Love/love or love/hate?


 As most of our readers are already aware, Plant Delights
is known for many things—its dizzying selection of perennials, its lush
Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, its
ability to find or breed the weirdest , most wonderful cultivars you’ve ever
seen, and —last, but hardly least—its charming and intrepid founder Tony Avent,
who, when he’s not off on exotic plant-hunting expeditions or speaking
engagements, is composing witty plant descriptions and opinionated essays for
the voluminous PDN catalog.

Now that the wonderful book-size catalogs that the old
Heronswood produced are long gone, PDN is one of the few that is more than just
plant porn—it’s entertaining to read. (Old House Gardens is another catalog
with personality.) But a recent exchange I had on Facebook reminded me that not
everyone thrills to the twisted cultural commentary of the typical PDN catalog
cover drawing.

Gardening can make strange bedfellows. While I can safely
say that the majority of my friends here in Buffalo are on similar political wavelengths—you know how that can happen—this is far from the case with
my fellow garden bloggers. Gardening and blogging about gardening is what we
have in common, but often we’re worlds apart on other matters. And it doesn’t matter
at all.

Likewise with the PDN catalog covers, which seem designed to
be both amusing and annoying. I may not agree with whatever they might be
trying to say, but I have 8 other garden catalogs with pictures of flowers on
them. There is only one PDN, and nobody else offers many of the plants they
do—even for a zone 5er like me.

 BTW, you can read hate mail from people who hate the covers on the PDN website. Here’s a sample:

is really disgusting crap you send out as a catalog cover. Go watch your Fox
News and don't bother me anymore. No more catalogs, no more email updates.
There will be no more orders. I don't need any right-wing fruitcakes sending me

fine for them. As for me, no silly drawing is going to stand between me and Syneilesis
palmate “Kikko.” The $65 pricetag might …

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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. Hah. This is where being a left-of-Centre Canadian comes in handy. I don’t get tooo engaged in US political scene (though it’s more entertaining than ours, to be honest) so I don’t care about Avent’s politics. I like the covers, and I love the info, and i can’t get his plants anyway up here without tripping off some international security alert, so I have to just love them, and all the bloggers I read from afar.

  2. I think they are creative and very funny (most of the time), but I can see where they would rub people the wrong way. Truth is, it’s a big country, and everyone has an opinion. Tony chooses to give his and doesn’t seem to care what any of us think.

    I liked what you wrote: “Gardening and blogging about gardening is what we have in common, but often we’re worlds apart on other matters. And it doesn’t matter at all.” It doesn’t matter. At all. Can’t wait to see my blogging friends at Buffa10.~~Dee

  3. I’m with Elizabeth – love the catalog, love the bravado, love the plants, gulp at some prices but what the heck…

    And Jody – you can import. 🙂 Phyto etc. I did last year. When you want ’em, you want ’em.

  4. I don’t necessarily agree with the PDN covers but I do find them amusing and a nice break from other covers. But I will say that really it’s probably not the best business move. I can’t imagine why you would take the risk of offending half your audience. Money’s good no matter which end of the political spectrum it’s coming from, right? It’s not a the decision I would make if it were my business, but it’s not so PDN can do what the like.

  5. I always hate the covers. Always. Does it stand in the way of my considering them as a supplier? No. I’m pretty sure if I had to stop using businesses whose politics or business model or was disagreeable to me I’d probably have literally nowhere to shop.

  6. I enjoy his political cartoons for what they are.

    The plant selection is brilliant and inspiring but I’ve never ordered from him due to the steep price and that I can usually find the same plant here in my own ‘hood.

    Love his writing and stories.

  7. Being intolerant of differing opinions is ugly whether is comes from the left or the right. Does anyone actually think it matters to the plants? Let him have his politically incorrect covers, the buzz about them likely has had more people seek his catalogs and buy his plants.

  8. It’s called Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press (though could you really call a catalog “press”?), not to mention Satire is protected by the Constitution.

    I present a solution to those offended. If you are so offended by the cover, just go buy your perennials elsewhere. And those rare varieties only available at PDN? You have a choice, consider that the cover is not so offensive to prevent you from buying the plant there, or stick to your political guns and go without. It’s not like there are no other nurseries out there offering new selections. Basically, if you don’t like it, change the TV channel/radio station- or in this case, nursery.

    Keep on truckin’ PDN!

  9. I spent an hour this last Saturday reading there emails I especially liked the ones from the twilight zone….laughed my ass off!

  10. I love political cartoons, satire, black humor,was weened on Mad Magazine. PDN’s covers have never really hit me as all that funny, politically correct or not. I have ordered some plants and none have survived in my garden. Do I blame PDN? No, I figure I have the wrong plant in the wrong place. Still love to look at the catlogue. Actually, I am finding the folksy letter in the front of the White Flower Farms catalogue more offensive just for its phoniness.

  11. “That is really disgusting crap you send out as a catalog cover. Go watch your Fox News and don’t bother me anymore. No more catalogs, no more email updates. There will be no more orders. I don’t need any right-wing fruitcakes sending me stuff.”

    Always enlightening to hear the views of an open-minded liberal.


  12. Love the covers! I just heard Tony speak this week in Houston. He was great! I am glad to see someone so passionate about his profession.

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