Revival, social justice and defiant compassion marked the pleas of Benjamin Vogt, owner of Monarch Gardens, a prairie-inspired garden design firm in Lincoln, Neb.
Last month during Lewis Ginter’s Winter Symposium in Richmond, Vogt passionately advocated for the voiceless: plants and their extended communities around the globe.
“The greatest injustice of our time may be the eradication of native ecosystems, the erasure of life forms and the capacity for one species [humans] to ignore those injustices,” Vogt said.
In his book “A New Garden Ethic,” Vogt challenged gardeners, horticulturists and designers to revolutionize their approach to landscaping, as well as their expectations for the garden.
“What we honor now in our landscapes is what will give life to future generations of humans, plants and animals,” Vogt stated. He urged critical thinking on an expanded scale before planting more grass, deforesting more woodlands and selecting more nonnative plants.
“As we erode diversity of species and places, we erode not only nature’s resiliency but our own,” he said. Conversely, when humans recognize and support nature’s needs, they support their own well-being.”
Man lived in a wilder environment in centuries past, so today’s widespread disconnection from nature harms our psyche, biology and ethics.
Vogt said humans need to reconnect, not through attempts to interpret and control, but through preservation of biological integrity and humble integration of themselves.
“The true challenge, and the greatest opportunity, is in seeing all life as equal, all life as contributing … and all life as essential,” Vogt suggested, adding that humans should rethink their self-proclaimed entitlement to plunder and reshape natural landscapes as desired.
He encouraged all to “see our world through the eyes of another species.”
Vogt, author of “A New Garden Ethic,” suggested that humans often limit their gardening goals to aesthetics alone. He encouraged redefining aesthetics as far more than visual appeal.
“Plants are not art,” he claimed. “What we do with them, how we honor their life processes as part of creating ecological functions — that’s art.
“The more we check our egos at the garden gate, the more we’ll make gardens that work for a common good, that reconnect us to the world we’re erasing and even bring us closer to one another,” Vogt said. “Each garden places us firmly in the context of all life.”