I’ve been a fan of Marlene Condon for years. I admire her unrestrained love of nature and boldness in being unafraid to challenge heterodoxy. Her latest column with its plea on behalf of rats is the pure Marie Condon I love and that readers of the Crozet Gazette are fortunate to have.
I have been following with interest the ongoing controversy over her acceptance of non-native, “alien” invasives like autumn olive, bittersweet, honeysuckle, Ailanthus, and the rest, which most of the horticultural world treats as mortal enemies, to be eradicated by any means necessary, including for some, persistent, unsustainable use of herbicides.
The Virginia Native Plant Society and Ms. Roth and Mr. Hamersky, whose letters appear in your March issue, are learned, dedicated plants-people and they have their points. However, I would ask Ms. Condon’s critics to examine their own prejudices and blind spots, especially with regard to herbicides. I would also like to point out that even respected horticulturists like Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy, who are champions of the native plant movement, accept the fact of landscapes changed by invasives that have “naturalized.” Rebecca West, a noted German designer, and permaculturists like Tao Orion argue against trying to restore pristine “natural” conditions and instead, accept the transitional nature of the modern landscape judged by ecological function rather than place of origin.
Ms. Condon and others believe fighting invasives can poison the environment with herbicides; native plant supporters believe her embrace of all nature will adversely effect our historic flora and fauna. It is perhaps the key horticultural controversy of our times that is playing out in your pages.
Let us observe and read widely and not deride each other for beliefs that, as Ms. Roth notes, change over time with new information and points of view. Rather let us come together in love of nature. In these perilous times, we need to unite in love of our precious Earth.