2015: the year of the do-nothing garden

If it's good enough for me, it will have to be good enough for everyone else.
If it’s good enough for me, it will have to be good enough for everyone else.

It’s a strange dichotomy. The sole reason I have a garden is so  I can enjoy its aesthetic and recreational benefits. My garden does not grow food, and it is not designed as a wildlife habitat (though they’re not discouraged). When I’m sitting in the garden, I may notice some design or maintenance issues, but for the most part, it’s perfect for what I need. It has flowers, scent, lush foliage, flowing water,  art, and plenty of amenities for socializing (plus, someone just gave us a portable bar). But in the expectation of official visitations from garden tourists and other garden writers, suddenly, I’m all about the improvements. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been replacing hardscaping, ripping out beds, putting in new ones, and  fussing over groundcovers. This is the year all that stops. If it’s good enough for me, it will have to be good enough for everyone else. These are easy resolutions to keep because they’re mostly what I do already.

So in 2015, I resolve to:

•Ignore weeds where I don’t think they’re doing any aesthetic or practical harm.

•Ignore all insect damage and do nothing, benign or otherwise, to prevent it.

•Buy and place huge full-grown plants, not bothering to take them out of their pots, in big gaps I notice right before Garden Walk. Do whatever with them afterwards.

•Ignore all the tall plants in front of the short plants

•Ignore big projects like the beds bordering the back alley that nobody really sees anyway.

•Ignore all the super-modern, spiffy-clean minimalist garden designs people keep posting in Facebook. In fact, think about blocking anyone who posts them, or at least clicking “I don’t want to see this.”

•Ignore … well you get the idea. This year I will live in the perfect garden, the one that only I see.

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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. I love this list ~ all great resolutions but I struggle with ignoring the tall plants in front of the short plants. Oh well, we all have our issues to work out!! =) Happy New Year. And sometimes, I find that I’m not even working in my garden at all, I’m just really playing in the dirt and watching the dog dig up the mice.

  2. Love it, going to adopt some of it, though I don’t have to prepare my garden for others to see it. It is just for me so perhaps I can be even a bit more lax? Sure I can!

  3. Good ones! I look forward to my new garden pleasing me enough that I can be as accepting about it as you are about yours. Which I’ve seen and love – and who wouldn’t? Susan

  4. Elizabeth! You are me.
    I had that tourist-visited garden with an acre of borders and paths and hedges and fountains and arbors and I spent a hundred million thousand dollars on it and all my spare time and then, ten years ago, I had kids. I also bought more land.
    Needless to say, I began neglecting my garden until a severe drought and a few fallen trees pushed me inside altogether and I ignored it for real. 4 or 5 or 7 years later I am pleased to announce that my garden is still really lovely – but it moved on without me, kind of like that guy you dated that was a train-wreck and then got his shit together after you separated…
    My garden has taught me HUGE lessons since I stopped messing with it.
    Good for you. Just be mindful of the extra pounds you’ll gain not gardening.

  5. I don’t have any resolutions at all – not even ignores – because if I am lucky – very lucky – I will be moving to a new house – and garden this spring. Now if I can only find that house every thing will be smooth sailing. I can tell you I am looking over all the Fling photos I have because so many of them are of small ‘urban’ gardens – which is what I hope to have. Too soon to really plan.

  6. I think if I add “just one more” garden to my house, I may never, ever sell it. Not that I want to, but I just wonder who would be as crazy as I am to put that much work into keeping this going. More and more perennials that are marginally important are quickly being replaced by reliable, durable shrubs.

    I hear ‘ya sister! Enough!!!

  7. In 2013, my garden was on the area Master Gardeners’ Garden Walk. I obsessed the entire winter and spring. It did make me correct bed line, move the tall plant that was in front of the short plant, and do a better job weeding. Once done, I realized I had certainly gotten the “rock up the hill”. Not that it was all down hill after that, but I had an accident and couldn’t do a lot in my garden the next year. I hadn’t even done any fall clean-up. So many commented on how great my garden looked the next year. There were even people who stopped the next year just to see it again, who had seen it during the garden walk year.

    I spent a lot more time just sitting in my garden this year. It has been restorative.

  8. Inspiring list – I always think of the garden as a metaphor for life, and I guess the lesson is to accept what we’ve got, and not be always wanting something different. I exhaust myself changing the garden, so I’ll try to adopt your philosophy and just enjoy and potter, without making major changes.

  9. Good luck with your resolutions! I say things like this every winter, then succumb to the madness again each spring.

  10. Amen, sister. It helps to remember that to most everyone who sees your garden, it’s entirely awesome. The gardener is the one who knows where all the warts are. Tell that fussbudget gardener to bugger off!

  11. How did you come upon my list? Love it, well said and thank you for listing.
    Those tighty whitey gardens are annoying.

  12. This is the year I have projects for the handyman aka spouse. I want my grape trellis of old galvanized pipe and I want it this year, this is not high on his priority list as he thinks it will not be attractive and why plant Concord grapes when I get them for free? Cause I want my own.
    And it is the year for raised beds. My knees would appreciate it. I like the look of metal watering troughs. This gets another eye roll.

  13. Thanks, this post is great reinforcement to my decision to reduce the time and money I spend on gardening. I’m tired of dealing with weather and widlife (including voracious deer, rabbits, chipminks, and moles). I’ve lost all my lilies to red lily beetles, the bearded iris to borers, and the peonies are now succumbing to root nemotodes. It’s time to spend more time reading and quilting.

  14. Those resolutions would be impossible to keep. I’ve met many neighbors gardening. Passersby actually talk to me. My garden and me toiling in it has thankfully opened the door to many things social.
    I couldn’t give it up!

  15. But I enjoy the work!!! The ‘gardening’ is the point of my garden 🙂

    But then I have very low standards anyway and my yard is entirely too big for me so I never had the intention of keeping up with weeding or producing the perfect perennials. I think my resolution will simply be:

    1) Not all at once

  16. […] at The Garden Rant, the discussion began with Elizabeth Licata’s 2015: the year of the do-nothing garden She gives a list of resolutions that she is not going to do, which includes fussing over every […]

  17. The lily beetles and the little green worms on the roses, these must be squished everyday, but the rest of the list I already subscribe to.

  18. creative idea, natural growth without intervention seems impossible to keep garden beautiful.
    But I expect to see what your garden goes, oh, don’t forget to post some pics of your garden during the flourish season.

  19. This is a very good New Year’s resolution! Even though I love taking care of gardens, I agree that sometimes leaving things alone is the best solution. Lately people are so determined to have the perfect garden, that the projects they want to be done are practically ridiculous. I’ve seen projects where there is practically nothing naturally green left in the garden, which just seems wrong. The only thing I can’t ignore, are the insects. If they start eating up my plants, I will avenge them!

  20. IMHO it’s always best to let nature take it’s course.
    Plants and insects know their business and will do it even better without you meddling.

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