Category Archives: Where in the World Is the Humane Gardener?

Finding Nature in a Chilean Backyard

When Soledad Robledo moved to the countryside, she faced new challenges she hoped The Humane Gardener book would help answer: “How can I coexist with nature?” she wrote in an email from Chile last summer. “How can I remove uninvited guests? How can I convey this learning to my community?” A few months later, she followed up with this thoughtful submission to our ongoing feature, “Where in the World Is The Humane Gardener?

The Humane Gardener in Soledad Robledo's garden

Where in the world is The Humane Gardener? Rinconada de Los Andes, Chile

Who’s reading: Soledad Robledo

How The Humane Gardener has inspired me: First, home gardens supposedly had to follow certain aesthetics, with exotic flowers and neatly kept spaces. My idea of what a “beautiful” backyard is has changed. Now I’m aware that nature has various designs, shades and textures. And most importantly, it’s full of life.

Image of Soledad Robledo's gardenEducation is key. I had no idea that lawns didn’t welcome the natural cycles. But then again, my childhood house’s grass was nice, but not many insects were around. Besides, lots of water had to be used to keep it green throughout the year. Let’s not even mention the chemicals that advertising persuaded us to buy!

I thought nature only existed in mountains and natural parks. But animals and vegetation do exist, on a smaller but equally important scale, in the neighborhood park or on an apartment’s balcony. People like you and me have the power to heal the planet by the actions and lifestyles they choose to live by. And that starts at home.

How do I help nature?
Image of beetle closeup in Soledad Robledo's garden
This beetle would be safe if he wandered into the Robledo household, where Soledad gently escorts wild visitors back outside.
Dicot and Mol tree in Soledad Robledo's garden
Porlieria chilensis (foreground) and Acacia caven (left) are among the Chilean native plants growing on the property.

My family and I saved as many native plants as we could the minute our house began to be built. There are several Acacia caven trees, which get water through their long roots. Springtime sprouts the delicate purple Conanthera campanulata flowers by the dozens. Also, my husband and sister saved a tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) that was about to be cut down and transplanted it at our house. A giant hummingbird visits it every day!

We didn’t cut down any dead trees. Then we planted some ivy by one of them. It looks poetic. I’ve even seen birds resting on them. All trees equal life.

Image of mullein and pollinators
Though originally from Europe, northern Africa and Asia, great mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has naturalized in Chile, as it has in the U.S. Syrphid flies and other pollinators visit the flowers.

Last but not least, if an uninvited guest such as a cricket or beetle came in, I’d politely take it outdoors where it’d meet up with the rest of its buddies again. But this wouldn’t be the case for mice. We eliminated one last fall. That made me feel so guilty that I made up my mind to find a humane solution next time. So about a month ago when a little mouse visited the kitchen, my dear husband helped me get it into a box, releasing it in a nearby ravine immediately. Today, I truly understand that all creatures have to be respected.

Where will The Humane Gardener sprout next? Read all about it, and tell us your story!

*Photos by Soledad Robledo