Here’s someone who hasn’t lost his edge


Did you see the Renegade Gardener’s 2012 High Spot/Black Spot awards? I don’t always catch these, but Renegade Gardener Don Engebretson (award-winning Minnesota garden writer and designer) is recently a Facebook friend and that made it easier. There was much to love in this year’s batch of awards, but what I enjoy most are Engebretson’s trenchant comments on each awardee. To wit:

High Spot Award: Perennial of the Year: Martagon Lilies: “You aren’t gardening until you master bulbs.”
There’s more but this endorsement of bulb gardening hits to the heart of my gardening mission. Bulbs are why I garden, and martagons are some of the most rewarding bulbs I have ever planted. I am not crazy about the new hybrids, though. The original pink species remain my favorites. I am glad they are well established in my semi-shade.

 Black Spot Award: Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Guilty of Violations of Federal Pesticide Laws: “Do you see, Garden Writers Association (GWA)? This is why you don’t accept sponsorship cash from garden industry corporations, when part of your members’ responsibilities are reporting on garden industry corporations. When Scotts became an official sponsor of the GWA a few years back, some members quit, including yours truly.”
Hear, hear. I was a member of GWA for exactly one year. That was enough.

Black Spot Award: Dumbest Faux Trend: Matching Plants to Pantone Colors: “From yet another unfortunately electronic e-mail newsletter: ‘Pantone, the world’s color authority, has announced three shades of green will be the hot colors in spring 2013. Green is the ‘little black dress’ of the garden!’ Excuse me? Green is the soiled, gray sweat pants balled up in the bottom of the laundry hamper of the garden.”
I have always had utter disdain for color forecasting to begin with, but that was when it was for home design and clothes. And now, for plants? Really? And the color is … green?  It makes no sense to pay attention to color trends, ever, because you can’t change your colors often enough to keep up, even if you wanted to.  Color is important in the garden, but not color trends. There’s a difference.

I don’t agree with all of the Renegade’s iconoclastic awards—most important, I disagree with his views on GMOs—but posts like his are needed more than ever in the gardening world. Check it out!

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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. I’m anti-GMO, period, unlike Don, as far as I could tell–did I misread? But yes, there should be labeling, so I’d agree with that, of course.

  2. The California GMO labeling law was poorly written, and as Don say’s, “Labeling GE foods for consumers makes perfect sense, and should have been a slam-dunk.” It didn’t pass because as he say’s, ” the next time you want to pass a proposition requiring labeling of GE foods, start with experts in the food industry, introduce them to a few good legislators with expertise in writing bills, and leave the trial lawyers out of it.”

  3. Oh how could you not love the Faux Trend of matching flower colors with a Pantone color chart.
    It is utterly shear stupidity, and that’s what makes it so hilarious.
    I think it merits the golden trowel award for colorful black humor.

  4. Anti-GMO period? There are decades of data showing that the process of genetic modification is safe. Is there any amount of evidence that would convince you that GMOs are safe?

  5. Ahh the precautionary principle to only do that which has been proven to cause no harm. A most anti-scientific of principles since it is impossible to prove a negative (no harm). Nevermind, I make it a rule to not discuss religion on the internet.

    • There is ample proof of Roundup resistant super weeds being created from its over use on Roundup resistant crops. Now farmers are having to use more toxic herbicides like 2-4-D. There is ample proof of the pollen of BT corn drifting and killing unintended targets. There is ample proof of the pollen of a number of GM crops drifting and infecting non-GM crops. Harm has been proved. It is negative. Your smug attitude can’t stop the reality of the growing number of problems caused by GM crops from becoming more known.

  6. Oh duh~ he meant “Turk’s Cap” lilies for “Martagon Lilies”. Indeed a nice bulb to grow and behold in the wild.

  7. Well, his first “award” re: the plant markers really got my goat. So if you don’t know the botanical name of each plant in your garden (AND the breeder? puh-leez), or are merely forgetful, should you just not garden ? I use plant markers to remind myself of the botanical name, the variety, maybe the date planted, and if needed, when the fruit ripens. I lose journals, forget to make notations on calendars, have botanical names jump in and out of my brain. But if it’s written on a marker right there in front, not only do I have the info where I need it, but my husband on his rare forays into my green space will not decide that since he doesn’t recognize it, it must be a weed that needs pulling.

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