The Worst Garden Trends

I admit with the start of a new year, that I get on a trend kick. Looking back, I see things that are in the negative column, that we as gardeners should not be doing.

Read on to see my take on it. If you want to see things that are up and coming, see my post on 12 top Garden Trends for 2014.

1.Excessive Mulch/Volcanoes

Tree volcano around a holly

Tree volcano around a holly

The practice of piling up mulch around trees and shrubs in the landscape is ubiquitous and I cringe every time I see it. Landscape firms need to take Landscape Planting 101, to learn the detrimental effects that happens to any plant material if you pile layers of mulch around a plant trunk. Rot, insect damage, and small rodent damage is liable to kill this tree above, within a couple of years. And how about the practice of piling too much mulch in a garden, sometimes as much as 4 inches thick, that can smother your plantings? And form an impenetrable crust on top? Rampant in the mid-Atlantic region, mulching excessively is too much of a good thing.

2. Bradford Pears

Uprooted tree

Uprooted tree

I can’t understand why people are still planting this fundamentally flawed tree. Hybridizers claim to have improved cultivars of the Bradford Pear, which are stronger and less likely to break and blow over. I haven’t found that to be the case. Bradford Pears are beautiful when they bloom, but short lived. Stay away from them and choose something as beautiful or better, like a variegated Kousa Dogwood, which also has a plus of great fall color.

Variegated Kousa Dogwood

Variegated Kousa Dogwood

 

3. Patented Plants/Seeds

Cardinal Candy Viburnum

Cardinal Candy Viburnum is a patented plant so you cannot propagate it

Just about every plant developed today has a patent or trademark.  Patents last 20 years,, trademarks into perpetuity. I understand that the plant breeders would like to enjoy some profits from their new varieties, but it is getting excessive, especially with trademarks, since they last forever. It is illegal to propagate a trademarked or patented plant, which makes criminals of many gardeners who love “pass along” plants.

"Pink Marble" Helleborus is a trademarked plant

“Pink Marble” Helleborus is a trademarked plant

Traditionally farmers saved a portion of the seed from their crops to plant the next year or trade with other farmers which is called “farmer’s rights.” However, if there is a patent on the seed a farmer has grown which is very likely nowadays, or it is Genetically Modified seed (GMO), the farmer cannot save the seed to plant the following year. To continue to grow plant patented crops, farmers are often required to sign written contracts stating that they will not save any seed at all. Instead, they must annually purchase their seed from a biotech company or agro business, rather than other farmers or local seed companies. In addition, big agro-businesses are buying up seed companies to control their supplies. Pretty soon, local seed companies will be a thing of the past.

4. TV/Radio Gardening Programs

A little British humor displayed on a sign in the Cotswolds

A little British humor displayed on a sign in the Cotswolds

What ever happened to Victory Gardening? I loved this show but it was really hard to find on my local station, if at all. The dearth of garden related shows in the U.S., both TV and radio is depressing.  Ok, I know about landscape makeovers on HGTV! That show is all hype and no substance. But the British have a great sense of humor and know how to garden.

Listen to what the British public can see: The Edible Garden, The Landscape Man, Garden Question Time, Gardeners World,  and Great British Garden Revival. And if you go to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/tv-and-radio-reviews/10506390/Great-British-Garden-Revival-BBC-Two-review.html, you can see some reviews. These programs offer “sensible advice and lovely shots”. The English always know how to garden well. See “Brilliant“, my post on the Philadelphia Flower Show with a British theme.

Here is my wish list of a gardening TV program. I would like someone to cover things like Mosaiculture, which moves around the world and was recently in Atlanta and Montreal. It is an expression of new millennial values and is a refined horticultural art that involves creating and mounting living artworks made primarily from plants with colorful foliage (generally annuals, and occasionally perennials).

Or cover the gardening revolution with edibles. Here are edibles on the front steps of Parliament Building in Quebec City.

Edible gardening in Quebec City in front of Parliament building

Edible gardening in Quebec City in front of Parliament building

How about a show on gardening trends like the new tomato varieties, “Purple Tomatoes” or the “indigo” varieties, see “Top 12 Garden Trends” for more details.

Purple Power Tomatoes by Mighty 'Mato Grafted Collection

Purple Power Tomatoes by Mighty ‘Mato Grafted Collection

Or, wouldn’t you like to see the artists in action drafting the new seed packet cover illustrations? See “Art of the Seed“.

The topics are endless, but there aren’t any TV or radio shows on gardening in my area.

5.  Garden Snobs

I love garden gnomes!

I love garden gnomes!

You have all met one if you have been on a garden tour or gone to a plant sale. It is the person ( I won’t name names!), who is spouting the Latin names of plants and wouldn’t consider planting a petunia on their property. Annuals is a bad  word and their gardens are full of unique and very expensive plants and statuary. And no, I did not just describe myself! I admit that I do use Latin names, but I only spout them out when I am with garden professionals, and I love annuals and garden gnomes! I won’t deny that I do have a garden of very expensive plants that die all the time, but nothing that I had to mortgage the house for!

Gardening snobs want the latest and greatest plant. They don't care if it fits in with their garden.

Gardening snobs want the latest and greatest plant. They don’t care if it fits in with their garden.

 

6. Invasives 

Get over it! Invasives are here to stay and nothing is going to change that. I get frustrated when I hear about groups arranging slash and burn weekends to remove invasives from designated areas. I say-  Forget. About. It. This is a losing battle and you are just going to go crazy trying to fight it.

Oriental Bittersweet is an invasive that is attractive but taking over the woods

Oriental Bittersweet is an invasive that is attractive but taking over the woods

For example, English Ivy is a rampant growing invasive, brought by the earliest English colonists, choking out native species. Lots of people still grow it, as it does cover the ground in the shade, and is deer resistant. At Princeton University, an “Ivy League”, they pulled it off the brick walls of the buildings to repoint, and then re-attached it! So, what is one man’s meat, is another’s poison. Ivy is still sold at garden centers because people demand it.

Princeton University covered with Ivy

Princeton University covered with Ivy

 

7. New Pests

Have you noticed that there are lots of new pests to bother you, and more prolific poison ivy? That is due to a variety of factors, namely climate change and the globalization of food production. I will quote from Shashi Sharma, an Austrailian plant bio-security scientist. He said at a recent conference that “Globalization of food production and distribution has enhanced potential for pests to disperse to new regions, find new vectors, new hosts, new environments and new opportunities to evolve into damaging species and strains.” Enough said.

Stink Bugs are here to stay

Stink Bugs are here to stay

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

 

8. Ultra Pruning

Why do people want ultra tidy and manicured properties?  It seems that the entire property has to be scalped clean, with no wild areas. That means that the field that used to be in the back of the property, that was let go to wildflowers, is cut like turf grass. Or, how about the huge front expanse of lawn in the front that is cut and doused with chemicals periodically?  Let it go! Plant natives, like butterfly weed, rudbeckias, cornflowers, and golden rod. It is a lot less maintenance and the pollinators will flock to it.

Let some areas in your yard to native

Let some areas in your yard to native

Plant Joe Pye Weed and other butterfly friendly plants in your yard

Plant Joe Pye Weed and other butterfly friendly plants in your yard

Pruning should be done regularly, but beware of doing it excessively, or into tidy meatballs! See my post Pruning 101 for tips on managing your pruning.

9. Decline of Honeybees

I hate to say this, but as a beekeeper for over 15 years, I don’t see things improving.  See my post on Colony Collapse Disorder. I think that this trend of declining bee populations is here to stay. For the past couple of years, my bees have struggled and died. I have put a lot of money into starting up new colonies, but I am going into 2014 without any honeybees in my hives. I will try again with new packages and nucs this year, but I don’t see things getting better in the near term. I got my first mason bee habitat this year and will be putting this box up in the spring, trying to attract these native bees instead.

Mason Bee house with tubes

Mason Bee house with tubes

I am also dedicating a portion of my property to planting milkweed, Aesclepias syriaca, the plant that sustains monarch butterflies.

Plant Butterfly Weed or Milk Weed for Butterfly populations

Plant Butterfly Weed or Milk Weed for Butterfly populations

 

10. Rollout of Plant Varieties that Stink

Stick to the old classics like Agastache Blue Wonder which butterflies and bees love

Stick to the old classics like Agastache Blue Wonder which butterflies and bees love

Do we really need another Heuchera (Coral Bell) that looks great in the pot, costs a small fortune, has a snazzy name, like “Red Velvet Ambrosia”? But the instant you put it in the ground, it sulks, and then dies? Or, maybe it looks good for a season, but come winter, you find that that the plant is not hardy as stated? Remember, ‘Limerock Ruby’ Coreopsis??  The hype that is attached to a plant sometimes is so premature and over stated, that I look at every introduction with a jaundiced eye. I have had more Echinaceas die on me than I have Carter has Liver Pills! Remember, my rant earlier in this post about patented plants? It seems like the patented plants are put on the market before they are fully tested!

Lavender Phenomenal- This is a new variety that has a lot of hype attached and I planted it last season to see how it does

Lavender Phenomenal- This is a new variety that has a lot of hype attached and I planted it last season to see how it does

Lavender ‘Phenomenal’ is a plant that comes highly recommended as a lavender that tolerates our wet winters and humid summers. Normally I treat lavenders as very short-lived plants, here in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. But, I am giving this a try and was pleased with it last summer, as the flowers branched off the main stem to form new flowers, which is unique in lavender plants. But I have to see how it weathers this winter which is turning out to be very cold and wet. Before I stand behind a plant, I have to grow it for 3 to 5 years, and I suspect growers who introduce these new plants, don’t give them enough time as well as trying them in different parts of the country.

I stand behind this variety, African Blue Basil. It is a stellar performer, great for pesto and pollinators, and beautiful

I stand behind this variety, African Blue Basil. It is a stellar performer, great for pesto and pollinators, and beautiful

I periodically showcase varieties of plants that I have luck with, can take neglect, are pollinator friendly, and are foolproof. See African Blue Basil or Monkshood, Deadly BeautyButterfly and Bee Magnet, Joe Pye Weed, or Autumn All Stars.

If you like this blog, please take a minute and vote for my blog at http://www.bhg.com/blogs/better-homes-and-gardens-style-blog/bhg-blogger-awards/ Many thanks!!

 

About Claire Jones

Claire Jones is a landscape and floral designer and owner of Claire Jones Landscapes, LLC. She designs and helps people to create their own personal outdoor oasis and loves to write about her gardening failures and successes.
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4 Responses to The Worst Garden Trends

  1. Linda T says:

    Love this post Claire. Thanks for keeping all of us informed.
    Until the next time……..Linda T

  2. zipcoffelt says:

    I live in Kansas and the flowers that grow best are native and invasive. The others have to be babied or they simply die. All those lovely (in the catalogs) Echinacea will not last a season in my garden! And we have a Bradford Pear planted in our yard back in the mid-90’s – not by us – and I’m just holding my breath, waiting for it to topple into my house. Thanks for posting! Very informative!

    • You can avoid that if you prune the tree judiciously, removing any crossing branches, and removing some of the bulk which reduces the likelihood of it breaking. I have seen it done and it will last a lot longer. Thanks for commenting!

  3. That’s a lot of information. I’m so sad about the bees. They are just going to keep poisoning everything till we have nothing left to eat. Silly people. Thanks for all the work you put into this. I’ll read it again.

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