How much green do you need? I know I need a lot.
Visiting with a friend today, who's looking forward to a move to a wonderful area that has a summer-growing climate (unlike our practically four season one), she said that she might be quite happy in a condominium or a townhouse, if she could grow vegetables in a community garden. This was premised on being surrounded by easy access to public green space. It's totally appealing, to be sure, especially with LOTS of green space, natural or created.
It's thought-provoking; I wonder whether my gardening companion and I (as two plant ecologists) would have been inspired to become gardeners, if we hadn't been faced with an acre and a half of (soul-deadening) lawn when we moved to South Carolina. It was a pretty barren environment: for us and any other sort of wildlife (birds, mammals, toads, butterflies, dragonflies, mice, etc.)
In a previous research life, I studied the biology of weedy species, partly I think, because I was so impressed with the plants that persisted in 'waste' areas, along sidewalks, next to buildings, and popping up everywhere. I noticed this first as a young teenager visiting New York City and then in urban spaces in the Bay Area.
Our goal was to convert the lawn to natural landscape -- with diverse habitats, layers, etc. It's been rewarding so far, after 15 years, and the transformation continues.
Our first house had a wonderful landscape, clearly nurtured by gardeners, and didn't require much of us, except to enjoy the yellow carpet of ginkgo leaves in the fall, the beautiful display of deep rose azaleas in the spring, and the camellias in the winter. I planted (inexpertly) a few fruit trees and tulips (in a rectangular bed) and we put in a picket fence to surround the backyard (for our old boy - he was a young pup then - Mocha's predecessor). But vegetable gardening wasn't particularly on my radar, although I was interested, nor did I have time (but I was inspired, however, by a young woman who created a delightful Children's Vegetable Garden project - still going strong- at the emerging botanical garden there and a couple of older faculty members who had giant traditional southern vegetable gardens).
Our small mountain place provides another challenge. A mulched, low-maintenance landscape is great, but makes us itch to plant things. We need green. And nurturing plants is a good thing.