Hard Truths of Gardening from Sunset


We all know that great gardening information is regional, except when it's not.  For example, one of my favorite blogs is Sunset Magazine's Fresh Dirt, and I totally GET its Hard Truths of Gardening, despite living nowhere near the climate they write about.

First, Sharon Cohoon's list of Hard Truths includes a point about plants that are landscape staples and it doesn't matter a whit that here in Maryland our tried and true plants are different ones.  And to her Truth about buying plants for their flowers being as stupid as like choosing a wife for her bonnet I say absolutely!  and Thank you~!

Now notice Sharon's eighth Truth – about paving stones with groundcovers between them:  "Spending hours weeding where you walk is dumb."  Hmm, I've always wondered about that, what with all the suggestions that replacing lawn with pavers and groundcovers is so low-maintenance.  (The notion that lawn substitutes are lower-maintenance is a prime candidate for myth-busting, imho.)

And of course the Truth that hand-modeling is incompatible with gardening?  This proud owner of dirty fingernails agrees.

Next, on co-blogger Jim's McCausland's list, my faves are the last two:

  • Tree topping is usually evil, always expensive, rarely effective, and dependably ugly.
  • Sometimes unlimited money just allows tasteless gardeners to fully express themselves.

Great lists, Jim and Sharon.  Great blog, too, even for an ignorant Easterner.


  1. I am giggling so hard I can barely type. I love this. I recently found your blog, (I must live under a hydrangea petiolaris smothered rock).
    Topping trees is like de-clawing a cat. It makes me really upset. If you don’t want a cat with claws, you don’t want a cat. And if you don’t want a big tree, don’t plant and oak!
    So glad to have found you.

  2. Sunset Magazine has a very good gardener and writer at the helm with Sharon Cohoon.

    But I disagree with her assertion that planting in between stepping stones is dumb or can cause a lot of unnecessary weeding.

    The solution is to choose the right plant for your interplanting.
    Dymondia grows so dense that it won’t let the adjacent wild meadow grass seeds take hold .

    Or in my own side yard garden an interplanting of isotoma between the stepping stones has squeezed out even the oxalis.

    The success lies in knowing your climate, soil type, the surrounding weeds and proper plant choice .

  3. Hey Susan,
    Fresh Dirt is on my short list of recommended blogs. I’m in the west so much of the information that Sharon Cohoon shares is very relevant to me. I like the ratio of garden/hort to landscape design and garden lifestyle information that is shared.

    Great stuff.
    Shirley Bovshow

  4. Fresh Dirt is one of my must-reads. Like Shirley, I really like their posts about landscape design. Austin’s growing conditions are a mix of east and west, so I get my “west” fix from their blog.

  5. I bet there’s a lot of truth there! These articles are usually informative in a funny kind of way, but honestly, articles that refer to things as “dumb” or gardeners as “tasteless” don’t appeal to me. I’m sure I do things that are dumb and I will learn a few years or so why they’re dumb and I will call myself dumb, but to read about something I do or want to do (like maybe add a ground cover between pavers) and learn that I’m “dumb”, just …makes me feel bad…and “dumb”. I’m sure there are sections of my little garden that don’t fit other people’s taste, but to be called tasteless – it also just…makes me feel bad. As a newbie gardener, I totally embrace any new technical information or even tips about design, but hopefully in a way that doesn’t make me feel judges. Actually, though I’m far from being a hand model, I do enjoy nice tootsies and get regular pedicures throughout the summer that get wrecked when I do a lot of gardening. Some may see this as incompatible, or may even call me dumb, and maybe it is, but alas, this is just who I am.

  6. I despair about my hands with their ingrained dirt and broken nails but if anyone seems to be staring at them I just explain that I am a gardener. Most people are at least interested and not one cares about my hands – only their own.

  7. You wrote: Hmm, I’ve always wondered about that, what with all the suggestions that replacing lawn with pavers and groundcovers is so low-maintenance. (The notion that lawn substitutes are lower-maintenance is a prime candidate for myth-busting, imho.)

    -Hmm, isn’t that why non-gardners love their lawns.

  8. Watching a tree-topping crew at the Public Storage across the street from my back door last week mutilate their street trees for the 3rd time this year, I finally figured out WHY they do it: to keep their signage free and clear of any branch possible blocking any portion of it. 🙁 One wonders why they just could not have planted the trees in a better locale in the first place.

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