Gardening notes from all over



It’s a big, wonderful world of garden-related jibber-jabber out there, and now that it’s winter, I have a lot more time to explore it. Here are some choice bits:

The great glossy con trick about Wonderful Winter Gardens in the UK is tiresome. The magazines justify their thesis with close-up pictures of A Snowdrop Taken on Sunny Day (ha ha) or equally juicy pictures of A Garden Under Snow in Bright Sunshine – i.e., one that is completely covered. Winter is not a good time for gardens in the UK …
—Jane Owen’s Gardening Forum, Times Online, 1/24/08

Ms. Scott writes beautifully and compassionately about the rose-afflicted. Fascinating facts emerge in her profiles, such as how the world of roses is dominated by men, how rose aficionados hold more meetings than any other group, how old roses (those hybridized before 1867) have virtually no value to rosaholics, how hard it is to cross red roses and how rattlesnakes use rose bushes to shed their skins.
—from Bill Sheick’s review of Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening in the Dallas Morning News. This sounds like a must-read!

This is the secret of gardening. The planet does not want to give you anything. Mulching the soil is like waterboarding Gaia. It’s the Human saying to the Planet, “give me what I want or I will continue to drown you in handfuls of shit.”
Warren Ellis, comics writer

For those whose tastes run to the eccentric, giant white squill is the bulb to try. It is huge, 10 pounds at maturity and the size of a volleyball. Its flowers resemble giant candles in the landscape. As the plant divides and multiplies, the scaly bulbs may push up through the soil and form clumps, creating natural sculptures.
—From a piece in the Los Angeles Times, 11/29/07; the bulbs can be had from EasyToGrowBulbs. Giant White Squill (urginea maritima) is shown above. Has anyone grown this? It’s only for warmer zones, sadly.

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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


  1. I’ve got to read the rose book. Interesting that the rose-obsessed don’t value old roses. I’ve grown a lot of roses over the years, and in my experience and my climate, old roses are the only ones worth bothering with.

  2. I have Urginea maritima growing in my garden.
    It has never bloomed in the 7 years that I’ve had it.
    The foliage is nice though.
    I think it hasn’t bloomed because it does not get enough sun.
    When I first acquired it from San Marcos Wholesale Growers in Santa Barbara it was planted in a sunny open area but since that time the canopy cover of palms, cussonias, a fast growing Acacia cognata and a Brugmansia have hogged all the sun.
    The leaves have already started emerging and will be lush and full by early spring. By summer time the foliage will have gone dormant and not a sign of the plant can be found, except for the huge weird tops of the bulbs that slightly protrude out of the soil by about 3 inches or so.
    Guess I should dig up the mammoth clump and find a sunnier place so as to see if finally bloom someday.

  3. Hm, I’m in zone 7… wonder if I should give the giant bulb a try.

    I agree with Michele O about roses. I got a lot of newer varieties at discount before the end of the year a few years back. They are needy, needy needy plants and usually do not live as long as I’d like them to. By contrast, the older, own-root roses are just wonderful. Neglect them, leave them growing in the shade that grew about them, and they STILL produce blooms.

  4. I won’t swear to this–gotta read the book!–but I think the rose freaks are most obsessed with new introductions and some of them even breed new ones themselves. I mean hybridize.

    So you can see why old own-root roses might be irrelevant to them.

    We have a huge old pink rose in back–blooms every year in abundance and no one does a damn thing to maintain it.

  5. On the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee (cooler than the flatlands) I had a snowdrop on a sunny day just 2 days ago, and it has been cold. I suspect we’re not much warmer in winter than the UK, though I’ve not been there, and could be wrong. Incidentally, this is the first winter that I’ve tried to over-winter rosemary outside, and so far, so good. The brussels sprouts are really picking up speed, now that the days are lengthening again.

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