The Parable of the Ferns and Hosta


Next to a sturdy brick building, a tree was planted long ago. It grew tall and strong, but the landscape designers–untrained in botany or horticulture–planted it too close to the drainage grate. The tree was to them another piece of medium rather than a living, growing thing. And so every spring the nearby building would flood and after many years, the tree was removed.

Now under the tree had flourished a thick bed of ferns and hosta, gleaming in varied shades of green. After the tree’s removal, these were restored, replanted, and mulched. The tree was replaced with a fashionable path of stone to protect the drainage grate, with a strip of grass around it, surrounded by the lush ferns and hosta. A bench was added at the edge so that passersby could pause to admire the beauty of the small garden.

But again no botanists or horticulturalists were consulted. The shade-loving plants were left in their new bed expected to go on flourishing as usual.

Through April the heavy rains and the shade from the building were enough to keep the tender plants from scorching. Deep roots and the will to survive got them through June. But by July, overtaxed and parched, their fronds and leaves began to give way to necrosis. The greenery curled to an exhausted brown and the bench was no longer a pleasant place to sit.

The ferns will soon be removed for failure to perform the job as directed. And the landscape architect will grow rich on the new contract to replace them.

Let those who have ears hear.


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