The Renegade’s High Spot/Black Spot Awards


It’s year-end round-up time, so let’s check in with our good friend Don Engebretson at the Renegade Gardener, who recently held his seventh annual award show.  I wish I could have been there for the big event,Renegde podcast live from the "newly re-paneled basement rec hall of the St. Francis Lutheran
Church in beautiful downtown Red Wing, Minnesota."  You can tell from this photo that Don went all out to make it a special event – with those chic set decorations, fine champagne, and the wearing of his best, possibly only, tie.  Yes, no expense was spared in presenting awards he calls the "single most nugatory merit of achievement in our grand industry." (Don, you already had me  as a reader but nugatory clinched it.)  Some highlights:

  • The Best Shrub Award went to a 5-ft-tall willow, Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’.  Don tells us that encountering it is "like waking up and seeing Dakota Fanning standing silently in your garden.  It’s just gorgeous, somehow emitting depth and meaning."  Uh-huh.
  • The Best News is that the Big Boxes are raising their plant prices to levels that the indies can compete with.  So a little good news from an unexpected source.
  • A High Spot Award and GardenRant High-Five to the nonprofit that’s formed to preserve the botanical garden and plant collection at Heronswood.
  • Now about Don’s awarding of a Black Spot to the AHS Encyclopedia of Perennials.  Hey, I gave it a favorable review – as a gardener – and I’m sticking by it.  Sorry, but this just seems like another volley in the on-going pissing match between garden writers on opposite sides of the pond. (The complaint is that the book is too English.)
  • His praise for Green Roof Plants by the Snodgrasses I, of course, agree with.
  • Don’s at his best and funniest in his description of the "utter horror show" that are the new Roll-Out Flowers, the 5-minute gardens that are nothing more than annual flower seeds stuck on rolls of paper – very expensive paper.  No gardening involved! 
  • More Renegade-style exposes of scheming and deceiving in the plant biz.

So Don, thanks for delivering good gardening information in a way that’s fun to read. (Note to gardening magazine editors – It can be done.) Now stay away from those corporate lawyers and keep delivering to your hungry readers.

[Note to Don’s webmaster:  We can’t send our readers to any of the cool things on Don’s site because there are no permalinks. That’s a hint.]


  1. No permalinks and no syndication feeds. I’ve sent more than one email requesting these essential 21st century services, but to no avail (thus far). I know I miss a lot of good writing, but if it’s not in my feed reader, I don’t get a reminder of new content, and I don’t remember on my own.

  2. I’ve read the Renegade Gardener’s website for years, and even when I find that it hasn’t been updated on time (or even in a three-month timeframe) I still click around the site to read and laugh. Yes, even at articles that I’ve read a million times. I LOVE the article about the amazing phenomenon of Tree Circles!

  3. I am a big fan of people who freely share their expertise on the Internet with us greenhorns, and he’s got some excellent instructions on starting seeds with a light table posted at the site.

    Not only that, I e-mailed a question to him about pinching off leggy seedlings and in spite of the autoreply explaining that he was too busy to answer questions, he answered my question.

    The daylily rant is still my favorite of all his columns.

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