Here’s to another year of hapless but fun gardening

Gardening will be taking place indoors through mid-March, and that’s fine with me.

In 2019, I will celebrate twenty years as a property-owning gardener. (We won’t count the years of balcony gardening with a few pots and hanging baskets.) While there has been progress, of a sort, I think my experience has shown that gardening failures really don’t matter that much, as long as you’re willing to rely on the knowledge of others, deploy disposable income where necessary, and just be happy with what you have.

Here’s what I haven’t done:

-Grown anything from seed aside from an optimistic try in 1999 with a can of wildflower seeds for shade, thrown into an obscure spot. A stand of anemone canadensis remains from that half-hearted effort. So, kind of a fail, there, but I love the foliage and long-lasting flowers of the a.c. in this difficult spot.

-Composted. I just do not have the space and the small tumblers have not worked for me. (And really there isn’t a good spot even for one of those, when you have a courtyard garden.) Fortunately, we have services to pick up scraps here, and soon I think the city will take this up.

-Divided a perennial, except when I dug up part of a hosta to give it to a Garden Walk visitor. It just hasn’t seemed necessary.

-Hoed anything or owned/used a cultivator

-Mowed (no turfgrass)

-Worried about whether I have enough native plants. I plant what works.

-Grown food—too much shade and find it impractical for the space I have. I love our local farmers.

-Paid attention to trend reports or design advice in magazines (mainly put off by the perfect gardens shown)

Am I even a gardener?

Well, yes. Just the kind of gardener who hates to fuss over things, isn’t interested in neatness, and gave up on perfection long ago. I look at my garden as something there to make me happy, not something to work in. I see and smell the flowers, overlook the problem areas, and try to avoid the chores as much as possible. (I find weeds easiest to get rid of when they’re really big.)

I’ve been lucky with my garden, and I wish you all the same luck and the same ability to overlook the flaws and problems and enjoy what you have. Happy New Year!

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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. Love this! Probably coz I’m exactly the same type of gardener as you, with the one exception that I’ve divided my share of perennials. Free plants! And I USED to mow before I went lawnless, which is much easier in my small townhouse garden.


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