Gardening in America: WHAT’S NEXT?

Horticulture’s centennial panel talks about water use, invasive plants, and growing local

photography by WEBB CHAPPELL

IN MAY 2003, HORTICULTURE hosted a roundtable meeting with five of its contributing editors (from left to right): Lauren Springer (Colorado), Scott Ogden (Austin, Texas), Felder Rushing (Jackson, Mississippi), Valerie Easton (Seattle, Washington), and David Culp (Pennsylvania). It’s not often that so much horticultural talent and experience is gathered in one room, and so we took the opportunity to ask them for their thoughts about a number of pressing issues facing American gardeners today. The following transcript (which has been edited for clarity and length) presents our questions and their responses.

Dwindling water supplies and periodic droughts are realities that many gardeners must now cope with. How severe is the problem in your region, and how can gardeners deal with it?

VALERIE EASTON: Water bills have gone up astronomically in the Northwest. We’ve always had pretty cheap water and we don’t anymore, so people are trying to use plants from summer-dry, winter-wet kinds of climates so they don’t need to water every week. That means eliminating lawns to a large degree, too.

SCOTT OGDEN: From an economic standpoint, water is a huge issue all over the United States. There’s unrelenting pressure from developers, and the only way they can continue their activity is to squander available water resources, which means that gardeners aren’t going to have water they’ve had in the past. In part, that’s why there’s so much energy being spent on promoting xeriscaping.

LAUREN SPRINGER: In Colorado, 98% of the water use is agricultural, and of the 2% that’s left, only 0.5% goes to outdoor use. It irks me to no end. I’m not all for lawns, but I’m tired of gardeners always having to bear the brunt of conservation, whereas growing soybeans and corn and flood-irrigating them is considered just fine.

DAVID CULP: You can be proactive on how you approach the water situation. In Philadelphia, we went through a very bad drought, and much of the blame was put on gardens and lawns. My thinking is that we should be showing people how to plant for these conditions

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