Chaparral Gardening

Chaparral Gardening is informed by the twin imperatives of weeding out non-natives and establishing fire clearances. As fate would have it, these two activities are not complementary.

Opening up the continuous cover of the chaparral plant community - as one is compelled to do in order to achieve fire clearances - is an invitation to invasion by thistles, mustards, and other exogenous weeds. At best one can expect a smattering of the usual fire-followers to establish themselves in the disturbed soil as the first stage in the restoration of mature chaparral, but their hold is precarious amidst the vegetal stigmata of European colonization - the weeds feeds and crops brought by the Spanish soldiers, priests and their livestock now thoroughly naturalized at the traumatized edges of the California wildlands.

Withering penalties imposed by California Fair Plan State Fire Insurance for clearances of less than two hundred feet from buildings and the requirements of the local fire department - alongside of an educated understanding of what is reasonable for the preservation of one's life and property - leaves no alternative to the removal of most of the foundational plants that make up the mature chaparral eco-system in areas close to buildings. If one starts from the premise that the experience of living at the Urban Wildland Interface is at least partly about proximity to the naturally occurring landscape and, that as part of a presumed responsibility to the vestiges of naturalness that remain after the depredations of developing buildings within it, one will only nurture, seed or plant locally occurring natives there develops,at the heart of the endeavor I have called Chaparral Gardening, a profound paradox. In chaparral, to disturb is to destroy.

Gardening, of course, is defined by the meddling, muddling, and nurturing of something that stands in opposition to the wildlands that, historically at least, have ever threatened to invade and retake what man has wrought. It is an inherently oppositional activity. Chaparral Gardening attempts a cooperative strategy that nonetheless involves a level of destruction, modification and re-making. It is the trials, errors and successes in this process that I intend to document.

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