Trendy in a bad way


Flowers by Shutterstock
Flowers by Shutterstock

For those who, like me, read trend reports with fascinated horror (Really? Animal prints? Still?), here’s one that’s a little more fun—Today’s Garden Center’s Top 10 Most Hated Garden Trends.

There are several I dislike with equal fervor, a few others are more garden industry inside baseball stuff, and a couple are just kind of strange. Some excerpts:

“Many plant lovers shudder when they hear the term ‘fairy gardening.'” Yes.

“Breeding for color only. … A lot of poorly performing plants resulted.” Yes. And this is not just about the fluffy chartreuse echinaceas. The first thing that goes with obsessive breeding for one quality or other is scent, especially with roses, but also with annuals like petunias and nicotiana. I just don’t see the point of a garden that doesn’t smell like a garden.

The top industry complaint is that the big boxes are getting the independent brands that were once only seen at IGCs. This is not a complaint gardeners will commonly make, especially those who do not have access to a wide selection of IGCs in their community. If the big boxes get better plants, it helps gardeners. Luckily, I’m able to shop at 5-10 IGCs and locally-owned nurseries that have earned my loyalty. I know that’s not the case for everybody.

The most interesting “most hated” trend was #7. Gen Y Getting Too Much Attention. This was more along the lines of “hating having to learn about a new market.” I can only judge by the younger gardeners (and non-gardeners) I know in Western New York—and I do know plenty.  Basically, the ones who are getting into gardening are doing it for the same reason I started. They finally have a space where they can garden. And it’s true that a lot of them are more into growing food—as are we all.

Those of you who live in the Northeast should consider getting on the mailing list for Jane Milliman’s Ear to the Ground newsletter. It’s where I saw this trend link, as well as a lot of other interesting pieces of news and garden industry gossip. Jane also edits the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal. Although some of the news is local, Ear to the Ground is entertaining and smartly put-together. So much better than the marketing crap I get in my mailbox daily. My trend request—more like this!

P.S. Happy Earth Day, everyone! It would have been trendy to post an environment-themed rant today, but I will instead have one later this week.

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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 cannot bring myself to believe that anyone actually buys the blue orchids languishing on the shelves of my local Costco….

    Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that people do buy that hideous colored mulch….why , oh why?!

  2. I like miniature gardening because it appeals to the part of me that never grew up, the part that used to get lost in a world populated by plastic farm animals & Tonka trucks & tiny dolls. However, I hate the term “fairy gardening”. It just seems … silly. If I had the room and the time I’d have a garden in miniature, just for fun. Maybe when I have grandchildren who’ll appreciate it w/me.

  3. As a Gen Y gardener living near predominantly big-box garden centers, I’m less than impressed. Oh sure, they try to seduce me with self-watering window boxes and heirloom organic balcony seed combos, but the plants need more soil depth and if I only want two of the seeds offered in the four pack that is cheaper than buying the two individually, I now have two seed packets that I have no use for (and probably all four packets will “expire” before I’ve gone through half the seeds). I think there’s a real Gen Y market that independent garden centers could seduce (and it might overlap with a retiring and down-sizing older market), if they actually bothered to recrute Gen Y gardeners and not just read their pinterest posts. Mix and match options, small batches, etc. And stop trying to sell me succulents, wolly pockets, living walls, or make me build a pallet garden. I dont have pallets, I live in an apartment.

  4. Elizabeth, thanks so much for the tip about Jane Milliman’s “Ear to the Ground” newsletter! I just joined the state board of Federated Garden Clubs as the “New Trends in Horticulture” chairman, and this should give me a lot of material. Needless to say, I’m a longtime UGJ subscriber, but I was unaware of this other newsletter.

  5. Half these sol called “trends” have been going on for years.

    I love the start of the article, “Interestingly, many of the most hated trends that aggravate plant purists are the same ones that make a lot of money.” Who are these so called “plant purists?” What is a “plant purist?”.

    The horticultural trade media is just looking for something to fill space in their publications, and these kind of articles do just that.

    I use to read these publications but I get so much more in depth and realistic information from trade groups on The Internet.

  6. Just a note on hated trend of fairy gardening from someone who has studied this very closely throughout the last decade – and I must use this soapbox to separate it from true miniature gardening, if I may.

    Manufacturers have pushed the fairy garden trend into the IGCs because they see an opportunity to try to sell a ton of “Gifty-Stuff” (I’m being polite) to the unsuspecting masses. This “Gifty-Stuff” will be landfill within a decade, unfortunately, because it’s easier to create a whimsical fairy house than it is a produce a realistic house that is true to scale. This “Gifty-Stuff” will literally fade and weather as quickly as the customer’s interest, I suspect. And note that the fairies have flitted in and out of our garden centers before.

    The growers have also pushed fairy gardening – and just about any plant is recommended for the fairy garden nowadays because the growers just want to sell their plants. “Fairy garden plants” are plentiful, easy to grow and the turnover is much faster than the plants recommended for miniature gardening. And the unsuspecting customer just laps this up, trusting the source.

    Miniature Gardening, however, is a literally gardening in miniature. It’s not new – but it is new-ish to the marketplace and it’s being lumped into fairy gardening by those who are not stopping to note the huge difference. Gee, does that mean a bonsai is a fairy garden if I put a fairy beside it?

    Miniature gardening is all about the plants, the garden, how it grows, and it encompasses all the design points that full-size gardening does – but everything is scaled down to miniature. One bench or one birdbath is all that is needed to cinch the scale and create that enchantment that is sparking the gardener’s imaginations these days. Miniature gardening is for everybody and anybody.

    What’s my proof? I’ve had the same customers for over a decade that come back each year (or each season!) to find something new for their hobby. I have miniature gardens that are several years old, the oldest being close to 10 years old and its still growing together beautifully – and still looks miniature.

    Timber Press is all over this new hobby this coming summer with a new title that is sure to send ripples (or shudders?) throughout the garden world. Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World by Yours Truly, is due out in late June and will be on your IGC bookshelf by July. It will separate the fairy gardeners from the miniature gardeners – and it will introduce a brand new skill and a new level of gardening to the hard-core gardeners – pun intended. End ‘o’ rant. Thanks for the soapbox, Ladies! ;o)

  7. I love you, Janit Calvo!!! Perfection in a commentary. I get so crazed when I see retailer sucking up the Florida assortments of ‘mini-plants’ and foisting them on unsuspecting consumers. The only ‘mini’ part about 99% of these is that they are CURRENTLY small, and that is often due to cheical growth regulators. If we hope to keep this segment (been to long to still be called a trend) perking along, we ALL need to provide proper decoratives as well as proper plant material, so the consumer will actually enjoy the product and feel it provides FAIR value–not cheap.

  8. As a GenX gardener, I am of course much too busy drinking my non-fat sugar-free chai latte with soy milk and talking on my iPhone 5 to be concerned about their concerns.

  9. I would beg to differ regarding the comment about “If the big boxes get better plants, it helps gardeners”. As this unfortunate trend drive more IGC’s out of business (and it will), gardeners can ask the pimply faced stock clerk at Home Depot what to spray on the roses – and we will see how that goes. The recent move by Monrovia in particular is going to have longer term ramifications, as IGC’s move to limit their future pre-bookings and shop now for ‘just in time’ inventory during the season, further driving down wholesaler’s turn on product. Local independent garden centers may be the last vestige of local small business left for the conscientious gardener – and we must do everything we can to support them.

    • Well Said! plants to the big box stores are a lost leader. Their work force is transient and generally not well versed in horticulture people that have spent a lifetime learning their trade won’t work for pennies. I don’t choose to buy from them unless it is a hard good and even then a good IGC will offer more selection. Lets face facts when it is your whole focus you do it better and know all the in’s and out’s of your business. Let the neophyts have the big boxes and apparently Monrovia has gotten greedy and is no longer using their brain, they should look at what has happened to CNN who was once the news leader and is now just a joke! If I want to know what Justin Bieber is up to I tune in CNN but not for real news

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