Be True To Yourself-A Rant


Sometimes while reading articles or posts about gardening there is a topic mentioned that makes me cringe. It gives me the shivers, upsets my stomach, turns up the heat on the blood boiling burner. Well, maybe that last one is an exaggeration, but just by a tiny bit.


It is the thought, even the thought of it upsets me, of trends in gardening. Arghhh, gackkkk, blechhhh, ickkkk and any other onomatopoeia that suggests discomfort.


Home gardening is such a singularly unique activity, done according to the rules of the location and terrain, soil structure, chemical makeup, you know the list. Also, the amount of time that the gardener has to devote to planting and maintenance varies wildly for reasons beyond their control.


What is planted and how it is tended is not a whim, changed each season like the hemline of a skirt. It is a constant, ruled by the very personal feelings and desires of the one doing the planting and tending. What will grow, what is available, what inspiration has caused the direction of a plot depends not on what some writer or business has declared to be the in thing at any given moment.


This is not the same as professionals chosing a plant of the year, one that might or might not do well in your garden. I have tried those and have had some successes and some failures. Growing something is not the same as buying a dress off the rack.


I do understand that sometimes these articles are an attempt at a broader readership. Folks like to read lists, the top five thises, or the ten worst thats. People who might only buy a hanging basket of Boston fern for their porches each year, and I have nothing against that, those ferns are lovely and if growing them gives anyone pleasure, I will be the first to cheer them on, might decide to read an article about the latest gardening trend for 2012. But I, personally don’t want to read such a thing. I almost called it drivel, but that would be way too harsh. Almost.


Might I suggest instead to those in charge of such things, to write about something I consider more helpful, like how to adjust your gardens to the changing weather conditions, be they more xeric or warmer than how it has been in the past. (In full disclosure, I have written three articles for magazines, none of them about trends, btw). Or write about growing natives, or bring to the attention of the gardening public some little used but wonderful plant families, like Sanguisorbas, S. ‘Tanna’ above. Or write about growing vegetables in large felt bags. (I am trying that one this year, post to come when the results are in.)


The point, if there is one to this little tirade, is that all gardeners, but especially newbies need achievable goals. It can be discouraging to think that the garden one just planted of all pink and blue flowers is hopelessly out of fashion, please don’t use that word about gardening or I shall need to lie down and close my eyes for a moment, because the color this year is orange. And I love orange! Be true to yourself, plant what you love and what will grow for you, even if it might be considered by some to be so ten minutes, or is it now ten seconds?, ago.

Frances

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42 Responses to Be True To Yourself-A Rant

  1. Here, here Frances. I too think it is a personal choice in gardening. I am in my second year of growing veggies in fabric bags with good success so far. Looking forward to your post….

    Thanks for the support, Donna. This is one of those things that really gets under my skin. you could even say that it *bugs* me. So far the felt bags are performing above expectations. So much so that I purchased a few more and have been planting seeds in them. My garden soil is nothing like what can be put into those bags.
    Frances

  2. stephen*z says:

    great comment and comentary o the fickle world we live in… do what you thiink is beautiful and let ther rest of the world come along for the ride…or not!
    Steve

    Thanks Steve. That pretty much sums it up.
    Frances

  3. Hi Frances,

    The wooley pockets were a new trend I saw at Ball Horticultural last year, some were huge and filled a whole wall. Some were small just enough room to plant some lettuce. I will be interested to see what you think of them. Trends manytimes are expensive experiments, some become staples in our gardens and others fade into the past.

    Eileen

    Hi Eileen, I have seen those wall pockets, too. What I have are felt bags shaped like buckets with two handles, about the size of a five gallon container made of very thick felt. They hold the moisture nicely and can be moved about to take advantage of the changing sun angles. So far, they are great.
    Frances

  4. Barbara H. says:

    Gardening requires investing of oneself – time, energy, thought – and emotions – joy, despair, surprise – as things grow or don’t grow. Success, or the lack of it, can direct future actions in our gardens. I think that makes gardeners less susceptible to “trends”. Or at least I hope so.

    I agree completely, Barbara. Being in style, or on trend is the least of what goes on in the mind of a gardener. Or that is my opinion about it, anyway.
    Frances

  5. Ginger goolsby says:

    Oh Frances, I so agree with you. So called trends are , in my opinion, meant more to get the Gardener to buy the most recent thing whether they are right for his/her garden or not . Grow what you like and the heck with the current “in” thing!!
    I love your posts and happy gardening to you.

    Thanks Ginger. I agree, the whole *trend* thing is about marketing more than help in gardening.
    Frances

  6. What Steve said. :) And thanks Frances for the gorgeous glimpses of your ever interesting taste in plants as you said something that needs saying. It would be so boring if we all marched to the same drummer. I do like the stimulation of new ideas and plants new to me. Can’t wait to see this veggies in bags thing you mentioned.

    Hi Georgia, thanks. This was one of those things, that trend stuff, that really gets under my skin, like a pebble in my shoe. I had to get it out there! The felt planting bags have worked so well, so far. I keep them close to the hose spigots to remind me to water them when needed.
    Frances

  7. Those articles irritate me too. Like gardening is fashion. What are they thinking?? I suppose they are just drumming up business.

    Thanks for the support, Lisa. They are just trying to sell stuff, is what I think, too. That is not in the best interest of the gardener, to me.
    Frances

  8. Gail says:

    Frances, I feel the same…the whole trends thing is more often an attempt to sell folks an entire new collection of something than to educate. xxoogail PS I love Sanguisorbas, S. ‘Tanna’!

    Hi Gail, thanks. Selling stuff is not what I want to read about when disguised as an informative article. It is an advertisement, which is fine, but not what I am looking for in gardening magazine articles. Tanna is fantabulous!
    Frances

  9. Rose says:

    Amen! Oh, Frances, what is the saying about great minds thinking alike? Or perhaps the fairies have planted the seeds of this thought in several brains this summer solstice. I just posted a similar thought in reaction to the gardens of Asheville, and then I read Skeeter’s thoughts after visiting Haywood Community College, echoing the same sentiment. Perhaps it’s because I still consider myself somewhat of a newbie to gardening, that I would read all these articles and get dismayed because my own garden didn’t live up to these expectations. But Asheville liberated me–I realized after seeing so many different styles of gardens that all those trends and top “thises and thats” don’t really matter, it’s what makes YOU happy that counts. Your garden is a thing of beauty, Frances, whether it’s trendy or not.

    Thanks so much, Rose. It makes me very happy that you took away from the Asheville Fling that any style of garden is great, it should make the gardener happy! I need to dash over and ready your post, and Skeeter’s. Trends are for hemlines and tie widths, not plantings, or that is what I think, anyway.
    Frances

  10. Gaz says:

    Trends come and go, but many just seem to be down to the retailers creating something new to sell new plants, ideas and equipment. The best gardens ignore the current trends :)

    I agree, Gaz, thanks for joining in the conversation here. I can appreciate the need to sell stuff by businesses, but how about marketing natives that do well and benefit pollinators instead of what is this year’s special color?
    Frances

  11. I see this amongst mostly ‘non-gardeners’ every spring at the garden center where I work. They shop for plants for their yards, porches, and patios like they’re looking for throw pillows for their couch. They simply ‘must’ have bright yellow and orange flowers that grow in the shade otherwise their whole color scheme is off! , . . . . . sigh, . . . . while they carry the newest issue of some gardening magazine with the ‘right’ color combinations under their arms. . . .

    You have first hand experience, Ravenmistfarm, of this *trend* deal. Seasoned gardeners understand that fashion has very little to do with the actual nuts and bolts of growing things. Let us hope they evolve, those newbies. We all started out looking for pretty colors.
    Frances

  12. Love your series of onomatopoeias…I pronounced them all in my head with fervor and enthusiasm! Yes, gardening trends are for the birds (“hey”, the birds say, “don’t dump trends on us”) .
    I tend to skim rather them read thoroughly many gardening articles on the latest and greatest if it’s about color or over all themes. However, I do like to be aware of new plant introductions although by the time they make it to Lowes or Home Deport, they’re no longer cutting edge.
    Question about house keeping…do you leave your Mexican feather grass untouched for the whole season when the seed heads get so heavy and clumpy?

    Thanks Michaele, good one! A good garden plant, for one’s special conditions don’t need to be cutting edge, thank goodness! As for the Stipa/Nasella, I will comb them with gloved hands soon. I have tried cutting, doing nothing and have found the best method to clean them up is to run your fingers several times through the blades and catch those dried seed heads. The occasional baby will pop up, and those get transplanted to replace older and unattractive plants. I hope this helps.
    Frances

    One year I probably looked certifiable in my attempt to groom my Mexican feather grass . I actually took a hair dresser stylist razor thingie and tried to give them a very natural looking layered “haircut”. I guess I wanted the feathered effect for my feather grass. Waaay more trouble than it was worth. Lately I’ve been chopping them back once they get heavy and they regrow within a couple of weeks but are wispier for the rest of the season. I think your way sounds like the most effective to keep things relaxed and natural. I will try that that for the remaining ones I haven’t chopped. Thanks.

    That is pretty extreme, Michaele! I have done the cutting to the ground and was dissatisfied with waiting for it to grow back when the garden was at peak. And as you say, it grows back thinner anyway. This method is more time consuming but has yielded the best results for me.
    Frances

  13. sandy lawrence says:

    Totally agree, Frances. I say when those who would turn up their noses at my cottage garden as ‘not cutting edge’ start sending me gift cards in large denominations from nurseries and travel money so I can visit gardens world-wide, then they can (maybe) have my ear. Also, they need to help with the weeding, hauling rocks, etc.

    LOVE ‘Tanna’. Imagine my surprise when I looked it up and found out it is a variety of salad burnet! I do hope I can find this plant soon. May have to go to a larger city to find. This plant serves the same form function in the garden as Gomphrena, doesn’t it? Love it love it love it. Always learn something new in your blog. Thank you.

    Thanks so much for those kind words, Sandy. Cutting edge in a garden should mean a nice sharp pair of felcos! I saw Tanna in a Piet Oudolf/Noel Kingsbury book and searched high and low for it. Ordered it online from Arrowhead Alpines, this is the 3rd or 4th year in the ground, and the best year for it. The salad burnet acts like a biennial here, blooming the second year then dying, but it seeds about. The flower stalk is tall and not that showy. Tanna is perennial and much shorter, with a better flower head. Not as showy as Gomphrena, but good structure and beautiful ferny foliage. The Europeans seem to grow many Sanguisorbas that are not available much here. I recommend Tanna.
    Frances

  14. Laurrie says:

    And the newest trends always seem to be promoted with the exhortation “Easy” or “No Fuss”, or “Carefree, Plant-and-Forget”, or even ‘Super Easy No Care”. If it is so easy, why garden at all? This rant hit home with so many of us!

    Thanks Laurrie, for joining in. The idea that gardening can be done without any actual work is absurd and should not be promoted. Weeding, pruning, digging, it’s called gardening folks.
    Frances

  15. Donna says:

    Thanks for this post. Although I garden for my own pleasure, I sometimes feel that my garden and skills don’t measure up to the standards of others. You’ve made made me feel better.

    Thanks Donna. I feel very strongly that gardening is not a competitive sport, each garden is the personal creation of the gardener. Garden as opposed to installed landscape that was professionally done and maintained without the homeowner getting their fingernails dirty. I consider those two very different animals.
    Frances

  16. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Amen & Damn Skippy!

    Thanks for the support, Cindy!
    Frances

  17. marmee says:

    this is a great post. we all need to highlight the fact that our garden is a personal place of refuge. also, that planting the right plant in the right location gives us successes that keep us gardening.
    here, here frances.

    Thanks so much, Marmee. Gardening is personal, very much so. What pleases us and what we can get to grow well is what matters.
    Frances

  18. Michelle D says:

    I think it is helpful to understand where ‘trends’ come from. Someone comes up with a new idea or uses an old idea in a new way and people take notice. The idea is published or commercially marketed and if successfully enjoyed by the general population it can become a trend.
    A journalist ( used in the most generous terms ) may pump up the volume by proclaiming ‘this the new trend’, but they are merely reinforcing what the general public and or the design profession is already enamoured with. People writing about the ‘trends’ are simply reguritating what they are being exposed to , they aren’t making the trends but are merely reinforcing the trend via written word.
    The ‘tropical planting trend’, the succulent planting trend, the use of orange in the garden trend and those heinous wooly pocket verical wall systems trends have become ‘trends’, because someone used ‘it’ in an attractive / innovative way and others wanted to emulate it.

    Hooray! Thank you, Michelle, for taking the time to respond to the rant and comments here. I respect your work as a garden writer and have admired many of your articles and photos for a long time. I was hoping for someone in your position to step forward with the another point of view. People changing their gardening habits because they have become more informed, like deciding to grow their own veggies is a very good thing. There is certainly nothing objectionable to trying new things, for whatever reason. But, those are not the articles that will cause me to buy a magazine to read more about it.
    Frances

  19. Lola says:

    My sentiments exactly Frances. I do garden as it pleases me for I am the one to enjoy it. Hopefully my neighbors will take notice occasionally. I don’t like the norm but try strange plantings, mostly for their beauty or just to see if they will do well for me.
    You go girl.

    Thanks Lola. I hope your neighbors will take the time to find out more about your garden and maybe take up the hobby themselves. Nature has so much to offer.
    Frances

  20. carolyn choi says:

    Are you done?! Just funnin.’ Well gardening is no different from fashion, Frances . Having worked at a major garden center for a long time we had to promote the trends and being a garden designer clients often asked for what was new so I reckon its just natural. I agree with most of what you say , however, sometimes the trends are a good thing -especially the one of veggie and organic gardening. I know it got me to thinking and convinced me to tear up my back 40 and start an ornamental kitchen garden.

    Hi Carolyn, thanks for adding to the conversation here. I disagree about gardening being no different from fashion. There are way more variables than just buying something off the rack involved. That was my point. That said, ideas like people using their land to grow veggies is a very good thing, whether it be called a trend or simply people wising up.
    Frances

    Maybe I should clarify my statement that gardening is no different from fashion – I mean in the sense that many people are influenced by the latest trends. It doesn’t mean we must blindly follow them but frequently new ideas, or trends, are an improvement. I agree that growing veggies is a good thing but it was always a given in my day and I just hope its not a passing trend.

    Understood, Carolyn. The word trend, to me, does not mean the same thing as a new plant introduction. I love trying new plants, but not because they are *fashionable*, but rather because they might work well in my garden. I too hope that veggie growing continues to grow in popularity. It is a better use of one’s land.
    Frances

  21. So well-said, Frances! I couldn’t keep up with the trends even if I tried. And I don’t want to. It’s my garden, not the experts’ garden. Cheers!

    Thanks Plant Postings. I feel the same way. I have no desire to be considered up to date, in fashion or on trend. I want a pretty garden that is full of wildlife and is as easy to maintain as possible for someone who seems to get a year older every 52 weeks, for some reason.
    Frances

  22. Amen to all that.

    Thanks Susan.

  23. sharon says:

    LOVE the large pictures….and the cat…amazing lovely shots….great job

    Thanks Sharon. I appreciate those kind words very much.
    Frances

  24. Pam/Digging says:

    I hear what you’re saying, Frances. And yet I think “trend” is just another word for the giving and sharing of ideas that occurs all the time in gardening. We visit each others’ gardens, in person and virtually, and we take ideas away. Sometimes a lot of people find a particular idea captivating (Wooly Pockets, cinderblock wall planters, etc.), and it becomes a trend. I agree with you that one should never feel pressured to conform to trends, but I do believe they exist, and they’re not all bad. It’s all about a sharing of ideas, and some of them just stick for a while until the next fun idea comes along.

    Hi Pam, thanks for speaking to the other side of this. The word trend, or thought of gardening as fashion just rubs me the wrong way. I know that magazine writers LOVE to use the word trend, both in the US and in the UK. It may be a great way to get readership up, but it does not sit well with my gardening outlook. Luckily, there is room for many opinions about gardening.
    Frances

  25. Lona says:

    You go girl!! LOL! I love it. Making your garden your own should be the first rule of gardening.Fads come and go but if you plant it with what you love it will always be beautiful to you and that is what counts.

    Thanks Lona. That was pretty much the point that I was trying to get across. Gardening is not a fad, anymore than growing your own food is, or should be. Things like only using certain colors, or avoiding certain good garden plants because they are old fashioned or out of style is just sad.
    Frances

  26. Susan Harris says:

    Here, here!

    Thanks Susan!

  27. Hear ya! While I gather “inspiration” from others, when it comes down to my garden and me…neither of us is fashionable. We wear whatever is low-maintenance, sensible, durable and comfortable. Some folks thought I was out of my mind to use “common driveway gravel” for parts of my garden, but it is locally quarried and it is smart in terms of water-wise and sensible. Writers, whether for gardens or any other topic, are always in need of fresh material and so they have to pitch new ideas to sell their stories. It’s up to the reader to take it as advice or entertainment.

    Hi Freda, thanks so much for joining in here. I am a huge fan of gravel, both as pathway material and even now as mulch. But not in any way because it was some kind of trend. It was the right thing for my special conditions and that is the best reason to try new things in one’s garden. I like to try new stuff, but new isn’t always better.
    Frances

  28. Cheers to you for writing what so many of us feel! Several years ago, I knew a woman who would blithely tear out and toss plants to replace them with whatever the “latest, greatest, top 10″ plants for the year might be. It literally made me ill–such incredible waste. She considered herself to be a fabulous gardener. I considered her to be a shopper. Gardening is so much more than trendy plants and “must-haves.” Nothing in my garden gives me as much pleasure as the old, yellow tea-rose that moved from my first home to this garden. It’s tag is gone, I have no idea its name–but my mother gave it to me for my first garden. It will never win prizes or stop visitors with its uniqueness–but my garden wouldn’t be complete without it.

    Thanks Julie. People should garden as they wish, to the point that it does no harm, but I find that sad about your acquaintance. Your yellow rose sounds wonderful, and so special with the connection to your mother. I think gardening is an emotional pursuit, too.
    Frances

  29. _emily_rose says:

    Cheers! (I could say a lot more about how I agree with this post, but I think one word sums it up!)

    Thanks for your word, Emily!

  30. Excellent point, be true to yourself…and how many of us can use the word onomatopoeia without batting an eye!! Go Frances!

    Hi Janet, thanks so much. Onomatopoeia is a word that have been a favorite since Mrs. Hurley introduced the concept in my 7th grade English class. Thanks Mrs. Hurley!!!
    Frances

  31. Dee says:

    Excellent post. I must admit I fell for the multi-colored coneflowers a few years ago, but after losing so many, I changed my mind. Oh . . . wait, there was the coral bell trend too. After those died, I decided I was going to buck the trends and plant what works here. I will still try new plants, but I’m not trending. Again, great post.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks so much. I don’t feel like trying new plants is following a trend. Who among us has tried every single plant there is out there? I love being exposed to something new to me, it might be the most perfect plant to solve a problem in my own garden, like Little Leaf Syndrome. I have tried many Echinaceas and Huecheras, as well. Some were failures, some were great.
    Frances

  32. Nell Jean says:

    Just as I was congratulating myself on not growing a vertical garden, I won a tiered planter and there I go.

    HA Nell Jean. Congratulations on your win. I would be delighted to hear of the results from the prize.
    Frances

  33. indygardener says:

    Good rant, Frances. I agree, fashions can come and go, but a garden follows its own rules and takes its own course.

    Thanks Carol. Gardens, and by gardens I mean a home plot tended by the person who lives there, has special needs that go way beyond what the color of the year happens to be. It is a much more personal pursuit. Or that is my opinion anyway.
    Frances

  34. David says:

    I’m glad I didn’t just write a post about trends in gardening. Just joking!
    Steering millions of gardeners towards a ‘trend’ would be like herding ladybugs or gnats. We do seem to have a mind of our own. And I’ll tell you, the older you get (I’m 50+) the less you care for someone else (in a magazine) to tell you how to run your garden.
    Truthfully, I think ‘trends in landscaping’ would be more accurate if magazines must write about the topic.
    I’m preaching to the choir here, but I think there’s a BIG difference between ‘buying’ a packaged landscape and real gardening.
    Great post.
    David/ :0)
    Orange? Really? I thought it was pink or purple this year.

    Hi David, thanks for joining in the conversation. I agree completely that the term trend belong more in marketing than in the growing of useful and beautiful plants by a home gardener. Each plot has such different aspects to it, there is no way it can be a one size fits all. I believe this year’s color is Tango Tangerine. We are often preaching to the choir here, but there were some comments from the other side of this that came in. I am so glad, too. All opinions should be allowed free expression as long as they are civil.
    Frances

  35. round of applause! If I hear or see the word “trend” I tend to run the other way! On anything–I try to be me, unique–non-trendy–yep, that’s me–non trendy!

    Thanks, Stacey. I feel the same way. Whether it is fashion, I wear what I believe is flattering that has enough funkiness so I don’t feel like an old lady, or in the garden where what will grow well trumps trendiness every day of the week, I don’t want to be led by others. Especially marketeers.
    Frances

  36. Holly says:

    Amen, to everything you said!!

    Thanks for your support, Holly.

  37. I couldn’t agree more! Struggling, and failing, to grow something that everyone thinks you should grow, just because it’s ‘in’, rather takes the joy out of gardening. I’ve noticed fashions, trends in gardening, and in some situations I’ve been rather frustrated with them. With vegetable gardening for instance, there are even fashionable, trendy seeds being sold. A new striped this, a novel purple that. This drives me bonkers when I’m struggling to source seed for a tried and true variety that I’ve grown for years, because the seed supplier decided it was no longer trendy enough to be sold. ArrrRRRgggh! How, honestly, can even vegetables be considered fashionable these days?

    Trendy vegetables? That is just WRONG! It’s a good thing there are seed companies harvesting and saving old, open pollinated varieties, like Sow True Seeds in Asheville, among others. We went on a tour of their seed saving vault and it seemed like a lifeline to save us from chemicals in our food that could kill us all. Of course you are not into trends in gardening, CV! I admire your self sufficiency.
    Frances

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  40. There have always been trends in gardening. The Dutch followed trends by latching on to tulips, Who hasn’t seen a Victorian garden with the plants that were trendy in Victorian times? That said, trends need followers to be trends. I got wondering after reading your posts if I followed any trends – probably not in any big way. I think two types of gardeners follow trends: those that are new and are searching for acceptance and success by emulating others, and those that garden to impress others. However, those gardens that DO NOT follow trends, like anything else (architecture, design, fashion) are timeless.

    Hi Ray, thanks for a thoughtful and informative comment. Timeless, yes, that’s us! HA
    Frances

  41. Simon Smith says:

    I think style trumps “fashion” of any kind – if your garden looks great already, there’s no reason to follow the whims of some unknown person. Great rant – I agree totally.

    Thanks Simon. The only whims one’s garden should follow are those of the person gardening there.
    Frances

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