Thursday, April 02, 2009

The White House Lawn- What to do With Four Acres in the Potomac Watershed

The White House Lawn- What to do With Four Acres In the Potomac Watershed

The blog Garden Rant gave an assignment to garden bloggers- what would you do with the other four acres, besides the vegetable garden, of the White House Lawn. Delicious.

First I would want to keep all the water onsight, not let it go directly to the river through the storm system. Two reasons for doing this come to mind (and this is just the tippy top of my gardeners mind) 1.To keep untreated run off out of the sewer system (I am guessing runoff in DC goes straight to the river, as it does here) and 2. to let the water seep slowly into the ground and recharge the water table.

Not all the water kept onsight would seep into the water table. Some of it would respirotranspire back into the air through all of the deep rooted native plants on what used to be lawn. There would be paths, in case the POTUS wants to take a walk with visiting heads of state, or the children want to play tag.

Best to mimic some of the services of wetlands. We have been missing these services, our weather patterns would be the better if we replanted our current gardens with native vegetation. Butterflies and other insects would find cozy dwellings, food, and move back in. We’d love watching the butterflies, and then we’d have more to do with our fancy camera phones. We could follow the progress and put our findings on Facebook, rename it butterflybook maybe, but I digress.

I am struggling with my own lawn, what to grow on it that will be acceptable to my neighbors, who love grass, and to me, who loves butterflies. I hope the White House gardeners are able to make a plan, using paths and native plantings and keep a journal, or blog to note what works for them. Plants are sight specific, and some will work one place and not another. I’m thinking the White House lawn has plenty of backfill. Gardeners will need to find what works, maybe start things in pots and then transplant them. The world will be watching and will expect tidiness.

I think the White House gardeners ought to consider some sort of milkweed, milkweeds are fragrant, and it would be wonderful to have Monarch butterflies in our nation’s capitol. I think it would improve the legislative process. Probably the gardeners would want to use swamp milkweed, common milkweed gets tall and is not tidy at all. Also they would want New England Asters, as song birds like the seeds. They could have a herd of deer to keep the asters about a foot high, or the gardeners could keep them trimmed.

I think they’d also need spicebush by the White House. The leaves of spicebush are a nice addition to cooking, but will not translate into a market crop, so it has to be grown near the kitchen. Also spicebush is host to the Spicebush Caterpillar which will grow into the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfy.

I’d leave the rose garden. There are ways to grow roses without harsh chemicals and they could replace the teas with more hardy and fragrant varieties that are more content in that spot, if they needed to. I’d also leave a grassy place for the President to greet heads of state.

To recap: Keep runoff onsight, recharge the watertable, grow things butterflies will like. The phrase “If you build it, they will come” for rebuilding habitat as well as for baseball.


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