How Regional Gardening Works

When the landscape looks like this, you know you're in the South.
When the landscape looks like this, you know you're in the South.
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­To figure out where people are from, you can listen to their accents. Do they speak with the softer, more drawn out rhythms of the South or the sharper pitch and cadence of the North? A finely tuned ear can detect a wealth of information about someone's upbringing, travel and cultural influences from accent alone. These vocal cue cards are part of a region's character, along with its history, cuisine and demographics.

And behind that regional character is the landscape that initially shaped it. When you think about the Deep South, you conjure up great oaks draped in Spanish moss. For the West, you might picture blooming cacti and sagebrush. In this way, the trees, plants and flowers that naturally adorn where we live reinforce our sense of place.

Regional gardening adheres to that philosophy of the interconnectedness of human culture and the physical world. The landscaping technique focuses on gardening with plants known to flourish in your region. That, in turn, seamlessly enhances and beautifies the landscape and offers a sense of cultural continuity. In the United States, New Orleans is considered the birthplace of this gardening style, due to its signature terrain and climate [source: O'Malley and Treib].

­You can compare it to a larger-scale version of native plant gardening, which uses only plants indigenous to a region, ecosystem or habitat. A regional garden might include native plants as well as some known to grow in multiple areas. Fr­om a utilitarian perspective, regional gardening also means less work for the gardener. By selecting flora meant to harmonize with the climate conditions of the location, you aren't engaging in an uphill struggle to force unwilling, exotic plants to thrive.

So how do you differentiate between gardening regions? There are a multitude of ways to plot off gardening regions, since the geography, temperatures, altitude, humidity and other climate conditions vary across the country. It's common knowledge, for instance, that the plants that grow along the Atlantic coast, such as palmettos, don't fare well in Plains territory. To understand how land is picked apart and parceled in to regions, a simple place to start is the Hardiness Zone Map.