Danger! Warning! Garden writers with too much time on their hands …


… tend to come up with ideas like the following:

When planning your outdoor projects for spring, keep this tip in mind from Do It Yourself magazine, a Better Homes and Gardens publication: To create visual impact in your garden, coordinate garden decor and bloom colors.
For example, Adirondack chairs painted periwinkle echo the blue of hydrangea bushes.
Similarly, hot hues work off each other in a garden planted with hot pink shrubs with a red bistro table stationed nearby.

I would call this the silly season of garden journalism, at least in regions that have cold winters. The only gardening most of us are doing is taking place via mail order and within fantasies. But garden columns and articles in the print media (as well as in blogs!) must soldier on. Hence, ridiculous advice such as the above.

Here’s what I think about painting wooden furniture to match flower colors: a.) it can’t be done, and b.) gardening is not and should not be about the furniture.

Many of the gardening “tip” columns in the print media are repetitive, unimaginative outrages against the trees killed to disseminate them, but this is especially true during the off-season. Here are a few pearls that have appeared in home and garden sections during January:

Is there space for the barbecue and is it convenient, can the trash bins be hidden from view? I want the 20 seconds it took me to read this bit of comma-splicing back.

Store garden chemicals away from children and pets in a safe, dry place, such as a garden shed or garage. Keep products in their original containers. I’m puzzled by the second piece of advice here. People are out there with funnels decanting Orthene and Round-up into pottery carafes?

Hand pruners and loppers work best when sharp. No. Shit.

There are a huge range of garden ornaments available, whatever your style. Unfortunately, this is very true.

Best to stick with books at this time of year—or share tips with other savvy bloggers like us.

What’s the most useless piece of garden advice you’ve ever received?

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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 regular 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 don’t know if I can beat some of the useless advice already cited. The off-season makes us all a little bonkers, eh? Anything that suggests color coordination is immediately out the window in my book – I can barely match my socks in the morning!

  2. I tried to reply to Doug on his blog–technical problems got in the way–so, Doug, if you’re still there, this is what I said:

    That fuschia bench doesn’t change my mind about painting garden furniture, though I like everything else in the garden. I guess I am conservative in that regard. Thanks for responding, in any case!! I was so pleased to see that the rant had a comment so early–I just posted it an hour ago.


  3. The silliest piece of advice I’ve seen is “if you want to remove aphids, just use the garden hose.”

    First off is the mechanical task of aiming the hose at the underside of leaves where the aphids hide out; second is getting enough pressure to dislodge insects without tearing anything off the plant at the same time.

    Several dozen gallons of water and a few drowned nasturtiums later, guess what — plenty of aphids!

    Yeah, somehow they manage to hang on during rain storms, too. Go figure.

  4. Hey, let’s not give on-line garden writers a total pass on the question of useless or just boring advice. I recently read the home page of an (unnamed) garden info site and counted the word “tip” used 12 times, after which I stopped counting. I only read tips when I’m looking for examples of ridiculous advice, like the excellent ones you found.

  5. My dear departed dad had a favorite idiotic lawn care tip that I’ll pass along b/c it amused him so much. Jack Eden, a (now retired??) local radio garden “expert,” once advised listeners to not cut their lawns too closely, good advice I believe. But to achieve this higher cut he advised people to wrap duct tape around all 4 wheels on the lawnmower until the machine was high enough to not scalp the grass. Maybe this won’t seem ridiculous to others but my dad thought it was the stupidiest thing he’d ever heard. And I tend to agree with him.

  6. I’m with Doug on this. I love colorful, painted furniture in the garden, and choosing your favorite colors in flowers as well as paint doesn’t seem that wacky to me. And sorry, Elizabeth, but I am into furniture in the garden. Benches and chairs aren’t more important than the plants, but they make a garden feel inviting.

  7. I don’t think painting the furniture to tie in with what you have is such a silly idea. Granted, you won’t be seeing any fuscia benches in my garden, but I do have a table/bench painted forest green, and an adirondack chair painted a deep brown. Since I’m going for a very calm, natural feel in my yard, they work. I think that you should do whatever makes you smile when you walk into your garden. If it’s a fuscia bench, fine. If it’s a gigantic collection of garden gnomes or whatever, ditto.

  8. I recently read somewhere that you can use a lint roller to remove aphids.Worse than odd advise is admitting that you are thinking about trying said odd advise.
    I love the duct tape on wheels to raise mower, can you imagine trying that piece of advise.I use a human powered reel mower. Certainly would burn up a few calories.
    About the painting furniture in the garden…quilty. The Mr and I inherited a set of seventies redwood lawn furniture. Heavy durable and in excellent condition.
    The Mr assures me that every summer without fail it was his job to recoat the redwood stain.
    We painted it a very nice bright green.
    Robert Dash paints many wooden structures at Madoo and has been praised highly.
    Maybe we have artistic leanings…

  9. Hilarious post! Though my garden shed is stained a color called “French Violet.”

    Let’s face it–most of the gardening advice in print is ridiculous and not just in the off-season. What’s to say? Add organic matter to your soil and have fun!

  10. Garden furniture is an important part of my garden. It only took me three tries to find a green that nearly matches the grass. I must watch my step at night for small tables just disappear — until my shin locates them. Mine is to sit on, with a spot for the beer mug. Different locations give differend views, plus one must follow the shade patches throughout the course of the day. I would prefer tree stumps but they are too heavy for me to move around.

    All the bloom colors are carefully coordinated in each flowerbed to make sure they blend well with various shades of green. I rather believe that the Original Gardener devised a great plan, so I try to follow those guidelines.

  11. I have white patio furniture. It matches the white hibiscus, abutilon, gardenia, plumeria and stephanotis blossoms-oh the newly opened cymbidium orchids. I can’t have red, yellow or orange in the garden. It’s a long story…


  12. I’ve seen Pam/Digging’s garden and I wish I had her way with coordinating furniture and playful, colorful design elements into my garden. She has a garden. I just have a bunch of plants.

    By the way, despite the ice storms, this is not the off-season for everybody.

    And were none of you ever novices? There’s a lot of people out there that grew up in apartments who haven’t the slightest idea which end of a hoe is up. Martha Stewart hooked a million dollar business when she realized a generation needed info on Housekeeping 101. It’s even more true for gardening.

  13. M Sinclair Stevens, I could NOT possibly agree with you more that people who did not grow up with gardening parents–that certainly includes most late boomers and Gen-Xers–need to be introduced to the basics.

    But the basics could be written on a postcard: Choose the right plant for the spot. Add organic matter to the hole. Water the plant in. Mulch. If it dies, be philosophical and go buy a different plant.

    And what a gardening-illiterate culture really needs to understand is that gardening is joyful. It makes me insane, that there is an entire industry built around trying to make it sound esoteric and hard.

  14. Michele,
    Gardening is fun, and anyone that wants to will. Some people don’t want to and do not find it enjoyable at all.Some find a middle road and have others do the work while they enjoy the results.

    I like learning botanical names and how to pronounce them. I love books about soil micro-biology. An afternoon at the library on a 98 degree day is preferable to the outdoors.Unless you have a pool.
    Would I spend time making spreadsheets…forget it…but there are people that get more enjoyment from an organized activity.
    I hated garden clubs but absolutly am having the best time of my life volunteering for the Master Gardeners program.
    My neighbors and friends always say “that looks like a lot of work”.Not, “that looks complicated”. They don’t want to dig or weed or get sweaty.

    None of which has to do with garden tips
    and winter doldrums.So here is a tidbit garnered from Better Homes and Gardens.
    A town in Sweden is exploring a cheaper, more environmentally friendly alternative to cremation that the has the added benefit of fertilizing trees. Formulated by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak,the technique freeze dries corpses and turns them into powder. The remains are placed in a small biodegradable box then buried in a shallow grave, where they disintegrate within 12 months. Towns people are encouraged to plant a tree on the grave.
    Hows that for a stretch about gardening in the winter…LOL

  15. “I recently read somewhere that you can use a lint roller to remove aphids.”

    As they say in Britain, “Pull the other one, Gloria, it’s got bells on it” 🙂

  16. I had the pleasure of chauffeuring Sydney Eddison a few years ago. My recollection is that she paints her patio furniture a different color every year to coordinate with her container plantings. Those, in turn, are based on color schemes from her favorite paintings.

    Great plan. But I’m too busy getting dirty to execute anything like that.

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