Since the ‘financial crisis’ has been weaving it’s magic throughout the world economies many pundits have been talking up the virtues of gardening. By the term “gardening”, they mean growing fruit and vegetables in a self-sufficient way to save valuable dollars. And many have followed their lead.

While for most of us gardeners, this is a great outcome of a very depressing situation. Here is the world getting back to grass roots and starting to see the earth from a whole new vantage point. People are starting to interact with the soil again and they want to know how to compost, fertilise, propagate and harvest their own organic foodstuffs.
However, one can’t help but wonder whether there is a dark side to this situation.

The impetus for many people to renew their gardening heritage is all about the money. Planting some seeds and harvesting your groceries is a very easy way to save on your shopping bill. But what I find disconcerting is that people aren’t necessarily falling in love with plants and flowers in the same way.

Well, they are…so long as they’re fake or artificial.

In a recent article, LA Times writer Barbara Thornburg visits talent agent Adam Isaacs’ apartment and here is what she saw;

True, the staghorn fern on the wall and the bromeliad below, as well as the fountain grass and short green yucca ferns that surround his serene Balinese Buddha, look particularly perky. And his timber bamboo, split-leaf philodendron and red banana tree are full and lush-looking. Ditto the red variegated succulents that are bursting the confines of their low-slung ceramic planter. “It’s all fake,” the Century City resident says, proud of his manicured garden, where every plant is always in its prime.

Fake flowers are nothing new. They’ve been around since Adam (not Isaacs) was a boy yet they’re becoming far more advanced and detailed that unless you’re up-close-and-personal with them you would fail to identify them as artificial copies.

Fake plants, on the other hand, are a fairly recent development. The Christmas tree was probably the first example of such a plant but the industry has come a long way since we exchanged the traditional fir for some glittery tinsel. Now, the focus is on REAL looks, REAL touch and one day we may even be encountering fake plants that even smell like their natural predecessors.

All this is a roundabout way of asking the question, are our gardens in jeopardy of becoming as fake as a microwave dinner?

Already many people, some gardeners included, are replacing their indoor plants with fake replicas. Balconies and indoor courtyards are receiving the same treatment and our offices, cafes and local stores have been doing it for years.

The question on everybody’s lips is, when will our neighbours begin ripping out their outdoor garden and replacing it with fake alternatives? Years ago, I would have said that it was never going to happen. Artificial plants are just too expensive and they wouldn’t be able to handle the extremes of our climatic conditions. Today, I’m not so sure.

It only takes a quick walk around your local nursery to realise that plants aren’t a cheap item. Add into the cost the risk that they may not last in your garden: predatory pests, disease and a myriad of other problems may beset them, and suddenly those artificial plants are looking a cheap alternative.

But, can they ‘weather’ the weather? Take a look at any artificial turf that’s been laid for a few years and it’s quite conceivable that a fake garden could do just as well as a natural one, maybe even better. They’re becoming more UV-resistant, more adept to handling frosts and snow-cover and they still look good in the middle of a drought. Plus, you don’t need someone to water them while you’re away on vacation.

I only wonder whether our native bird-life are going to buy into it? And, will a rose blooming in the middle of winter look completely ridiculous? On the other hand, doesn’t our stumpy rose bushes already look ridiculous in the middle of winter!

Food for thought…