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Home » Let Your Garden Grow Wild: Rebecca McMackin (Transcript)

Let Your Garden Grow Wild: Rebecca McMackin (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Rebecca McMackin’s talk titled “Let Your Garden Grow Wild” at TED conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


So, full disclosure, I am the nerdiest gardener you are ever going to meet. Technically, I’m an ecological horticulturalist, which is a fancy way of saying that I design and manage gardens that are extravagantly beautiful while also providing habitat for plant populations, wildlife communities, and even soil organisms. And you might wonder, isn’t that what all gardeners do? Unfortunately, no.

The Problem with Modern Gardens

The vast majority of gardens are ecological deserts, and in fact, an incredible amount of environmental damage has been done in the name of making pretty gardens. In the US alone, we dump over 100 million pounds of insecticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers on our lawns and gardens every year. There just isn’t a garden pretty enough to be worth all of that, and the reality is that it’s completely unnecessary.

Gardens and landscapes that are absolutely gorgeous can also help the world around us. They can provide food, water, and shelter to wildlife. Gardens can and have brought back plants and animals from the brink of extinction. There is a movement happening all over the globe. Gardeners, garden designers, landscape architects, even entire cities are finding ways to beautify our environment while making space for the animals we share this land with.

Success at Brooklyn Bridge Park

I’ve seen biodiversity return to one of the toughest places to live on the entire planet: the middle of New York City, where I cared for, designed, and helped build public parks and gardens. At Brooklyn Bridge Park, where I was director of horticulture, we took these massive derelict shipping piers out over the water between Brooklyn and Manhattan and turned them into an 85-acre post-industrial public park. It was designed by MVVA and built out over a decade. And it’s hard to imagine now, but this lush landscape was built on parched concrete.

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