What I want in 2014



It would be nice to see these again.
It would be nice to see these again.

Pardon the delay in my 2014 wish list. Here it is with one caveat—it’s really more of an impossible dream list.

  1. No more bug-of-the-months. There have been way too many overwrought scares about pests. Pests will always be with us. Rather than freak-out attacks on bugs like the emerald ash borer, I’d rather see proactive plantings that emphasize diversity and common sense solutions that downplay hysteria.
  2. No more plant-of the-year. There is no best plant of any year; there are only the plants that work for you. I hereby promise never to write about any plant that any organization says is the best for any year.
  3. Scotts Miracle-Gro can stop asking us or anyone else to blog about its crappy products, some of which may or may not have the term “organic” on the labels.
  4. Municipal composting programs should become universal.
  5. I’d really like to see alternatives to traditional turfgrass promoted everywhere as such, whether they be perennial groundcovers, sustainable grasses (such as eco-lawn and others), or combo plantings that use perennials and shrubs.
  6. Let flowers be celebrated! I’d love to see the beauty (and scent) of  flowers in all seasons emphasized over gardening as a necessary evil that should include as little work as possible.
  7. The term low-maintenance should be stricken from the gardening lexicon. Seriously. If people want to pave their domestic landscape entirely in concrete or if they hate tending to any living plant, that’s one thing. Otherwise, if you actually want to garden, than it should be clear that gardening done well—just like anything else—means working at it.
  8. HOAs should cease to regulate gardening in any way except for those obvious protections of public safety that might be accepted in the most liberal municipality.
  9.  As the GMO juggernaut rolls on unabated, at least let labeling be required. It seems little enough to ask.
  10. Regarding this winter—time to hit the fast-forward button!
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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 yahoo.com


  1. YESSSS!!!! Amen to everything you said, Elizabeth. Regarding “plant of the year”, the only time I write about that is when they rummage around in the archives and celebrate a plant like amsonia, that’s been around since God was a baby. WTF is up with that? Anyway, excellent post!

    What do we want? SPRING!! When do we want it? NOW!!

  2. Love the list, and totally agree about plant of the year. As for plant-of-the-year, I’m crossing my fingers that Lake Michigan will take so long to warm up I’ll be able to grow sweet peas and other cool-summer-lovers. If I’m right, California flowers will be my northwest Indiana plants-of-the-year.

  3. What a great list. Numbers 2, 6, 7, & 9 are my faves.

    I must confess to liking the “horticultural winners” labels. I see them as the Newbery Medal equivalent for the plant world, helping me decide between the various plants I wade through at the garden centre.

  4. How about bug-of-the-month columns highlighting some of the lesser known pollinators, predators, and just generally unknown garden inhabitants? Good Guy Bug-of-the-Months that encourage gardeners to live and let live so that our natural communities can regain some balance?

  5. Something that combines wish #1 and #9, enjoy:
    Nat Biotechnol. 2014 Jan;32(1):102-5. doi: 10.1038/nbt.2753. Epub 2013 Dec 8.
    Toxin delivery by the coat protein of an aphid-vectored plant virus provides plant resistance to aphids.


    I heard about it on this podcast:

    (they do say it will not actually happen or be approved, but it is an interesting concept)

  6. A good list. I would like more promotions of native pollinators, and more promotions of nurturing a healthy landscape. If you read nothing but the destructive non native insects and blights and diseases, you won’t plant anything! That said, I have seen the destruction caused by the Emerald Ash Borer and shudder to think what the Asian Longhorn beetle will do unchecked. Treat the landscape like yourself. Nurture it.

  7. Yes love the list! And the mixture of colors in the photo!
    Can refer folks to High Country Gardens in Colorado for low water lawn seed and plugs. They have a variety of mixes for different parts of the country. Funny story on that – we broadcast seed after aerating last year,then looking for the new shoots. None…none. Ahha moment – “This is slow growing grass! That’s the whole idea.” Laughed at myself and sure enough later there was the new growth.

  8. Yep!

    On #1 , sometimes the freak-out is warranted. ( Asian Longhorn Beetle)
    14% of trees in NY are white ash, even more here (18%). Having 1 in every 6 or 7 trees potentially die , especially along roads and power lines is could get expensive, so worth at least a moderate amount of worry and action. A lot of people make a living, at least in part , on white ash . If it’s gone, or banned, outside of the affected zone, it hurts.

  9. Thanks for having the courage to say all these things we should all start doing in our gardens.
    As of now I will never use ‘maintenance-free’ in relationship to gardening!

    In my experience everything I do in the garden is beneficial. It focuses my energy on one thing at a time, relaxes me and makes me feel better about everything: this is why I garden!

  10. You make some excellent points in this piece. I always enjoy your writing. I love gardening & have been doing it for almost 30 years. Reading about & learning about low-maintainence gardening plants & techniques is the only reason I can still have a garden. I cling to a few intensive areas that I glory in, but much of my yard is low-maintenance because I’m quite disabled. I have no desire to increase the amount of concrete around me & I can’t afford a gardener. Until a garden assistant is available free of charge, I will continue to appreciate the soothing beauty of my garden, incorrect as you may think it.

  11. On a related note, I just received my (hundredth?) e-mail from Wayside Gardens — this one with the tag line “These prestigious plants are in short supply.” I’m trying to understand how a plant can be prestigious. My garden could use all the honorifics anyone is willing to bestow.

    • Ha. I should have wished that the big nurseries would UNdiscover email blasts. But I didn’t because it’s unfair–why should they not be using the same tools every other company uses? Still–I get something from Park/Wayside every other day.

      I pay more attention to the ones that keep it to once a month, like Plant Delights.

  12. My garden is going to bring me nothing but pleasure this year… with the first of last year’s home grown wines (elderflower) bottled, the first mow of the year done, a glance at the dates for short break to London for RHS Chelsea and a rather feudal dividing up of the vegetable patch for my two daughters, things are already going according to plan.

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