Never thought I’d see the day …



… when the catalog that covers the “spectrum of plant snobbery” and would never “deign to carry mere annuals and vegetables” would have tomatoes in plastic pots on the cover. Those are Michael Pollan’s words about White Flower Farms; I am sure that many of you also loved the chapter in Second Nature where he deconstructs the world of garden catalogs. I thought too that Pollan’s book was the first to call catalogs “garden porn” but I couldn’t find the exact reference this morning.

WFF has carried annuals for years; in fact, it was the first place I bought strobilanthes (Persian Shield), but I’ve never seen anything but a lush array of daylilies, dahlias, oriental lilies, ferns, or other perennials on its cover. Until this year, as you see on its summer 2009 catalog. The vegetable offerings are mainly tomatoes aimed at the patio veggie grower, including some heirlooms like Green Zebra, Black Prince, and Riesentraube. The bulk of the catalog is still perennials, shrubs, and bulbs.

There’s no question that a gorgeous ripe tomato—especially a green, yellow, or purple heirloom—is as seductive as any flower, but can a couple pages of tomatoes justify a cover? I guess. In the magazine world you put on the cover what you think will sell the book, and in this gardening season, clearly, veggies rule.

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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. Veggies have always ruled in my garden, glad to see everyone else join in. There is no excuse if you garden, or even if you don’t, to not try to grow at least one vegetable you can eat. And tomatoes are a great choice for that one vegetable.

  2. Its a similar client that buys the heirloom tomatoes they sell. I’ve received healthy perennials in little pots from them, so why not a healthy veg. They’ve also been selling grassy meats for a few years, though I can’t partake in that.

    I haven’t read second nature, but his Pollan’s later volumes. I’m spinning a post off his
    and wish I had his time for research!

  3. Makes sense to me. I’m seeing more and more clients request edibles in their landscape designs, and I just signed one up yesterday that wants to devote the entire area beyond the pool to fruit trees, berry bushes, and vegetable beds. Peoples’ priorities are changing, and it’s really an exciting time to be a designer and have a front row seat. So, kudos to WFF- apparently they’re actually paying attention to what their customers want.

  4. I’ve heard gardening is up 20% this year, over last year. Partially due to the economy. I can see their reasoning in in catering to the demand for edibles.

  5. Did you see the prices, those are very wff. 40 bucks for six plants in 3 inch pots, ouch. I started 8 varieties for about twelve dollars with loads of plants left over to give to family friends and neighbors.

  6. In 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared the tomato to be a vegetable in a tariff dispute–tariffs were payable for vegetables but not fruits. Then again, the European Union declared the carrot a fruit in its 1979 Jam Directive, which set standards for how much “fruit” must be contained in jams.

    Sooo, while botanically we think of tomatoes as fruits and carrots as vegetables, laws can dictate otherwise.

  7. I’m not surprised at all – 21st century “victory gardens” is all the rage. . . . and it’s the only way we can get an edible tomato around here . . .

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