Monday peeves

Blooming in Buffalo
Blooming in Buffalo

It was a beautiful weekend and I spent most of it outside weeding, planting, deadheading, and enjoying the scent of oriental lilies. So what do I have to complain about? Not much, just this:

A bag of mulch by any other name
What’s in this? I like the stuff; it’s finely shredded and looks a lot like the compost underneath it. I could guess, of course, and I’m not really all that concerned, but it does seem as though there’s enough real estate on this big bag of mulch to include a simple list of the shredded woods it contains. From the scent, I’d say pine is involved—why not say so? If mulch going to use the word “gold” in its name, it should proudly disclose the ingredients that justify the name.

Packaging run amok
It’s the plants that are supposed to be beautiful (and for the most part they are)—not the labels. Native plants have worked out very well for me. I couldn’t get along without my eupatoriums, rudbeckia, leucothoe, and all the ephemeral woodland natives like hepatica and trillium that we enjoy here in spring.  And I think gardeners across the country have been realizing the benefits of using natives, so much so that we no longer need all this packaging and labeling destined for the recycling bin or the landfill. I think the big plastic sticks that hold the labels annoy me the most. Well, those and the extra few bucks that all this “beauty” is costing me.

High grass
Buffalo’s city inspectors have yet to learn the difference between a neglected lot and a perennial garden according to this report. Big sigh. It’s called gardening, people. But the good news is that they’ve yet to invade my neighborhood; otherwise, our block’s luxuriant curbside plantings would surely be ticketed. Just one or two horticultural training sessions would fix this!

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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. Wow, I read the piece about ticketing for high grass. I guess you can’t fault them for a good idea (in principle), but now that it’s run amok, how do you reign it in?

  2. I got dragged into one such dispute between a home owner and the city, i.e., a front lawn that was either natural/native vegetation (supposedly prairie) or weeds. Actually in this case the dominant plant was Queen Anne’s Lace, wild carrot, and it’s not native, although naturalized. So TPP declared them weeds. The home owner challenged my standing (professional botanist) to make such a determination. Later gave her information about native plant societies, seed and plant sources, and more. If and when her “lawn” gets redone, hope I can help her defend it. Even worse though was a sub-division that didn’t want someone to have their fruit/veg garden in the front yard even though neatly done and well cared for.

    • I’ve learned one thing well in my 49 years in the plant industry: What some calls “weeds” others call “garden plants” But I agree, a weed is indeed a weed. They prohibit your plants from getting the proper nutrition and smothering them out for all the moisture and nutrition needed to grow, multiply and thrive.

  3. Good luck when they come by your block. I admire your sense of delusion, however, if you believe you can educate a bureaucrat to change their spots. You’ll have to go to the city government because the ‘crat will only do what the regs tell them.

    That article with the lilies that were ticketed would have me up in arms, literally. They ticketed that guy merely because they could.

  4. Seems to me if you are going to give people the power to write these tickets, it would help if they could actually identify plants. Not being able to differentiate between grass and daylilies is pretty sad. A short course in basic botany, perhaps?

  5. I agree so much with the mulch complaint. When everything else, from canned veggies to aspirin packets is clearly labeled, why not ALL the stuff we are using in a garden that grows food for our table, or raises dust in our faces as we work? If you’re not willing to label it, I’m not willing to buy it.

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