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They might not be a good choice for street containers like this one.

Black is the new petunia

I saw the black and green ones everywhere last summer, but now Black Velvet is the big buzz. Black plants are tough. You want to like them, but a plant is not like a dress (sorry, Hort Couture). I don’t need my garden to look thinner, and a color that recedes as much as black is only going to be so useful.  There is a reason Ball calls it combo-friendly. The universal green found in all gardens has always been enough of a quiet foil for me. (But who am I kidding; I’ll probably buy some of those damn black petunias just for fun. I won’t be able to resist.)

Gardening is legal in Utah

Was it in danger of becoming otherwise? Apparently so, because the Utah legislature just passed a Basic Right to Garden law (HB249), which prevents any federal takeover of family gardens. According to this article, it ensures that “Utahns who want to share their garden bounty with family, friends and other state residents should be free to do so.” The law reacts to the recent Food Safety Act—which does exempt home gardens, famers’ markets, and roadside stands—but the Utah legislature just wants to be on the safe side.

And that’s not all Utahns are worried about. During the same legislative session they passed a law that will encourage children to play outside.

Strange bedfellows

Monsanto and the Obama administration. The feds have just fully approved Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa and Roundup Ready GMO sugar beets (joining RUR soy, cotton, and corn), despite the efforts of such groups as The Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now, the Organic Seed Alliance, the Sierra Club, and many other organizations who feel that the release of more glysophate into the environment, the resulting evolution of glysophate-resistent weeds, and  the contamination and cross-pollination with other crops were all unacceptable results of this approval. These deregulations have been in play for a couple years. I don’t know as much about this issue as many others who have written about it; all I can say is that altering more and more of our food supply so we can spray lots more weed killer sounds like a bad idea to me.

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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. The Monsanto issue is one of the reasons I have doubled my growing area and have bought strictly organic heirloom seeds so I can save my own seeds to feed my family. It may seem like overkill but who knows how much longer our food supply will be poison free…

    How do they pass a law to encourage children to play outside? What does it say?

    I’m not a fan of black plants. Here in the Northeast, things are dark and dreary all winter long, I want bright happy colors in my gardens 🙂

  2. No use for black plants – leaves or flowers. I want my garden bright, & I agree that green is the best background color in the garden.

    RUR crops – really don’t want to eat them, or have anything to do with them. Sounds like the potential for “unintended consequences” is astronomical.

    Can understand Utah passing the Right to Garden Law – there are a lot of big families, survivalists, & people who simply prefer to live off the grid there. Grow-your-own food is not a new idea there. Wish it was encouraged in more places.

    However, how do you pass a law that encourages kids to play outside ? Does it create “watch” groups of parents who take turns looking after the kids on suburban streets & in parks ? Mandate excellent weather (neither hot nor cold) for a certain # of days/year ? Require an automatic “kill switch” on all gaming devices, videos screens & monitors that activates after X# of minutes of use ? Or maybe it mandates an absence of both electronics & adults for a certain # of non-school hours, so that kids must use their wits to entertain themselves ?

  3. The dangers of GMO’s are several orders of magnitude greater than the threats posed by mere pesticides. The threat is inside the plants, the threat is replicated, the threat has very complex biological effects that are hard to trace, the threat is being very carefully covered up by profit making interests, and the threat spreads uncontrollably in the environment.

    This technology is the most powerful technology ever played with by profit making entities and it is being released on all of us without any safety studies.

    I hope gardeners don’t look away from this topic. It is 100% relevant to everybody.

  4. My sister is a private school teacher in Seattle. She recently got a new kid in her class (he’s coming from a public school). He doesn’t know what to do at recess. He has no idea how to PLAY.

    When this same sister was a public school teacher in Chicago, her school had a play ground. But they weren’t allowed to use it because the kids might get shot. So recess was inside in a gym.

    Perhaps the Utah law is meant to influence not just parents but schools?

  5. Great Blog, I started gardening a few months ago and now its all I want to do, I have been in a related business ( Patio Furniture ) for several years but until now I found that is great hoby 2, thanks for all the info, I have a lot to learn I think, jejeje

  6. Wow, Utah is quite a state.

    Though it sounds silly, some kids and parents are so disconnected from outside, from nature, from all that we gardeners take oh-so-for granted that yes, legislation can help put them back on track. Behavior can (but doesn’t always I admit) change with policy that acknowledges and attempts to fix the problem. Can it hurt to encourage kids to go outside and play? Probably not, and if it turns some heads and changes thinking, and gets even one family away from screens and off their duffs and hands in the dirt that would be a good thing.

    As to Utahans worrying about the feds taking out or taking control of backyard gardens, I think the feds have bigger fish to fry (like sticking their nose into where exactly GMO pollution is blowing and who it’s affecting)…so much got twisted around about recent passage of that law…

    And if food gardens are partially about public health and safety as Utahans apparently think, and with which I agree, they have set an odd bar. Texas just passed, following Utah’s lead, a law that allows university students and faculty to carry guns on college campuses so everyone will feel safer. Fortunately, there is no argument as to the health merits of carrying guns. These are the only two states with such a law.

    All in all, sounds like some mixed up thinking about what is good for people and the planet.

  7. I have to point out that in Utah family gardens are extremely common. Not that any government agency is going to swoop in and take them away any time soon, but it’s good politics to protect something so popular!

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