Garden Earth

– Posted in: Garden Musings, Miscellaneous

The facts are pretty clear: the planet Earth is heating up, we are facing extinctions not seen in Epochs, and human population continues to explode, consuming resources beyond Nature’s capacity to replenish. What are you going to do about it?

Our future seems grim and it’s tempting to ignore the facts and hope it will all go away.  Maybe science has a solution, or maybe there are some alternative facts.  Maybe there is some sort of parallel universe and we can jump ship into a utopian dream where we all just get along – all humans, all species, all creatures great and small, microbes and man working for the common good.

Well this planet is not dead yet.  But if humans want to continue at the top of the food chain we need to begin to manage the planet in cooperation with other life.

Indeed Earth is teaming with life despite our arrogance and assumptions of human preeminence and tender regard for the species we have destroyed.  Life does not care about our interpretation and classifications and will go on whether we or any other eukaryotes survive. It is sad and tragic that one species, homo sapiens, has so altered the world where we evolved, but life will go on no matter our best or worst efforts.

“The Hermit’s Garden” by Kate Frey and Ben Frey

But if we intend to inhabit the planet ourselves it is about time we considered it as Garden Earth.

California Coastal Range, rolling hills and Oaks overlooking Novato.

Have you heard the NASA scientist talking about how to settle another planet ?  Of much more pressing concern is keeping this planet habitable, which we can – if we treat it like a garden.

We are well into a post-wild world and need to consider Earth as one ecosystem that needs wise maintenance.  Gardeners can make a difference.  We are the Action Committee on Climate Change and understand that life does not always do our bidding, that we need to be sensitive to our micro climates and adjust gardens constantly.

On the morning after the presidential election, after a night of incredulity when I was stunned by the thoughts of incompetence and ignorance taking front and center in the political world, the sun actually came up and a new day dawned.  I vowed to work harder in the garden world, not just finding beauty with my camera, but exploring ways to work for sustainability.

Photographing California Oaks after election day November 9, 2016

Just recently, here at Gardening Gone Wild, Fran wrote: Gardening for The Future: Why Responsible Beauty Matters.  We can not garden for some human definition of beauty.  Plants are not art, indeed we need to redefine beauty itself if we expect humans to garden for the earth.  There is beauty in healthy ecosystems, and beauty in the mind knowing we can work in harmony with other living species, not dominating them.

For many years I have seen my work as a garden photographer to be changing the aesthetic of what we expect in a garden photo, with the intention of deepening our appreciation of true garden beauty.

This is what I can do, what I will do.  I expect The Summer-Dry Project to be funded this year – enlarging its photo database to integrate with the WUCOLS database of water conserving plants appropriate for summer-dry climates.

I have planted a 100′ garden hedgerow of native plants with the intent of showing a beautiful mix of insect friendly plants.  Many have begun to advocate for insects, the beneficial insects, or our ‘garden allies’, as entomologist Frederique Lavoipierre has described.  So let’s see a real native plant hedgerow.  It will take 3-4 years for mine to get large enough, but stay tuned – it is truly a garden gone wild.

Perennial border with pollinator plants – Frey Garden of bee-friendly flowers.

I am starting a project investigating the capacity of soils to sequester carbon.  Healthy, undisturbed soil, full of microbes and fungi can sequester as much carbon as a forest, but we have unintentially destroyed the soil by tilling it.

I learned this attending a workshop of grassland management given by rancher Richard King from California Native Grasslands Association.

Richard King, California Native Grasslands pasture walk.

While we dump carbon into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels we have simultaneously destroyed the earth’s capacity to absorb it. We must reverse this.  Gardeners understand and are already doing something about it by simply growing plants.

Can you do more ?  Some may become active in politics, working to ensure government acts responsibly for the planet, some may volunteer for conservation organizations, some may plant more habitat gardens, some may simply get outdoors more often to appreciate and celebrate plants as we find them.  It is estimated 95 % of pre-human ecosystems are change beyond return but what we do have can be as healthy any garden.

Let’s do our very best to preserve this Garden Earth.

Kona dog in a sunray on morning walk – Get Outdoors !

Almost every day I walk the open space near my home with my dog Kona, beginning my day in appreciation of the planet with inspiration to you to get outdoors yourself. It’s a beautiful planet. Follow us along on Instagram: Walks with Kona Dog.


Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at
Saxon Holt

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Mimi Reed July 5, 2017, 11:31 am

Saxon’s “garden earth” article is as inspirational as they come and illustrated by some of his wonderful photos. The words and thoughts are bound to infuse passion in all of us who care about our environment and wish to add a part to the extent we are able to do so to its sustainability. Wonderful food for thought.

On my next walk I will look around carefully and figure what I can do in an increasingly pro-active fashion. It is a more inspirational goal than to think about life on another planet.

(please excuse the problem with caps.)

Saxon Holt July 5, 2017, 1:01 pm

Thanks Mimi – We all sometimes get overwhelmed by the problems we humans have created. Small actions will make a difference, just as recycling started as an insignificant solution to a problem we only began to realize, climate warming may never be “solved” but we will find ways to adapt. Be pro-active!

Perfect Plants January 17, 2018, 1:52 pm

I firmly believe that you get back what you give out. This is the same case when it comes to gardening and the earth. That is why I believe composting and earth-friendly gardening and recycling methods are so important. All it takes is a little research and a little effort. Not too hard, right?

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