (with Sally) is not talking to you and me. If you are reading this blog, you've already gotten Mother Nature's memo. You know from pollinators. You've banished the toxic chemicals that harm them (and your kids and pets). You are saving a ton on your water bill. You understand the importance of supporting biodiversity in your specific locale, and you already experience the deep enjoyment of nurturing nature's varied bounties right in your own yard and nearby wilderness areas. And, hopefully, sharing them with the children around you.

No, Andy (with Sally) is talking to those other people you know. You know who I mean. The ones with the large lawns, edged with neat rows of alternating annuals. The ones who live in a universe of gardening pleasures so very far from your own that your light just never seems to reach them -- and vice versa.

Andy's style reaches them. I'm sure of it. He amuses and persuades with so many well aimed points, in a book that is so pithy, so friendly, that is laid out in such a lively and non-confrontational way -- surely anybody with a lawn dependency who reads this book will say, "Huh. Well you know I never really thought about it like that before." And they'll ruminate on the ideas freshly sown in their minds, as they gaze out with changed eyes over that velvety green expanse, while a new way of approaching their gardens germinates quietly but surely...

The people I plan to give this book to are my sister and brother-in-law. Several years ago, they retired to an over 55 community called The Villages. (BTW my sister happens to be a generation or so older than I am.)

The Villages, located in south San Jose CA, is a large gated housing development divided into smaller communities, each one styled a village. It offers people who live there a rich community life with lots of clubs and social activities. They have swimming pools, club houses, restaurants, and golf courses. Golf courses are pretty central to the identity of The Villages. My sister and bro in law particularly enjoy golf and are active on their village's golfing committees. They also enjoy sitting outside with a Coke in the afternoon to watch the deer and the ducks that wander across the expansive green lawn (maintained by The Villages) that stretches from their patio all the way to the lake with its large, sparkling fountain. It is pretty, no doubt.

Here is how The Villages describes its setting on their web site:
1,200 acres of lush landscaping and sparkling lakes set against a picture-perfect background of natural beauty.
Friends, I need not comment to you on the many ironies of that description.

My sister and I love each other dearly, and agree to differ on many things. As my dad and I approached her home on our last visit, I noticed some of the lawn turf near the lake had been replaced by a new, more natural-looking section of landscaping, boulders with mulch and smallish new plantings between. I asked her about it and had to take a step back to avoid the blast of horrified disapproval. "I mean, that's what people come here for," she said, truly stunned and baffled, "The lovely meadows. People love looking out over the lawns, watching the deer and the ducks passing through. Nobody wants to see these ugly boulders. They're not even pretty boulders. They're just ugly. Our property values have depreciated for sure because of this. Nobody wants it, nobody!"

I myself in turn was stunned and baffled how to respond. "I haven't seen it up close," I said, lamely. "I'll have to have a look on my way out." I'm more of a writer than a talker to be honest. (BTW I didn't get a chance to walk around the new landscaping, but next time I visit I'll take their chihuahua for a walk, and will report back to this space.)

Well, now I have a response. I'll give them Andy (with Sally)'s book. Maybe they will even donate it to The Villages's library when they've read it.

If you also want to reach those in your orbit who have not yet received Mother Nature's memo, I highly recommend you give them a copy of The Landscaping Revolution. Right now. There are about 50 copies available as I write, used, on Amazon.com. On Amazon you'll also find later books by Sally (with Andy) Wasowski, which I hope to read soon.

And by the way, there are people at The Villages who got the memo. I met one. I talked with her when I was docenting at Town Mouse's garden during the Going Native garden tour the year before last. She was on a committee researching alternatives to the chemical lawn landscaping approach, most likely the very committee responsible for the xeriscaped area so abhorrent to my sister. "It's a generational thing," she sighed. "People just won't give up their lawns." But good for her - it seems that the group did succeed, or at least got a toe in the door. And as the younger oldsters in my generation start moving in -- and as The Villages company faces ever larger water bills -- the revolution will roll on.


Elephant's Eye said…
Just curious. Sounds as if there was a PR gap. Has Management explained to Residents - What We are Doing and WHY???
Country Mouse said…
Good question, EE. - I'll see what I can find out about that next time I visit my sister. The Villages does not make its community newsletter public, and I couldn't find anything by searching on the web.

I also wanted to mention that this book covers all of the U.S, and in principle, the whole world. They provide lists of resources and some starting plant lists for those in all areas of the U.S.
I must admit, I know a few people who might benefit from a gift of this book. Definitely one to add to my future gift list. One is a confirmed lawn lover, who may never change their ways, but it doesn't hurt to try!