Garden Rant looks into the future


The heck with boring garden trend reports. This is what I’ve decided will happen in 2009, gardening-world-wise, with some input from Michele and Susan. Let me assure you (though you will hardly need such assurance) that I have no basis in fact or logic for these predictions. In the unlikely event that any of them happen, though, I’ll take full credit.


The chicken replaces the eagle as the national emblem.
Forget about Franklin’s turkey. In 2009, a chicken in every eglu becomes the nation’s motto and these cherished pets and providers easily replace the remote, unlovable eagle—symbolically and pragmatically.


Michele grows the world’s largest zucchini. Through no special effort—Michele tends all her vegetables with equal fervor—a twelve-foot-long summer squash takes shape on the Owens property in late summer, 2009. Michele takes it on the road in a flatbed, using it to promote a return to abundant food production in every home garden.


Buffalo becomes the garden capital of the U.S. As climate change takes hold, Buffalo’s idyllic summers lengthen and its gardens become world-famous. (New Jersey is already known as the Garden State. I rest my case.)


GBBD gets a lot stricter. Carol/May Dreams Gardens initiates covert surveillance  over those gardens that post on Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. If a flower is not actually blooming on the 15th, or if that flower does not, in fact, exist in the garden in question, a 3-month suspension takes effect. Second and third offenses lead to further penalties. Gardeners begin to show the flowers in context with identifying garden features to avoid being audited by Carol.


(From Michele) The Obamas plant a vegetable garden at the White House. Barack suddenly finds himself in middle age. My God, he’s been a frustrated farmer all along, but didn’t know it. He begins behaving like the rest of us obsessed vegetable gardeners, which means running out of Cabinet meetings while shouting hysterically, "I don’t have time for this now! I have to get my peas in the ground!"

As a result of the new gardening focus at the White House, Susan is appointed Garden Coach-in-Chief, and is too busy supervising sustainable lawn practices to take care of her own garden, which becomes Garden Rant’s biggest giveaway ever. The happy winner gets to have Susan’s elegant, low-maintenance, turf-free oasis installed on their own property.


Isn’t it time a group of four cute male gardener/writers got together? In June, 2009, it happens, with the debut of the Garden Dudes, with Allan Armitage, Tony Avent, Don Engebretson, and Graham Rice.


A new botanical curriculum is introduced from the first grade level onward, with every class in charge of its own garden and every student tested on the proper names for each plant. The dual system of using botanical and common names is maintained, but it becomes less confusing as the terms are familiar to all. Little kids are commonly heard piping up with remarks like “Mom, that’s a chrysanthemum superbum, not just a daisy. Get it straight!”

As a natural result of this readjusted and intense focus on growing things and the natural world, garden bloggers become folk heroes, revered by everyone.


Turfgrass is outlawed. That’s it. The adjustment is painful, but in the end, suburbanites and urban dwellers alike discover uses for the property surrounding their houses that they had never dreamed of before. It’s a brave new world.

Site-specific photos by Michele Owens, Amy Stewart, Jim Charlier, and Elizabeth Licata.

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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. NOT MY LAWN!!!!!!
    I will place a poster of the garden guys in my office and my bathroom just let me keep my lawn!!!

    Believe it or not I agree with evrything else for your new year’s prognostications. I have a few of my own if I may

    Garden Rant will adopt me as their lovable if somewhat misguided step troll.

    Cris from North Carolina will constinue to agitate me but feel guilty about it and seek counseling in the form of horticultural therapy. His treatment will be to manicure and nurture a 10 sq ft patch of lawn.

    The organic/non organic debate will continue ad nauseum with good points made by both sides.

    Jeff Gilman will continue his great work debunking garden mythology for years to come.

    Happy New Year to all my “DIRTy” friends (?)

    The TROLL

  2. GREAT post – and very fitting for Garden Rant. I laughed all the way through it! Happy New Year to gardeners one and all!

  3. Covert surveillance for bloom day? I’m going to have to deputize quite a few other bloom watchers to pull that off. I think, for sake of time, we’ll just get someone to monitor the gardens in Buffalo. After all, do we really believe there are THAT many snow-free months in Buffalo?

    No comment on giving up the lawn, but I would be happy to help any and all with their vegetable gardens…

    Happy New Year to all the ranters.

  4. Maybe a small amount of lawn will be ok…but you’ll have to get a permit!

    (perfectly reasonable for wanting to plant an alien weed grass!:)

    Time for more wildflowers:)

  5. I’ve already begun efforts here on my corner of Katy to help Garden Rant realize its predictions. The small patch of lawn on the south side is shrinking steadily. By the end of January, I predict it will have vanished entirely!

  6. Deputize me NOW! I am coming to Buff, headed to DC, and will be the Deputy-Assistant to the Ringleader of Hospitality at our next gathering.

    I hereby solemely swear to remove anther huge chunk of turf this year. I promise. I swear.

  7. A twelve foot long summer squash…that’s a lot of zucchini bread! My front lawn disappeared years ago, but maybe I will bring the beds out into the back lawn another few inches this year.

  8. Ah, change I can believe in!

    But about giving away my garden? Only if I can move onto the White House grounds and stroll the gardens every morning with my coffee mug in hand, like I do now.

    And Eliz, fabulous post!@

  9. Give up lawn? And then where will the kids go to play tag and Red Rover or practice their soccer ball kicks and somersaults? No, we’ve got to keep some lawn but I’m all for getting people to reduce their fence to fence swath in favor of more plants.

    As for Buffalo becoming the gardening capital of the world, how about sharing the title? Portland’s done a damn good job of lobbying for the title, too. Besides, wouldn’t it be better to have more than one to help spread the word and fervor around?

  10. :rolling on my non-turfed ground and laughing right out loud:
    I am laughing so much I can’t even THINK of a witty riposte! THANK YOU ! & Happy New Year EVERYONE!

    I have a Challenge for y’all on my wee Blog. :~)


  11. Happy New Year to all the women of the ‘Rant and all guest contributors. You have so much to be proud of with this blog.

    Here’s to another the thought provoking, perspective broadening and newsworthy year of gardening.

  12. Where will the kids play without a lawn, you ask? Glad you asked.
    When I was a kid we were kinda poor and lived in a couple of different houses without lawns. We had a veggie garden out back to fiddle with. My brother built a chicken coup, brought home some hens, and we took care of the chickens and gathered their eggs. There was a huge black walnut tree to climb. A clump of wild fennel grew in one corner of the yard and it was covered with swallowtail butterfly larvae; we watched the metamorphosis unfold. We dug tunnels in a large mound of earth in which to park our Tonka trucks.
    Sometimes we walked to the school to play on the jungle gym and monkey bars. A shady creek (once a diverting canal) was nearby and we could catch tadpoles, crayfish, and other slimy stuff. I threw them back.
    Whatever the weather we could ride our bikes, cuz we were kids and immune to climate extremes. Sometimes we actually rode my friend’s Welsh pony around the neighborhood (we lived outside of actual city limits, but it was definitely the suburbs).
    In one huge, lawnless yard we played kickball and softball without fear of ruining the grass where we scraped out our baselines.
    That’s just a few of the things we did without a lawn.

  13. Carolyn, I’ve done almost all of those activities, too, plus a few of my own. We had multiple treehouses growing up as well as vacant weedy lots to play in and explore. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that lawn is the only venue for childhood play. But I have to wonder just what you did play on when you played kickball and softball. Dirt? Plants? If dirt, that’s not so eco-friendly since bare soil increases the risk of erosion by wind and rain, which is certainly not healthy for our rivers and all that lives in them. If plants, well, I’d be more concerned about ruining plants than lawn since plants provide a good deal more habitat for wildlife than lawn. Ruin the plants, destroy their meal tickets. Ruin the lawn, not a big deal.

    Lastly, if you think by lawn I mean a vast stretch of monoculture grass force-fed synthetic products to be an unnatural green, I don’t. My lawn is a mix of clover, various turf grasses and a handful or more of weeds, grown organically with minimal water. And my lawn only comprises 12-15% of my property.

    I see the no-lawn rant in much the same way as the all-natives rant. To me it’s more a matter of degrees than black and white. IME, we seldom win converts with black and white arguments but when we offer them a choice of changes by degree, we are much more likely to persuade them to make a change.

  14. Oh, well, dang, why did my post show up twice? Would one of you ranters remove one of them please so it doesn’t look like I’m foolishly repeating myself? Thanks!

  15. Rest assured all, my ridiculous little lawn prediction was pretty much in the same arena as the 12-ft zucchini.

    Lawns can be very pretty.

  16. Looking at the number of gardens on Buffalo’s annual Garden Walk, I think it may already be the capital — the rest of us just don’t know it.

    And with the snow we had last winter and this, I’m a little concerned that Buffalo is passing that title elsewhere and it may be my town that is the winner!

    (PS: this is LINDA from EACH LITTLE WORLD but Typepad is having trouble recognizing me.)

  17. Carolyn is right, kids don’t necessarily need a lawn, especially when there are parks and hiking trails nearby.
    I think the White House has way too much lawn. Turning over some of it to a vegetable garden would be a wonderful idea and could influence many to do the same.

  18. I find it odd that I’m defending lawns because I’m an advocate for less lawn and organically grown at that, but here I go.

    Yes, parks and hiking trails are a great option but only if they are within walking distance and the kids are old enough to visit them on their own (and even then, they should travel in packs for safety). If only I’d had all the time in the world to spend at the park when my kids were young…sigh.

  19. i’ve always liked the notion of the wee lawn that the nurse [in Michael Ondaatje’s book] The English Patient maintains…about a foot square, painstakingly trimmed with nail scissors….

  20. Lisa, you saw my post as a black and white anti-lawn rant? Actually, I was answering the question presented. The kickball and softball diamond we carved out was on a dry, weedy lot in the summer. The only areas that got worn down to dirt were the baselines. Things dry up in arid California in the summer, so in the fall, winter, and spring the lot greened up with fresh weeds again. We also enjoyed the parks. Never said kids couldn’t play on a lawn, but rather meant to show that kids are resourceful and find a way to play no matter where they are.
    In the summer I take my niece hiking in Alston Park in Napa which is beautiful and green during the wet season, and beautiful and beige in the summer. The park hosts lots of wildlife, including hawks, which my niece loves.
    I enjoy sustainably grown lawns, which is becoming increasingly important in California. A friend of mine had a small piece of residential property that slowly became surrounded by giant swaths of vineyards. When the vineyard irrigation tapped out the ground water, my friend first gave up her lawn, then her veggie garden as slowly but surely the well dried up. When it started to cost her $1000 to $2000 a month to have water trucked in she sold her beloved family property and moved away. I know we can’t really stop the valley monoculture, but I want to try to save water wherever I can.
    In my own perennial garden, although it’s mostly native plants, I do grow some non-natives if they tolerate the dry conditions in my area.
    For me it’s not so black and white. However, if someone asks the question “Where will the kids play?” I’ll respond. And please take this in the friendly, inclusive way it’s intended.

  21. I’m blinded to the other predictions by the inclusion of a photo of Tony Avent. I knew he was smart, I knew he was witty, but who knew he was hot? WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME?

    Yeah, the chicken’s cute, too.

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