It always amazes me that many loving parents and grandparents, and doting pet owners, who take their children or animals to the doctor or vet at the first sign of ill-health, are capable of sprinkling chemicals of varying degrees of toxicity around their homes and gardens. They don't seem to make that connection that their children and pets live and play in this environment. Cats and dogs roll on the grass and curl up in the borders, while small children will sample anything in the garden, including the dirt.
Then there are the birds. This morning when I went out to see what was happening in the garden a tauhou (waxeye) was hanging upside down, snacking on a ripe poroporo fruit. At this time of year the waxeyes start forming flocks and visiting gardens to see what's on the menu. The best things for them are unsprayed fruits from trees and shrubs like poroporo, pyracantha and cotoneaster. The blackbirds like these fruits too. They make a nice dessert after they have dealt to the grubs and slugs.
The last thing I want to do as a gardener is poison the birds. Nor do I want to poison anyone else who comes to my garden. Not everyone is as susceptible as the young man I heard about last week, who became very ill at age 10. He was tested for every possible condition, and then sent home from hospital without a diagnosis and without any hope that he would live much longer. Proper diagnosis by a naturopath detected chemical sensitivities and allergies, and he has recovered and continues to survive by eating a strictly organic diet and staying away from all household and horticultural chemicals. He is just one of several people I personally know, or know of, who has been affected in this way by the chemicals in our daily environment.
Most of us don't have such dramatic reactions - but how much ill health is due to chemical exposure where we can't make the links directly? A recent issue of New Scientist reported on a study which traced an increase in birth defects to the regular use of 'air freshening' chemicals in the homes of pregnant women.
It is not as if we don't have cheaper and healthier alternatives. Homes may be kept clean, healthy and sweet-smelling with non-toxic cleansers and herbs like lavender.
Gardens are also a lot better for us if the only nasty smells come from the manure heap and not from the chemicals being sprayed or stored.
While we are waiting for councils, foresters, orchardists and others to start showing some environmental responsibility, we can at least ensure that our own home gardens are healthy havens.
I look forward to the day when I can walk into a garden centre and smell the flowers, not the chemicals, because home gardeners have finally seen sense and stopped buying them. After all, what's irrational about deciding that a healthy child is worth more than a blemish-free rose?