The wildness of nature is somewhat illusory: while the chaotic spread of uncultivated plant and animal life may seem random, there is a non-human logic beneath it all that is beautiful to behold when considered afresh. The roots, the flowers and leaves of the plants in our gardens and beyond communicate and work with each other with a form of unthinking intelligence that, when over-considered, can feel like an alien presence in our very neighbourhoods. But we too are part of this cycle: we eat the plants that the insects pollinate, we breathe the air that the trees generate, and in turn we cultivate and protect our neighbours, the plants!
While all this is perfectly natural, we have lost touch somewhat with our inherent instinct on how to do this. Chemical fertilizers and insecticides have interrupted our gardens’ natural sense of self-preservation and mutual care. But learning how to cast these artificial elements aside and work with nature’s inherent logic is good for the soul and good for the environment.
For example, some plants act as natural insect-repellents, protecting their neighbours from hungry pests; conversely, other plants will attract the bugs that your garden needs if it is to thrive. It makes far more sense to work this way than to employ the industrial techniques that big agriculture uses to maximize profits.
Still other plants are of the ‘big sister’ variety, offering shelter or necessary nutrition to their fellow blooms. And some will even pay back directly to you in thanks for growing them side by side: certain vegetables and herbs can actually flavour each other while still in the earth, and other plants will conceal each other’s less savoury scents.
To start embracing your garden’s cross-species affinity, take a look at this new infographic containing some suggestions on plants that thrive well together.