Unsolicited mass emailings I love


Avent’s biggest seller—and “biggest snafu”

Here’s more of Garden Rant’s softer side, at least as regards the horticultural biz. While, I, like all of you, receive incessant, annoying and always instantly deleted “news” from such companies as Park and Jackson Perkins on a daily basis, there are some unasked-for digital missives from companies that I’m happy to get.

After finally taking the plunge and ordering from Plant Delights last year, I started receiving Tony Avent’s email newsletters—and the emphasis is on letter: 2000-plus words, no pictures, just a few links. Avent sends out long rambling discussions of which plants did well this season at Plant Delights, which ones did not, nursery happenings, and the ongoing top 25 best-selling plants of the year. It’s not just glowing description of plants you have to buy either. I particularly benefited from this advice about hosta, as follows:

As the hosta clumps age, the center of the clump begins to die out. This, combined with the umbrella-shape of many hostas, causes them to naturally shed water. The only remaining living parts are new buds which break on the outer edges of the clump. These newly formed plants become naturally smaller and smaller. When water is scarce, this problem is further exacerbated. The solution is to dig up hostas that have gone backward and choose 3-5 healthy divisions. Bareroot these removing dead root pieces, and replant them into a new hole. The unviable parts of the original clump can be discarded. It is always helpful to add more compost when replanting the new divisions and if possible, find a spot that holds more moisture.

My hostas desperately need division, but I’ll have to wait until next year to do it; they’re too huge now. Avent also apologized about the disastrous failure of the colocasia giagantea Thailand Giant, which is both his most popular—and most unavailable—plant, but held out hope that the restarted plants would be sent out in a week or so. (Let’s hope my plant is among these!) He also regretted transitions in the gardening world such as the passing of such horticultural notables as Dr. Dave Beattie and Geoffrey Charlesworth, and talked about the joys of woodland orchids and martagon lilies.

My kind of newsletter. Another emailing I’ll always at least glance at is the one from Gardener’s Supply. They keep coming up with clever and attractive solar lights and water-conserving pots. How can one resist? And, soon, I know, Old House Gardens will be sending out their irresistible descriptions of rare—and pricey—heirloom bulbs. I’ll try to wait until I see how the lilies I got from them last fall do.

The difference between these communiqués and the repetitive shilling that emanates from lesser vendors is another telling illustration of how dramatic the highs and lows of this industry can get.

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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 love Plant Delights, too, mainly because Tony Avent is a delightful writer. But THAT is their most popular plant? It looks as if it would eat any yard smaller than an acre.

  2. I would assume the size shown in that image is much like the size promised in most of my spam mail. Not gonna happen. That’s just in the wild.

    People are really into the ear!

  3. If you are truly annoyed- unsubscribe. There has to be a link at the end of every communication sent to you that offers a way to opt out.

  4. thanks for the tip – I have just subscribed to the email on your recommendation. They also have a file online where you can download all their old newsletters! Look for “The Announcement Archives”

  5. Amen, Elizabeth. I love Tony’s rambling letters (and his catalog descriptions, even if/when I shake my head at him for lunging for the cheap joke in a few of those) and I am trying to unsubscribe to a few other “Email Newsletters” that are just schill and no info.

    One of my favorite newsletters to get is the one from Timber Press. Tom Fischer writes a nice little newsletter/article that kind of coincides with whatever book they have coming out, but isn’t a basic review. It’s more like a blog post prompted by thinking about the topic of the latest book, if that makes sense. Very well done. I will never unsubscribe from that newsletter… but the link at the bottom of the High Country Gardens emails might be clicked soon.

  6. My favorite thing about Plant Delights Nursery is that Tony posts the hate mail he receives. Its right there on the website and some of it is an absolute scream.

  7. Perhaps “biggest seller” is meant literally? As for eating yards, I’d be more concerned for the neighborhood dentist.

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