Hort couture, anyone?



I was out needlessly buying more plants this afternoon, and this label caught my eye, stuck in some black mondo grass I might just be able to squeeze in a front shade bed. So far, the Proven Winners, Monrovia, and Steppables labels are the fanciest I see, but this goes further than any of them.

What I like about it is that on the back it answers three questions: why, where, and with. Sort of like a mini-press release. And check out how a picture of the plant is worked into her dress. Their slogan? “High fashion plants.” Here’s their website. The plant seems fine; it’s definitely black mondo grass.

P.S. Oh, heck, I can’t resist: here’s a quote from the website: Fashion conscious women make up the vast majority of consumers purchasing color for their gardens and containers. Make them want the newest great plant like they long for the latest designer shoe or purse style!

It’s a relief not to have to make this stuff up myself. On the other hand, if the plant works out, I don’t care what the label or the website says.

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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 yahoo.com


  1. Elizabeth, I looked quickly at the website — very pretty, and lots of lovely pictures. I haven’t seen any of their labels in my local nursery yet, but since I haven’t been plant shopping during the July heat they could well be there. The company appears to be in West Virginia (if I read the address correctly), so for me in Virginia they might be a Good Thing.

  2. Yiuchk!

    Who the hell wears a body-hugging cocktail dress when gardening?


    Not to mention the fact that the company is saying that certain plants are more ‘stylish’ than others…

    Seriously, I want to barf.

  3. I attended a Master Gardener Conference in June at Virginia Tech. They have been involved somehow in the development of the Hort Couture line. The impression that I got was that these plants were more thoroughly tested than some of the other branded lines and could be counted on to perform more consistently in our gardens. I went to the web site to look this afternoon and was really surprised by the elitist sounding marketing slant. But I did see some great looking plants and hope that I’ll start seeing some of them in our local nurseries here in Virginia Beach. Elizabeth, let us know how your Hort Couture plants fare in your garden!

  4. As a girly-woman gardener who has never owned a pair of high heels or carried a purse, I’m not sure what I think of the marketing strategy. If they were doing it to be fun and playful, knowing full well that hardcore gardeners are going to buy good plants no matter what, I’d say yay, lets have fun.
    In the meantime, I’m waiting for purveyors of fine handbags to stuff them full of compost as a marketing ploy. Now THAT would make me buy a purse.

  5. this type of silly nonsense in advertising makes me feel extraordinarily thankful that I purchase the majority of my plants at the wholesale level where we are lucky to be treated with a plain white label with important pertinent botanical information.

    I don’t need to know if Ophiopogon is going to match my Target t-shirt.

  6. When I was young, I used to crave new dresses. Now, I crave a grape arbor and a stone patio. Yes, greed for beauty in any form is a lot like greed for beauty in any other.

    That said, I’m vaguely insulted by Hort Couture’s idea that I speak no language except for fashion.

  7. Oh, I don’t care. None of US are enticed by that stuff but if they can bring in new customers, then good for them. Like sex, a silly appeal to fashion probably sells.

  8. Y’know, as a Project Runway fan I kind of dig it…

    In all seriousness, I’m always keeping an eye out for ads that play to stereotypes for my wife to use in her classes on race and gender. While dumb, this is far from the worst ploy I’ve seen.

  9. I am not “vaguely insulted”, I am “completely insulted” that they are marketing to women with the notion that we don’t have a brain in our head. Cater to my intelligence by playing up the testing. Don’t insult my intelligence by trying to make me “long for a plant” like I would designer shoes. Are you kidding me?

    This is not Sex In The City where shoes are actually considered important. Most true gardeners plunge their hands into the soil without stilettos on.

    It seems to me some men got together and fantasized about what they wish women gardeners were like. Give me a break.

    That said…I hate to admit that I am attracted by the gorgeous photographs on the site. And I do think that the plant being used as the dress on the label is very clever. Oh no! What does that say about me?

  10. One of those company names that, shoot, I wish I had thought of.
    I too spotted my first Hort Couture plant yesterday at Village Nursery. It’s not the label that caught my eye so much, it was the healthiest-looking plant in the bunch.
    Who can resist a fresh perennial in August when everything in the garden looks like compost? Not me.
    Bravo to them (whoever they are)for thinking of a distinctive company name, and on top of it, a healthy, interesting plant for only $4.

  11. Oh, I can’t say I like the attitude in that website quote, but the plant label is kinda cute. There are certainly days when I’d like to do my gardening in a swanky dress, with a drink in one hand and a good book in the other, leaning back on a lounge chair while directing the gardening crew where to go and what to do.

  12. Plants as fashion accessories, what a concept. As Susan said, if it gets more people gardening, it can’t be all bad.

    Gorgeous photos on the website but white lettering on a black background? Dramatic, yes, but hard to read. After only a moment or two, my eyes and head ache. Is it just me?

  13. Oh, what a refreshing way to sell plants in the August heat.

    The idea is just as cute as her figure in that sleeveless dress from 1963. (At least I think that’s the year I had one for day wear and one for cocktails.)

    Now I want to see a label from the same designer for the manly plants featuring a guy in a seersucker suit.

    Which plants would be man enough to get those labels?

  14. *rolls eyes*

    Just make sure that HE buys it, thereby confirming that women can only be piqued to buy when it’s fashionable, and not sensible.


  15. “Which plants would be man enough to get those labels?”

    I’ll bite!

    Anything from the Mandrake family
    male fern
    Dracunculus vulgaris

    Oh, the list could go on and on!

    Maybe this is the new marketing trend – selling plants by theme. How about a naughty girl label (Hosta ‘Striptease’, Heuchera ‘Can Can’ and the unbelievably named Hemerocallis ‘Crotchless Panties’ – no joke, see
    http://www.plantlovers.com/erikson/indexb.html)? Or one that honors the twisted humor of the Addams family (Dracunculus vulgaris can do double-time, add Solanum pyracanthum)? Or maybe a garden to go with the family pet (dogtooth violet and dog rose or dogbane and catmint)? Or food themed labels (Heuchera ‘Peach Melba’, ‘Key Lime Pie’, Tiarella ‘Mint Chocolate’). OMG, someone stop me! Or better yet, join in.

  16. Ugh! Over marketed crap. Let’s put the plants in a dress! Women will swoon.

    I Guess i’m not the target demographic.

  17. Well, I thought it was funny! The photos on the website are gorgeous, and the layout is really beautiful. I just can’t work up the energy in August to be insulted by this, although I will confess that some of the elitist stuff is silly but if the plants are good I’ll buy, even if I don’t fit into my sheath dress from 1964 any more.

  18. Thanks for all of the comments. It is all in good fun. My husband and I own Hort Couture. This whole concept came about as a way to make gardening more fun and less intimidating for anyone from novice to expert combined with exciting new plants from all over the world. This is our first year and we have plants in most major markets. Again, thanks for the input and comments. We have laughed our heads off this evening reading this!

    Check out the website http://www.hortcoutureplants.com

  19. “Fashion conscious women make up the vast majority of consumers purchasing color for their gardens and containers. Make them want the newest great plant like they long for the latest designer shoe or purse style!”

    Thank you for commenting, HortCouture Girl. Am I insulted? Yeah, a little. But I’m way too smart to be really insulted or fall for the hype. I buy good looking plants at a good price. I don’t even look at the advertising, if that’s what you call it. I look at the plants. When someone can deliver great plants at a great price (consistently), they will get my business and loyalty.

  20. Okay – I have to revise my comment about Virginia Tech having some involvement with Hort Couture. I did see some of the Hort Couture plants in a plant sale there. But VA Tech is involved in testing a new brand of plants to be released in Spring of 09 called Beautiful Gardens. Sorry to have given you incorrect info!

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