Good times on gardenweb 1.0, but with a message: you must have fire ants


-You can’t say “canna” or “marigolds” too many times for this garden—and be sure and line the walk to the front door with inviting yuccas and mahonias. Don’t forget aucuba, celosia orcaladiums and be sure and top your row of nandinas after they have flowered in order to avoid those tacky berries this winter.
But why would anyone insult my wonderful yard flamingos? They must have meant flamingos left out for the winter,not my summer beauties near the birdbath with gazing ball.

-Along with the yellow Explorer, how could you leave out the obligatory Firebird or Camaro, with the fire decal on the hood,and three different size tires?

-how about 2 trailers (1 having been abandoned)… placed in a T-shape, OK? The abandoned trailer is tastefully surrounded by 6 ft. tall bloodweeds to give a tropical effect. There is also a 12 ft. crepe myrtle with a female rottweiler chained to it and a box for her PUPPIES! The 8 ft. gap
between the trailers draws the visitors eyes (and nose) to the 15 X 15 X 5 foot trash pile (supposedly carefully concealed behind trailer #1). Stay with me now….here comes the LANDSCAPING! Two (2) floribunda rose bushes, spaced 20 feet apart across the front of said property …..with a 3 ft. banana tree growing in an URN beside the driveway!! Last but certainly not least, a touch of”whimsy”.. the collapsed swing set and swimming pool. And can’t forget the skillfully crafted broken glass windchimes.

-I simply must add the single most important feature to the award-winning landscape. Fire ants! You must have them! They are most attractive when used with the tire crowns — with the mound strategically placed near the edge of the tire and gracefully spilling over the side. And it takes time to get a really good mound built up so those mounds that get cut back a bit when the grass is mowed aren’t really in a good location. If you are very good at this you might be like my neighbor and have several. One of the many attractive features of these unattended to mounds is the lovely “ornamental” grass that grows up through it. If you are fortunate enough to have one of those boxed forsythias, you’ll find that under this bush is another excellent location for your fire ant mound. Remember that these mounds are low growing and a great ground cover but you need to make sure that you put them in a setting which will enhance their natural beauty. Plant a wisteria too close to the 3 crepe myrtles that are in a row. Let the wisteria grow and grow being very careful not to prune or cut back. Once it has grown into a choke hold on the crepe myrtle, put a chain around the first crepe myrtle. To the chain you should tie any breed of droopy-eared hunting dog. Redbone hounds work well for this. The dog and his chain will make a large circle of bare ground which will be just the touch you need to show off your large fire ant mound that is nestled near the trunk of the third crepe myrtle. If you have an old fence behind this, allowing honeysuckle to completely take over will make a very attractive background that is sure to catch the eye. Water is an important consideration so make sure that you don’t disturb that gutter that is hanging loosely off the side of you house. This way your whole garden area is provided with a brisk run-off at each rain. Should this wash most of the top soil from the area then so much the better — it can enlarge that circle of bare earth your dog has been working on for you. … Adding cigarette butts to the edges of the driveway and walkway can dress things up a bit but you don’t need them for your fire ants to flourish.
In the corner of your yard you could add a nice pile of brush and limbs. This is also another great spot to grow some more ornamental grass.

-My favorite combination: overgrown golden eunonymous interplanted with elegeanus and underplanted with burgundy glow ajuga and set off by the nearby, and obligatory, marigolds surrounding red cannas w/purple leaves. Also, I must say that any automotive vehicle needs to be up on cinderblocks to be considered a permanent part of the landscape. If you can’t manage the fireants, at least have a container of some sort to hold stagnant water so that you will have a nice complement of mosquitos to enjoy of a summer evening…

I’m sure there was a book in this—or at least a sit-com. Or maybe I’m just immature enough to still get a kick out of this after all these years.

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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. Move over, Elizabeth, and let me join you in the immature lineup…that’s all pretty darn funny, even if some of the plants (and critters) are a mystery to me. Happily, we have no fireants here, but we do have the obligatory strained, strange attempts at gardening. What drives me mental are dozens of geegaws from Walmart etc; often in lieu of plants. My absolute favourite cringe inducers are the plywood cutouts of ladies with their bloomers showing, or cows, or little boys peeing in the petunias…

    Oh well, if they make their owners happy and cause chagrin-like glee to some of us curmudgeons, they’re doing a good deed, yes?

  2. Oh, who can resist…

    My little garden of horrors must have a solid ground covering of matted, rat-infested Algerian Ivy, with the flowering, seed-producing mature foliage, please.

    Some large, ne’er divided clumps of string-trimmed dietes and flax would really set things off for me.

    I want lots of purple leaf flowering plums (Prunus cerasifera) planted along the sidewalk dropping blobs of purple sludge on the sidewalk every summer (to feed the rats) and leave black stains because nothing says “garden pride” like your trees leaving black, sticky stains on the sidewalk.

    (And although the trees are mature, I want the stakes and guy wire the trees were planted with to remain–basically forever. And it would be good if the whole stake-tree set-up was leaning about 15 degrees. And I want to see lots of suckers!)

    The foundation planting keeps it simple with a long allee of Hollywood juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa’), and red lava rock to cover the dirt. This is all set behind a row of Pittosporum tobira pruned to a low box with crisp 90 degree angles, natch.

  3. Wait, I live here (in the south). That is no exaggeration, I have neighbors on my own street like that. But please, don’t forget the following two essential items: a “flower bed” which consists of an old head and foot board with rails, and plantings where the matress should be, AND the immensly popular old toilet in the yard with both the tank and bowl full of fake plastic flowers (that way you never have to water). It’s true, no kidding.

  4. I guess all those landscapes are those posters worst nightmares but they are my everyday reality!! I swear to God I have seen every last one of those scenarios in my town and on my own street, whats more is those are pretty much the standard here, and seeing a house that looks like its owners actually spend even a shred of time on their gardens or yards is incredibly rare.

    I live in Beaufort, SC and I’m not sure if that is considered “deep south” or not, I’m not a native (here because of the military) but this is what EVERY SINGLE house in this town except maybe 10% looks like. The absolute worst is when they have silk and plastic flowers stuck directly in the ground! They don’t even just have them in pots. Sometimes their interplanted w/ real flowers, marigolds and begonias in full sunlight naturally. It’s especially precious when then the neon colored daisies and roses are stuck in the foundation hedges of boxwood and pittosporum. And I cringe every time I see a massacred “topped” crepe myrtle. It just looks so painful to me, and it just seems like they’ll never reach their full potential in my opinion. I wonder who decided that this would make them more attractive. I have a lovely white crepe myrtle in my back yard, that as far as i know has never been topped (I’ve only lived here 2 years, but it looks like it can’t have been topped within the last 5 years at least) and it is so much more attractive than all the other ones around town.

  5. I feel bad that we’re picking on the South and I proudly insist that we can be JUST as hideous up here, though, god, it is hard to compete with people who use bedframes and toilets.

    I am driving to the northern burbs today and I will come back with something if not worse, at least almost as bad.

  6. Yes, we in the North can compete with those Southern gardeners (minus the fire ants). The yard will include the obligatory Forsythia sheared into a cube alternated in a hedge with a magnolia that resembles a giant lollipop. The trees will all be surrounded by mulch volcanos (the higher the better), the mulch an attractive shade of industrial paint Burnt Sienna. Those trees that are not surrounded by a completely circular ring of Hostas will have a concrete scalloped ring around them. In front of the meatball-shaped yews adhering to the siding are a straight line of alternating red & screaming chartruese coleus with a mulch of white stone chips. Orangey-yellow Stella D’Or daylilies must be paired with lavender pink coneflowers (bonus for red Pelargoniums or red Salvia!) The front porch should include at least 1 concrete goose in festive costume. Any boulders on the property should be plopped on the surface & preferably painted a bright highly visible color.

  7. Still laughing. I remember that thread very well! In fact, I believe that entry that starts with “rows of alternating colors of wax begonias” was actually mine. Classic. FYI, they just “improved” the municipal landscaping in the nearby town by topping all the crape myrtles. The one redeeming quality of that particular planting of Natchez was that they were at least in the natural form until last winter.

  8. Fond memories indeed.
    Too bad the new owners , the I-Village Idiots, have such repugnant Copyright and Usage rules that they lost a huge portion of their contributors who dared to read the small ink in their agreement page.
    Those were the good old dazes when you could post without having a ” Publication Company ” ( yes folks look into who really owns I-Village and who is apart of their conglomerate ) claim ownership to your written word and photographs.

    Elizabeths’ own words could very well come to fruition, ” I’m sure there was a book in this—or…” ,
    and every single word that every person wrote would be covered under the I-Village Copyright clause and become their property.

    It’s not nice to own other peoples words , photos or opinions, especially if you have the opportunity to profit from them.

  9. Elizabeth, was your father in the Marines or the Navy? My husband is a photographer for the Marine Corps and he’s stationed at the air station. We live close to Parris Island though. Originally were from Portland, OR, and we’ll be moving back in October or November. I can’t wait!! The south is nice, but I am definately ready to go home. If anybody wants to buy a house in South Carolina w/ an actual garden, let me know 🙂

    I must confess though I do have some of the plants mentioned above like cannas, Stella D’Oro daylilies, plenty of plain orange daylilies, and an opuntia cactus in my front yard. but I swear they came w/ the house!! I couldn’t bring myself to throw away any healthy plants especially since I had to majorly overhaul the entire half acre lot, (were talking 10 fuschia azaleas plopped right in the middle of the front yard grass, not even in a border, in full sun naturally. Those had to go) I promise everything looks nice how I have it arranged, and I actually quite like to cactus even though it seems out of place

  10. BPB, you are forgetting a key element in the award-winning Northeastern garden. There must be a triangualr corner “fence” at the front corner of the japanese beetle-ravaged yard–yet, it is not really a fence because the rails on either side of the central post tilt down, disappearing into the ground. Please plant orange and red celosias and dusty miller within this enclosure, bordered of course with white rocks.

    Also, there must be more animals–we cherish our wildlife in the North. Ducks, deer, gamboling kittens and puppes are all great—concrete is preferred but plastic is equally acceptable. Please hang 5-7 white plastic hanging baskets from the porch. The plants within should not be visible—they would intrude themselves on the pleasing symmetry of the form.

    Heather, yes indeed it was the Marines–and he was in the reserves for years. I spent all my summers in North Carolina, in and around Camp Lejeune. Nice beaches on the nearby barrier island–we rented a cottage most summers.

  11. Chris, that is a great thread. Thanks. I never read it–I was always focused on the furious compost and mulch arguments and what ensued when someone complained that the discourse on the perennials forum was declining.

  12. I only included the ugly in my inspirational post. I’ll have to do another one just focusing on the tacky.

    May ‘favorite’ garden accessory in this neck of the woods (maybe you have them where you are too) at the ‘bathtub Madonnas’. I guess it’s a tradition that when the old home place gets remodeled, the clawfeet get amputated from the bathtub, then it gets buried on end about half its length deep to form what looks like a tall bandshell. Add a statue of the the Virgin Mary and some annuals and you’ve got yourself a little shrine.

    I’ve threatened to do the same only use a little statue of Elvis instead. But if I was ever blessed with an old tub, I’d probably pipe the overflow from the well into it and use it as an outdoor soaking tub.

  13. Oh, how I roared! However, in order to perfectly set off our garden we need a row of tin (? I guess ?) painted tulips in various electric colors with lime-green leaves stuck into the ground bordering the driveway. Extra points for not straightening them up when they list every which way. (No joking — I drive past this every day on my way to and from work. You can’t make this stuff up, you know!)

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