A Gardening Playlist


Clematis is climbing the trellis
Hydrangea is burgeoning blue
One sunflower is towering over the others
Could it be that there’s nothing to do?
—Kate Jacobs, “Hope is a Weed”

While I agree with those who don’t necessarily need music playing outside while they’re gardening or just sitting in the garden—especially when there is the fabulous sound of a pond—I think I’ll enjoy listening to songs about gardening inside the house this winter. My friend and mentee Ron made a CD that was given away as favors during a milestone birthday party Friday night and I’m listening to it now. It’s great: light and poppy, with a little bit of rootsy stuff here and there, some eighties classics, and just a touch of Brazil.

Century Plant / Victoria Williams
Steppin’ Out Queen / Van Morrison
Hope is a Weed / Kate Jacobs
Acony Weed / Gillian Welch
Like a Rose / Lucinda Willams
(Nothing But) Flowers / Caetano Veloso
Children Play with Earth / Arrested Development
Hong Kong Garden / Siouxsie and the Banshies
Gardening at Night (different vocal mix) / R.E.M.
Leaves that are Green / Simon & Garfunkel
Scarborough Fair / Canticle / Simon & Garfunkle
Lily Garden / Vashti Bunyan
Aboretum / Vetiver
Tiptoe Through the Tulips / Nick Lucas
In the Garden / Original Five Blind Boys of Alabama
Trampled Roses / Tom Waits
Vegetables (1999-QVL outtake) / Granger
Weeds / Michael Penn
Plant a Radish / Martin Vidnovic & Leo Burmei (thiese credits ran off the page of the little sheet and I can’t find the rest online but it’s very funny)

Except for “Scarborough Fair,” which brought on extreme melancholy, this music is cheery on a dreary November morning-after. Though, again, I don’t listen to music in the garden too much, my favorite summer garden party music is definitely Brazilian jazz. What music makes you think of gardens?

Had a tough time choosing which videos to grab, so here are two: a real old one from S&G, (the lyrics are way appropo) and a newer one from R.E.M. Of course, neither is the same version I have on the CD.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. I like Pack of Seeds, by the Lowlands. It’s mellow with a message and makes me want to ‘take a few quarters, buy a pack of seeds, plant them around the corner’.

  2. I could listen to Gillian Welch all day long.

    As for “Gardening at Night,” I do it all too often, but as for REM songs about nighttime activities, I prefer “Nightswimming.”

    A children’s singer/songwriter that I like a lot, Justin Roberts, has a sweet gardening song, “Little Raindrop,” which is available for a listen at the iTunes store.

  3. FYI, the last name of the other guy singing “Plant a Radish” is Burmeister. It’s a song from The Fantasticks, which actually does run through my head when digging in the dirt. “Vegetables” is a Beach Boys cover, “(Nothing But) Flowers” is a Talking Heads cover, and the version of “Tiptoe” is actually the original, as opposed to the (slightly grating) Tiny Tim version we all know. There are a million versions of the wonderful hymn “In the Garden,” but I picked this one because it’s upbeat where most tend to slog. As for the Stones, I was actually thinking of that one but didn’t have a digital copy, and I was mostly going for, uh, pro-horticultural tunes, although I strayed from that on Disc 2. (BTW, freak folk god Devendra Banhardt is the star of that disc, because he just writes so damn many songs about plants, even though I feared including 3 of them in a row would turn most listeners off.) Glad you liked the disc, coach!

  4. Hi Elizabeth and Garden Ranters.

    I want to chime in with more good words for Kate Jacobs. Her music has been important to me for years.

    Kate uses a lot of natural imagery in her songs: birds, flowers, bees in an old country house, that sort of thing. Much of her music is inspired by stories that have been passed down through her family, or from friends. Her songs tend to be small, intimate jewels… very personal and real.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. The song you quoted above is from Hydrangea, her most ambitious album to date, but her subsequent release You Call That Dark is themed (loosely) around land and farming and how life has changed for those tied to the land. It’s very short but I recommend it highly.

    One of my most treasured memories is the night Kate came to Buffalo to do a show at the Calumet. I was the only person who showed up, and I got to sit at a table and talk with Kate and the band. She explained her creative process and what certain songs meant to her and all that stuff a fan just eats up. It was heaven. Eventually other people wandered in and she had to perform. Oh well.

    Anyway, I strongly encourage you to check out more of her music, particularly You Call That Dark. I also recommend The Calm Comes After, What About Regret and Hydrangea.

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