Wisdom from Garden Rant

Just listened to a radio interview with three of the fab women of Garden Rant. It’s not often that these far-flung garden writers get together so it was a great opportunity to hear them talk off the cuff on Mike Nowak’s garden show from Chicago. Torontonians and others can listen on the web.

The gardening website, Garden Rant, is familiar to garden bloggers and other garden media, but it may be new to more casual readers. Here, four gardening voices come together to say what’s on their minds, writing about things you “couldn’t get away with in a gardening magazine”. Check out the manifesto on their blog.
Some of my favourites are:

• We are fed up with magazine perfect gardens.
• We are flabbergasted at the idea of a “no maintenance garden.

For me they get points just for using the word flabbergasted!

They mean to change the level of garden discourse, as well as the way people garden, like they say, they are “Uprooting The Gardening World”.

So they don’t get lost in the ether, I’m posting a few interview gems here. Below are some very polite rants from Mike Nowak’s radio show with Elizabeth Licata, Amy Stewart and Susan Harris. (The fourth member of Garden Rant, Michelle Owens, was in Germany at the time of taping. )

Amy on poisonous plants (She wrote a book on the subject, Wicked Plants)

Amy: Wicked Plants are plants that can kill you, can be used as murder weapons, and are offensive or horrible in some way. The dark side of the plant kingdom, and in the book it’s a highly selective list, as I tell a story about each plant.

Mike Nowak: Everybody realises we are taking our lives in our hands every time we walk into the garden. Take Castor Bean—Defenbachia—”

Amy: It’s a perilous business. I have a slideshow of all the poisonous plants growing in public plantings, Datura spilling out of the windowboxes of the Chicago Public Library…”

Mike: Oh, they love their Datura here.

Amy: They are beautiful plants and you don’t have to be afraid to grow them. This is the thing I keep telling people. It’s just not food! Grow them, but it’s not food. You walk into the drugstore and you see all the things they have for sale, there’s shampoo and there’s shaving cream, there’s bandaids and batteries and lightbulbs. You don’t have to be terrified of those things. Just don’t eat them for breakfast! That’s all. That should be easy to remember.

How to deal with weeds
Caller Question: Can you give me the name of an evironmentally friendly weed killer?

Amy: Ok, my rant about that. Here’s an environmentally friendly weed killer: Pull them out with your hands! It’s environmentally friendly, it’s good exercise, and it actually works. One of the things we talk about on Garden Rant is “Are we just replacing one aisle of chemicals with another aisle of chemicals?” Maybe we need to garden in such a way that we are not buying little plastic bottles filled with substances. And instead, you know, do the work. I will say in all honesty with weeds, if they are in the sidewalk, I have poured boiling water on them, or I’ve occasionally used vinegar. But all my weed control is basically: sweat.

After a discussion on the “thug” morning glory, Elizabeth Licata chimed in:

Elizabeth: There could be worse things to happen in life than a bunch of morning glories coming up. My whole rant is not against these thugs—or whether they’re thugs or not, and I’m sure some of them are—But the whole idea of rules. We had a guest rant today, The Plant Police. “These are the plants you can’t plant. Don’t plant this! Pull this out, cut this back.” People are always being encouraged to be really neat in their gardens and that is what drives me crazy…Pull out a couple weeds, let a couple weeds grow…live and let live.

Elizabeth, by the way, was one of the masterminds who arranged the fantastic Garden Blogger trip to Buffalo this summer.

Susan Harris talked about her platform, Lawn Reform, getting rid of lawns with environmentally friendlier plantings, and also talked about how she is involved with a new generation of Independent Garden Centres who are getting into Social Media Marketing, as a way of dealing directly with their customers and finding out what they want.
Susan: Gardeners are telling us they want to see plants full grown, in the garden, in combination with other plants. They don’t want these little closeups that we are used to seeing in catalogues that don’t help them. They want to hear stories—like, here’s how this plant did in my garden. To inspire them and teach them, but in an entertaining way.

To listen to the whole show, which is quite entertaining, go here. [Update: in 2016, this link is no longer active]


  1. Thanks for the transcript! I really appreciated Susan's comments about how gardeners want to see full grown plants and plants in combination with other plants. I started a blog this year with the intent of sharing just such photos…. so this feels validating. Thanks!

  2. Fun post, and I am so with Elizabeth on the plant police – what started as legitimate concern has morphed into pointless, unscientific scolding!

  3. Thanks for the post, the ladies sure do voice a different approach than the magazines, and we like it!

    I must disagree though with they're approach to weeds… 'just pull them out' doesn't work for most people. Sure, if you have a lot of time available that's great. But what if you only have a few hours here and there, between work, family, commuting, and a whole bunch of other commitments?

    We are thrilled to see some of the new weed-killing products out there, who are much more environmentally friendly, and give more people the opportunity to enjoy a nicer lawn and garden.

  4. thanks for posting excerpts. sarah, it was great to meet you at vivian reiss's tomato tasting on the 124 merton st. rooftop. i'll check in regularly on your blog and hope you will mine as it gets up and running: plantifesto.com/blog. all the best-clara

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