Green Hedges Make Good Neighbors

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Green Hedges Make Good Neighbors

A Reading List for Arena Stage's Native Gardens

Although DC is the City of Trees, we do not generally look at the plant life around when we tell the stories of our lives and our communities in the District. But gardens and plants often make for the best metaphors and signposts for understanding our relationships to each other and to the city that we inhabit. 

For Arena Stage's upcoming production of Native Gardens by Karen Zacarias, here is a reading list of books focused mostly on the plants in our midst and how they shape the narratives of community life. In preparing a play about human neighbors, the folks at Arena made sure they knew their DC plants and how they fit into our life here. The play is about people! But the people making the play read about plants! Read about the plants that inspired the people.

Garden Revolution: How Our Landscapes Can Be a Source of Environmental Change by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher 
An exciting trend in current ecology and gardening is the move to identify native plants that will thrive in a particular location. Larry Weaner's guide to gardening not only highlights the kinds of plants that may have lived here in DC before more recent styles of landscaping became popular, it also demonstrates how using those plants makes for beautiful gardens with less work. 

Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy and Rick Darke  
Even a short walk in the garden will show us all kinds of animals and insects whose lives intersect with native plant life. Even here in the city, we can deepen our awareness of the multitude of living things, plant and animal, that depend on each other to thrive. Though we may not think of ourselves as living in the midst of wildlife, Douglas Tammany's book shows us how we can be good our animal and insect neighbors by being good to our plant neighbors.  By supporting native species, we protect a larger web of biodiversity that exists even in an urban space.

Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast by Peter Del Tredici and Steward T.A. Pickett  
Rounding out a reading list about plant life in DC, this guidebook by Peter del Tredici takes us on a journey through the plants that have adapted to aspects of an urban landscape like sidewalk cracks, fences, landscaped lawns, and the shoulders of roads. Though we may be oblivious or scornful to these green species, they help to keep the city oxygenated and even beautiful for its inhabitants. Del Tredici gives us a guide to these plants and their place in our community.

The plays of Karen Zecarias
Though we are still updating our shelf collection of Zacarias's plays, our collection of recordings by WAPAVA includes two of her works performed and can give you sense of arc as an artist.

DC Public Library Special Collections
For those who really want to dig into the theme of neighbors and community in DC, DCPL's Special Collections has many archival materials that might enrich your understanding of DC history and enrich your understanding of a play like Native Gardens. The library's Neighborhood Research page includes guides to photographs, maps, and other ways to use this rich archive.