Why Most Gardening Advice Is Worthless



Violets as Dr. Jekyll

Elizabeth’s valentine this week to sweet violet–and the yes, no, yes comments that followed–reminded me why one-size-fits-all gardening advice is such a crock. Two years ago, I wrote a post defending viola odorata as "the world’s prettiest edging plant." Which it remains in my front yard, blooming with the tulips and looking charming and declining to interfere with the front flower bed’s deeper regions, while still filling out the hell strip nicely.


Violets as Mr. Hyde

In the back, however, which is slightly shadier, it is inserting itself parasitically into other perennials, seeding at a scary rate, and threatening to turn the whole place into a sweet little monoculture. Two years ago, the front-yard gardener said, "They’re lovely.  Not at all invasive."  But if you spoke this year to the woman who gardens in the backyard, she’d say, "I think they’d be really nice…in the alley next to the garbage can."

The only advice that’s worth anything is local.  Really, really local. 


  1. Speaking as a West coast gardener who is fed up to the hilt with all the gardening books that have an obvious East coast bias, I couldn’t agree more.

  2. Making the point that good advice starts with being regional but has to be truly site- and gardener-specific to mean a thing. Though there’s no guarantee even still.

  3. Your post made me smile. Sometimes locality can be really small – like when my husband and I are standing side-by-side. The assessment you’ll get about violets from me differs greatly from the one you’ll get from him. In fact, no matter WHERE the violets are, he thinks they should be relocated to the compost pile.

  4. A violet has bloomed in my neighbors weedy lawn and it is lovely. As long as it stays away from my martagon lilies, anemones, ferns…you get the point.

  5. You know, for some reason I have a really hard time weeding out violets; they seem like they really want to please.

  6. You are absolutely right; I have experienced a few nightmares with invasive plants. My warm climate furthers seeds, wanted or not. I had planted Tabebuia trees, they are gorgous, breathtaking when in flower, but by gosh when they start to seed. My neighbours have them too. I am still removing Tabebuias!

Comments are closed.