Gardens of silence: Great providers of benefits to the urban landscape
Explore the importance of appreciating and valuing plant diversity in urban gardens, in the article Gardens of Silence, by Pamela López.
The atmosphere while walking on the sidewalks somewhere in the city, during these times prior to the summer solstice in the northern cone of the planet, only reminds us that we will be excellent spectators of a process of ecosystem transformation. What for now I call the gardens of silence will emerge.
A few moons ago I was present at an excellent long-distance talk, where the meaning of the garden was discussed, authors were mentioned, such as Santiago Beruete, with his book Jardinosofía, which leads the reader to a historical, philosophical, anthropological and landscape account of the origin of the gardens, as places to express oneself culturally, that nourish our body and spirit, challenge us intellectually and invite us to “reflect”, where I would suggest: surprise, pause and what happens in between (as Michel Foucault would tell us).
Building an idea about what a garden means immediately consolidates in the mind the discourse on cultural identity, the type of society we are, customs, ancestral knowledge and even locally appropriate global trends.
A garden (in the city) would then be a mixture of: disused land, slots separating the trims from the sidewalks, roof terraces with water tanks and rods awaiting the vertical expansion of the house, planters rescued from a murky past as garbage dumps, ridges with vestiges history of French-style benches linked to the gloom of a slow night traffic, and the seeds of some secret agents who become indiscreet at the first drop of water from the rain or from a leak as well as from a bucket of water. These gardens arise in silence, from silence; when we don’t realize it and everything happens there in the middle of life.
Let’s say, for example, that multiple unplanned agents suddenly begin to appear in your city garden, such as dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), red quintons (Amaranthus cruentus), bees, beetles, various birds that previously did not sing nearby. Who invited them? Well, they have always been from here and there, they are those plants that endow our urban gardens with many values.
It is interesting to talk about the effect that these types of gardens achieve because at the level of cultural identity or collective memory we can insinuate that they are not welcome, because they are weeds, they are bad, they are just grass that grows and they are ugly; but in this cruel discrimination against native herbs lies a fundamental secret to guarantee the ecological niche, even between concrete and asphalt.
The plants that we call native herbs provide incredible ecosystem benefits to their environment, such as their way of reproducing, it is so discreet and sensible, since most only require the wind or birds to transport their seeds, almost without pollination involved; then they make the soil their best ally, since they aerate it, prevent erosion, share nutrients (N, P, K) and promote water in filtration avoiding the creation of water sheets without use, the latter being their masterful trick. Even a large number of them are edible, if not, ask the ayocote bean (Phaseolus coccineus) and to the Tláhuac community in CDMX.
Above all, let’s remember that these herbs do not even ask for something in return, they just spread their love to fill our urban landscape with colors, textures, smells and diversity. They arrive in the summer to hide in the winter; they arrive in the murmur of the morning dew, they come and go leaving gifts for those who take a break to really admire them. If only we knew from childhood, that by blowing the seeds of the dandelion we would be designing a garden of silence…