Garden coaches—the über-gardeners?


Susan’s experience with her landscape designer was influential to her coaching career.

Check out this interview with Ranter Susan Harris about her burgeoning coaching career. It’s by Robin Wedewer of

To be honest, I’ve never thought of hiring either a garden coach or a garden designer. Except for our pond guy, no other person than me or my husband has ever imposed their aesthetic on our garden. But … maybe they should? Was Susan too kind to point out the glaring deficiencies that must have been so obvious to her when visiting last summer? Should I bring her back? I wonder. I am sure we could all use, as she says in this quote from the Examiner article, a “second pair of eyes,”

There’s also a nice sprinkling of experienced gardeners who hire me because, they say, they want a second pair of eyes on their whole garden and all the plants in it. Secretly they’re often looking for permission to get rid of some large plant that’s looked terrible for a long time and are SO relieved when I tell them that I sure would if it were my garden. (And that’s my style—not, “You should,” but “I would.”)

Sometimes, I get too involved in the present problems of plants that won’t thrive, plants I need to find space for, and, well, just plain plants. I know I spend so much time thinking about plants that I rarely consider the look of the garden as a whole. That’s where people like Susan come in. Gardeners like us, but equipped with that helpful second pair of eyes.

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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. Having knowledgeable, experienced gardeners in my yard scares the crap out of me. You can’t imagine how nervous I was to have Susan, Amy, you and Michele in my yard last year – on top of that were a few local master gardeners, Terry Ettinger of Syracuse and the editor of Canadian Gardening magazine. I just know everyone was silently critiquing.

  2. Thanks Eliz for the shout out. I’m thinking that I’ll invite Susan out to see my garden. She is kind enough not to laugh at some of my silly mistakes. And I trust her not to talk about me with the other garden writers. Probably in the code of ethics…


  3. You know, at first, having a gardening coach seems a little like having a life coach, that is, somewhat ridiculous. But when I thought about it, I have tons of gardening coaches in my friends and especially my mother and grandmothers and brother and uncle, who have given me tons of advice on many things over the years. I guess if you were new to gardening and didn’t know a lot of people who gardened, that would be a great thing to have if you could afford it.

  4. In the old days, your job would have been “consultant.” Coach is certainly more friendly. But the reality is, many people like to have a more experienced opinion and set of eyes to bounce ideas off of. Gardening has many variances in it- styles, methods, ideas, and techniques that even someone who has been gardening for years might appreciate. Hell, Susan, maybe I’ll have to hire you out! Will work for fine red wine?

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