While you’re out there gardening–ripping out weeds, moving plants to new locations, dividing perennials–spare a thought for the way those plants are reacting. Are they silently screaming “Ouch”? Or perhaps they’re politely saying “excuse me” and introducing themselves to their new neighbors. New research, presented in a recent Slate article and a PBS documentary, suggests that plants not only react to their environments but also think and communicate with one another. For example, a plant that’s attacked by a pest not only creates a chemical defense to protect itself but also somehow warns other nearby plants. That’s probably why I rarely see aphids on more than a single branch tip in my entire garden.
I’m still going to add new species to my garden and move plants around each spring, but I’m going to be even more careful about choosing the right sites. After all, those plants already have enough to do without struggling to adapt themselves to the wrong soil, sun, or moisture conditions.