Tracy DiSabato-Aust, the Sexiest Woman in Gardening


Let’s just retire the title now because really, there’s no contest.  And I’m declaring Tracy’s sexiness aTracy_1 Good Thing because it helps her (and gardening) get attention, which means more people will discover her excellent books. On top of which, it might change public perceptions of female gardeners, which traditionally has been Miss Marple meets Mr. Greenjeans.  Come on, you know it’s true.  Now there’s nothing wrong with looking like Miss Marple – so don’t beat me up, okay? – but that’s not an image that turns people on, and turning people into gardeners is all about TURNING THEM ON. 

This (large) picture of America’s best-selling garden writer was recently sent to my email inbox via the Wayside Nursery Newsletter, with this explanation:

We had the pleasure of working with celebrated designer and author of The
Well-Designed Mixed Garden,
Tracy DiSabato-Aust, in
arranging our new catalog according to color groups to lend insight into the
powerful role color plays in the garden.  From striking monochromatic color schemes to a playful arrangement of contrast and complement, DiSabato-Aust’s advice to gardeners remains the same:

"Passion and excitement should accompany your experiments with color."

See their bold and colorful use of the words "passion" and "excitement" coming out of her mouth? Even nurseries know that sex sells.  But let’s see if I’m reading it correctly.  It looks like Wayside hired Tracy to color-scheme their catalogue, right?  I think that’s right but she’s doing more than that; she’s showing customers some exciting color schemes they’ve probably never considered and the tough, well adapted plants they can use to pull them off, and very possibly wowing them with the results and turning them into gardeners, or simply more passionate gardeners than they already are.

Now thisTracy2 isn’t a full-on book review but a quick perusal of my gardening library reveals both The Well-Tended Perennial Garden and The Well-Tended Mixed Garden, and I’ve been  recommending them for years.  And though I couldn’t care less what a garden writer looks like, I remember a certain now-ex-husband who picked up Tracy’s second book because of this photo on the back cover.  Man, if he could see the newer, even sexier Tracy it might even induce him to pick up a shovel and help out.  Okay, I admit that would never happen, but I tell you she got his attention and that’s no small accomplishment.


  1. I love everything about Tracy, and have just requested a review copy of her most recent book.

    The Well-Tended Perennial garden is my gospel.

    And, yeah, she’s hot.

    But Wayside? Can’t she pimp for a better nursery?

  2. I don’t know anything about her books so I’ll trust you. She looks trim and quite fit and has a very nice smile. But that Hair! In both pictures it is way over processed. In the top photo it is just too much!

    Real hair would make her even sexier.

  3. Eliz said: Can’t she pimp for a better nursery?

    I’m not sure that’s precisely the relationship. It seems more like she is being used to attract customers and getting to keep only a small portion of the cash flowing in to the enterprise.

    Moving on … I’m not sure that sex is the best way to sell gardening — not that we don’t all want more passion and excitement. But I think those pictures of Tracy look about as authentic as the ads with the freshly showered model guiding the tiller with one hand, with a single pass working a cover crop into a loose seedbed (that the naive assume is turf).

    The bulk of the gardening audience is people who have bought a house, fixed up the inside the way they like it, and then turn to the yard. Often, they don’t get to that until the kids have moved out.

    This crowd values good information, not glitz, presented in a way they can use it. If they like Tracy’s information, they’ll value the book. The picture on the cover? Interesting at best. But if the content isn’t good, the author — and the publisher — aren’t going to get a lot of repeat business.

  4. Sabato-Aust knows her stuff (my husband has requested that I stop using bad words).

    There’s no question of that. The book has been out for years and is clearly valued by many gardeners. If I had to recommend only one book for practical information, hers would be it.

  5. Agreed. Her info is good. But it would be wrong for publishers to conclude that the good sales were because of the author photo, and hence we need more sex to sell gardening.

  6. I own both of Tracy’s books and they are very good. Other great books: Anything by Pam Harper, Ann Lovejoy and I really enjoy Starr Ockenga’s books which are mini-biography’s of some of America’s premier gardeners. Great pictures of the gardeners, more substance than sex though.

  7. Hmmmmm,about Tracy……I have been able to sit in on a couple of Tracy’s presentations/workshops. And once, sat on a panel with her in Boise, ID. She is a very talented and knowledgeable gardener, whose book the Well Tended Perennial Garden, has been my number one recommendation for years. Many people don’t take her seriously because of the way she dresses and that hair. Unfortunate, because she has a great deal of valid information to share. And you have to give her credit for her physique, I was told she is a triathlete. I am in awe of that. In all, she’s rockin.

  8. Hmm. Did Charlie Dimmock and Rachel de Thame really encourage people to garden more in the UK?
    Whatever, The Well Tended Perennial Garden was a great book.

  9. I love Tracy and rely on her books more than any other garden reference. I am also a member of the Horticultural Society of Maryland. They are holding an all-day workshop with Tracy DiSabato Aust on February 23, 2008 in Towson Maryland. It is almost full but a few seats remain. For more details you can visit the website or call 410-821-5561.

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