Top 10 Gardening Blunders (with Bonus Blunders)


The Renegade Gardener – the one and only Don Engebretson – is at it again, compiling nuggets ofRenegade wisdom for experienced and newbie gardeners alike.  He says his criteria are that the blunders be common, be BIG and be blunders he’s made at least twice himself, but I bet that last bit is just an ice-breaker, a humble little prelude to the great pile of criticism Don’s about to dump on his readers.   I say Don, bring it on; Americans need a little ice water in the face just to get their attention. 

First and foremost, every one of these blunders deserves its places on the list – Bull’s Eye!!  Now notice how many American landscaping mistakes are attitudinal (too small, too straight) and emotional (fear of large plants and of letting go, getting suckered, and possible addictions).  And it seems to me they’re what happens when we’re cut off from Nature.  If we’d all grown up in little English towns where everyone grew veggies and flowers, ya think we’d be planting swaths of turf and a row of foundation azaleas?  Not likely.  That’s why I love the Garden Walks that are changing neighborhoods and neighbors in cities like Buffalo and Chicago.  People just need someone to teach them, and without hRenegade2aving grown up in a gardening culture, they need neighbors to encourage and inspire them.

And about the Great Dumbing Down of American Gardening that Don’s so pissed off about, did it really only begin 10 years ago?

Finally, number 3 on the list is a blunder of omission – not using enough nonplant items like pots and furniture and hardscape.  Agreed, but doesn’t seating itself deserve special mention?  As a proselytizer for the salutary effects of sitting in the garden, I venture to suggest that people who sit regularly in their gardens A, enjoy them more and B, have gardens with fewer blunders (eventually).

They’re all here – 10 plus Bonuses.  Discuss among yourselves.

[Photos:  Thomas Hobbs’ Vancouver garden, by Engebretson; and plan showing too much turf.]


  1. Interesting. You know, I almost think we need a separate list of 10 common URBAN garden blunders, because many of his mistakes are not even possible in the small urban gardens I am familiar with. I think there’s only one person on my block who has ANY grass, much less too much. The stuff won’t grow; we’ve given up on it.

    And we have to use smaller trees and shrubs if we want to plant anything else.

    Number 3? I wish that was a problem in many of the gardens I know.

    Number 4. Major. I could not possibly agree more.

    Love the Renegade.

  2. Nice article by Don. I agree with his list of 10 big mistakes to make when gardening. However after reading Susan’s post I feel it’s time to dispell a myth: the British make exactly the same mistakes as the American gardeners do. The British are not born with a special gene for gardening the right way, you know. 😉

    I’ve seen too many horrible British gardens to have any illusions about their gardening skills in general. Brits are people too, it’s a thing.

    And for the record, here in the Netherlands many people make many if not all of the mistakes that Don describes in his article. What can I say? The Dutch are people too!

  3. Great post and link. I agree with all of it, and particularly apppreciated his comment about “clown collars.”

    I am going to be re-landscaping my front yard in the next few months and I’m trying to come up with the plan myself–something that I hope will not end up on somebody’s list of blunders. I’m realizing, though, that the important thing is to just do it, and hope that whatever blunders might result are fixable. But I’ll definitely be keeping this list of blunders in mind as I work through the design.

  4. I’m with Eliz. Most of the blunders on the list are luxuries of suburban sprawl. Urban dwellers have their own blunders. I think this warrants its own post.

    #8 I never had trees and shrubs to rip out until we bought our house two years ago. It turned out that major editing was required to address someone else’s #5 several decades ago. The urban version of #5 is usually buying something “pretty” at the supermarket or hardware store which was raised in chemically-dependent greenhouse conditions, and which will be lucky to last a month on the windy fire escape which is its fate.

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