Here’s what I’d like to see in 2008: more of you!



In person would be great, but that’s not really what I mean. In fact, it doesn’t have to be you, as long as it is a person. I was cruising garden web sites the other day and I happened upon Britain’s RHS Photographic Competition—the 2007 results. I found this by way of a really cool UK site: Let’s Go Gardening. The graphics aren’t too up-to-date, but I liked all the categories, especially their “news” section. Oh, those Brits.

Anyway. The RHS competition is open to amateur and professionals and has six categories: plant portrait, close-up, tree or shrub, garden view, wildlife in the garden and people in the garden. Yes, that’s right, PEOPLE in the garden (winner C. Gage above). I will never forget how, before I met Susan and Michele, I was squinting at their oh-so-tiny “about” pictures on their blogs, trying to get a sense of them. In the case of Susan, I really had to know what she looked like so I could get her at the airport. And my blog was just as bad. (Well, we changed that—I’m sure you’re all sick of the sight of us.) My point is this: humans are part of the garden, and using humans in pictures—occasionally, anyway—can add much to our understanding of a garden. For example:

You need humans for scale. Without Alan in this image, you could never know how tall this lily is:


Without me, you would not get how deep this snow is:


I love how people take pictures on Garden Walk. They do their best to get close-ups and unobstructed views. In reality, Garden Walk is this:


This front garden mean so much more when Jean is in it:


And of course we all like to see our garden celebrities, who tend to be photogenic, as Tony is.


Speaking of cuteness, kids are good for that. I don’t have any, so I borrow other people’s.


I realize we blog about the plants and the design, the failures, and the successes, but once in a while you need people. None of it happens without us!

This post came about after an exhaustive tour of our blogroll for a project I am working on, so I know many of you do include the human element on occasion, notably Pam/Digging, Craig, Carol, and Colleen.

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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


  1. Wow, you’re totally right. When I started blogging, I had several pictures that included my husband and/or I. Sometimes the dog, too. But lately, my photos have been totally void of humans (ok, the dog is not really human, but he still gives a sense of scale)! Thanks for the reminder.

    And Happy New Year, you four!

  2. Looks like Alan’s getting darn high off that lily of yours. We’ve all noticed that you grow SO MANY of them!
    And I agree – I LOVE humans and animals in garden photos.

  3. Good point, Elizabeth. I’ve never really done this with my blog but I shall in future – never considered it to be honest!

    BTW – how do we know Alan’s not kneeling or the lily isn’t grown in a pot that he’s holding? Hmmm…hadn’t thought about that one , did you? ROFL…

    It could be one of those photos I get taken just after I’ve been fishing!

  4. I agree about showing people in gardens – I made a series of silk paintings about gardens and while drafting the designs for the paintings looked everywhere for pictures of people in gardens and found none. None that is that showed people doing gardening things. You have no idea how hard it is to pose as though you are planting bulbs and draw yourself at the same time!! So I will be delighted to see more pictures of people actually gardening.
    What I love about some of the mediaeval prints and illustrations is that when they show gardens they always show people in them, either lords and ladies for whom the garden was made or the gardeners planting, hoeing etc. I wonder why when house interiors and gardens are illustrated or photographed now they are so tidy and so empty and so sterile. They never show people lazing, barbequing, digging, pruning, kid’s bikes and toys strewn around, and clusters of plastic chairs around tables with sunshades.
    Hhmmm, I think I feel another set of paintings coming on.

  5. Adding photographs of people on blogs can be a dangerous thing, particularly when done without their explicit permission. People have feelings, needs, thoughts and often desires for compensation when used for purposes not of their own making or choosing.

    Sure seeing people in garden pictures can be a good thing. Wading through the potential mine field of model releases is something most of us may just want to avoid, he says after posting pictures with people and no explicit permission.

    I recall Pam at Digging doing a post on the etiquette of this topic.

  6. I rather enjoy seeing people in their gardens. I am not very photogenic. I rarely take pictures of my friends in the garden. I could take oodles of pictures of my DB in the garden. We would get tired of seeing him tho. Luna (our dog) doesn’t like her picture taken but she doesn’t mind if I post it on my blog. She is very sweet if bashful.

  7. Yeah, Stuart, and how do I know those gorgeous close-ups you and others show aren’t ripped off from magazines or websites? I don’t–but I believe you. Must be an unspoken bloggers’ code.

    Photography is indeed a treacherous area. We have been sued at least twice at the mag, when the art dept got careless. And had to pay up both times.

    That’s why I always use willing models.

  8. I don’t have many pictures of me because the idea of setting up a tripod and learning how to use the timer isn’t very appealing. And when I have people other than me in the garden, I usually don’t have a camera in my hand and I’m usually explaining stuff, not shooting pictures of them.

    I’d like to see more pictures of my favorite garden bloggers. But there is definitely one genre of garden people picture I just detest: The spread in the high-end garden design magazines (I won’t mention any names, though I think I just did) where they invite the photographer to the garden party to take pictures of the guests sipping wine and eating amongst the plants, the hardscaping, the teak furniture and the outdoor kitchen. Yuk.

  9. That’s the problem with being behind the camera all the time. You don’t get pictures of yourself in your own garden.

    As for garden mag photos that are people-less, I wonder if it’s a factor of our changing society over the decades. Time was when the front of the house had a large porch and was where you sat on a summer’s eve and chatted with neighbors who wandered over from across the street. The backyard was where all the utility things happened: veggies were grown, laundry was hung out, carriages and later cars were pulled into the carriage house or the garage, and the delivery wagons delivered things like milk and ice and groceries.

    Then came the 50’s, the elimination of back alleys, the ranch house with its showcase front yard and conspicuous absence of a porch, and yard usage got turned around backwards: people lived in the backyard, the front door became the delivery door, and garbage cans sat by the garage door in the front of the house. People disappeared from their front yards except when they were pulling weeds or watering.

    Now I see neighborhoods around here and where my brother lives where the houses are beautiful, the yards are gorgeous, but the only people in them are the landscaping crews hired to keep the gardens pristine. The actual owners are working early and late so they can pay the mortgage and afford the yard crew to take care of the yard they don’t have time to enjoy.


  10. There is a theme going on here, Lisa at Greenbow just posted on this topic also. I may be paranoid, but worry about posting pictures of anyone’s face, especially children, for fear of some unknown threat from the scary side of the internet. I know gardeners are the best people in the world and my fears may be irrational, but…..I do love to see pictures of beloved pets though!

  11. Okay..that comment is downright sad. Too much time inside at the computer, not enough time outside in the garden. Of course people in pictures are wonderful. Sorry for that.

  12. This posting really hit home because while I often interview people for my garden column and use photos of the interviewees, I have not put photos of people in my new blog. Yet. Wait til you see photos of my friend and dozens and dozens of her orchids. Her solution to SAD.

  13. These posts made me think of the difference between Chinese and Japanese gardens. We lived in Beijing for 2 years, and in that albeit limited experience, I saw that Chinese gardens were meant for people to be IN them. In my even more limited experience of Japanese gardens, they were meant to be admired from the house or pavillion. I would be interested in learning more about how cultures other than American, or British, use their gardens.

  14. I’d like to see the names of our four Rant bloggers associated with a photo of ’em. Maybe on the side of home page as part of the four pix. I’m a names with faces kind of person. And while you’re at it, your gardening locale!

  15. An interesting and valuable post, as usual, with the comments making more value. I don’t post photos of people on my blog as a rule; both because I don’t want to violate other people’s privacy and because I don’t particularly enjoy photographing people.
    And I’m with the commentor (Ellis Hollow) who detests a certain type of photo in magazines, although mine is the oh-so-precious photo of the gardener or gardening couple, tanned and buffed and in their Sunday go to meeting best, poised with tea or cocktails and the obligatory Great Dane or Bouvier de Flanders dog lolling at the foot of their designer yard furniture. You just know that most of these divas and–what the heck is a male diva called? a divan?–wouldn’t dare do more in a garden than pick a few posies for their table, lest they damage a French manicured nail or stretch their botoxed facial muscles by squinting. They have staff to do their yards; and aren’t gardeners any more than I’m a fashion model.

    Ooooh! Was that a rant? Do i qualify for a Friend of the Rant yet?

  16. Here here. More photos of real gardens and the gardeners themselves. I run into problems with my Washington Gardener mag content though in getting the gardeners to pose for the camera – very rarely do they consent and most plead that they are not presentable. If I get any, it is of them all-spiffed-up when what I know you and fellow readers would most certainly like is that dirt-in-the-nails shot. Chalk it up to 21st C vanity?

  17. Chickweed, all the info on us is on our about pages–I think there are pictures that match up too. For those who don’t know, it’s, clockwise from top left: Michele (Saratoga Springs, NY), Amy (Eureka, CA), Susan (Takoma Park, MD), Elizabeth (Buffalo, NY).

    When I started blogging, hardly anyone had images of themselves and I thought it was some kind of internet privacy thing. That that’s what you did. But then I decided that was just paranoid. I saw that others had their images on their blogs and decided what the hell. And every journalism conference I go to confirms it–people like to see people. It provides a connection, gets people more interested. Not all the time, but people do need to appear.

    And bloggers are journalists in many ways, so what goes for the pros goes for us. IMO anyway.

  18. Photos of bloggers? I happen to have a photo, as part of a post on arbors & pergolas, that shows a bunch of blogging gardeners while intoxicated, ranting about localvores, outdoor rooms and sustainability on my site.

    It’s not often you can get photos of three or more bloggers together, sort of like you never see Clark Kent and Superman together.

    Spot the bloggers at
    Click on “Arbors & Pergolas, Frank & Me.”

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