garden no-no’s (part 1)

I CAN SEE this blog will soon become a list of rules and to-do’s (or not to-do’s), so here’s another thread we can start together. What are your garden no-no’s? Mine are many, including these two:
Dyed green bamboo stakes. If the local garden center doesn’t have good-quality, strong, natural-colored ones, try A.M. Leonard—I order by the bundle, and they last practically forever. A great value compared to tiny packets of quick-to-split, spindly stakes in no-green-nature-ever-imagined.
Dyed rust-colored mulch (do you sense a theme here?). Any dyed mulch, in fact, is a no-no. Mulch is not a decor item, like a throw rug or a bedspread; it needn’t (shouldn’t) match the siding, please. A medium-textured, natural-colored organic material like composted stable bedding is what you are seeking. Trust me, I worked for Martha. Paint the patio furniture, not the mulch.

So go ahead: tell me (in comments field) what you hate. Once we get going I think I’ll add “Complaint Dept.” to the list of categories where posts get archived and shovel all these not-to-do’s in there. After all, who doesn’t like to complain?

  1. seasonseatingsfarm says:

    Good morning! I’m also drinking my coffee and reading this morning. Zones. The misuse of zones drives me nuts. We give USDA zones far too much credit. They don’t tell us anything about growing – not frost dates, how much rain we’ll get or how it’s going to be. The only thing zones tell us is the average annual coldest temperature in a given area.

    Tied for second place – petro chemicals (like the common 10-10-10) and unsafe organic chemicals. Safety first.

    Kenn, I picked out my baskets this morning. They have chains. Plastic is no no #3. And I agree with no gnomes, cutesy items and dyed mulches. I do have to admit to having a resin sign that looks like a stone. It says “grow dammit.” I have to keep as it was a gift from my daughter.

    And one more no no that is completely beyond my control, 12″ of snow on the garden on April 9. No no! But it’s there. Apparently the Snow Fairy didn’t get the memo.

  2. GardenGuy says:

    I’m starting my day with a good cup of coffee in hand and a smile on my face… I couldn’t agree with you more!

    For me, a garden no-no includes the small plastic (or other material) wildlife with cartoon like smiles and expressions people use in their gardens for decoration. I’m traumatized by gnomes, small resin children carrying baskets, or other such decor. I love structure in a garden…not characters!

    When I was young and foolish, I used gravel as a mulch in a garden. Bad move. It’s quite time consuming to ‘sift’ gravel out of a garden once you realize what a mistake you made! So, no-no number two: No decorative gravel (unless it’s in a container).

    Lastly, No wire hangers! Okay, so I’m sounding like Joan Crawford here.. but no wire to tie plants to stakes or other supports. I use natural twine.

    I’m glad I got this out of my system! :-)

  3. Layanee says:

    My list of no-no’s:

    Mulch should be used to reduce weed seed germination and retain moisture and should disappear as plants grow. It should not be seen all season unless it is in a new garden area which will need time to fill in. Mulch is not a design feature. Layered plantings are much preferred!

    Mulch volcanoes!!! See above!

    Rock mulch! Ugh! OK, I will amend that to the lush parts of the country.

    Red salvia and yellow marigolds! Come on people, be creative!

    Granny fannys! Need I even mention this one!

    Masses and masses of bedded annuals with the exception of Butchart Gardens where this look is desired for mass appeal. That garden is just a spectacle.

  4. Elaine says:

    Hello! Hmmm…I have my coffee in hand as well, but it hasn’t kicked in yet. Off hand, I can think of a few. Those ‘wishing wells’ or other fountain features plopped in the middle of the yard with nothing to anchor them and with no thought of scale, style of house, etc. And cement lions that are too small, too large, and again don’t fit the style of the house. Flower beds that have plantings spaced way too far apart. Plants might find each other after 10 or 20 years. Lava rock ‘mulch’ seems to be a favorite in California. I am still picking it out of my beds!

    I am sure I can think of more as I clear my groggy head…

  5. andrewoowoo says:

    1. White plastic anything: hanging baskets, patio tables, chairs. No. No. No. Don’t do it.

    2. Garish colour combos in flower beds: bright red and bright yellow is just ugly. Sorry. We’re not at McDonald’s.

    3. Underplanted beds: large swaths of bare earth with spotty planting. Fill it up!

    4. Lawn, lawn, lawn and more lawn: plant some trees or varry the ground covers.

    5. Random pruning: do some research and determine when it is safe, or recommended, to prune back a given plant/tree. Otherwise it’s just pointless (and harmful) amputation.

  6. gardenboy says:

    You and all of your rules. The beauty of a garden is that it is yours and you can do what you damn well please…with a few minor exceptions. You can use any combination of flowers you want just not in a tipped over milk can, whiskey barrel, old metal bucket. No crappy staking of any kind. Plain bamboo or wooden stakes and natural twine, period. If it is mass produced it is not a garden ornament it is trash. Plain and simple.

  7. StaceyH says:

    My number one garden no no at the moment? Inserting the little plastic tags next to each and every plant that you planted. Number one, rare is the tag that is informative enough to keep (especially with annuals!). Number two, if you must keep the tag, keep ONE and keep it INSIDE in your gardening note book. And when you plant woodies, definitely remove every last nursery flag, tag, and piece of rope. Please!

  8. margaret says:

    Stacey points out a really good no-no–plastic labels–and especially those gigantic labels we’ve seen the last few years that are often bigger than the plant in the pot is when you buy it. I am labeling my garden w/metal embossed strips now, to get away from all that. Posted about it a week or two or three ago:

    Like Stacey says, the plastic ones belong indoors as a reference w/your journal.

  9. FauxClaud says:

    I had to join in on the mutual hatred of rust colored mulch. Why not get the brown that matched the DIRT! It’s a garden… it has DIRT!

    I hate fancy topilary trees in front of McMansions and white rocks as well…or better when people PAINT the ROCKS! oi!

    I will admit that I have a lawn gnome, but only for memories sake..it was the last one stolen from a LI lawn when I was a teen. His head fell off and my husband hates him, but he makes me smile.

    White plastic lattice has a place in life…if you are the one that must get stuck painting the lattace.. then the plastic is your friend.

  10. margaret says:

    Welcome to A Way to Garden, Faux Claud. White rocks–yes, that’s a good one. Awful, just awful.
    And p.s., I have a gnome, too (though not in a spot where anybody would notice). I found him about 15 years ago at curbside when I was passing through a town an hour away–someone had put him out for the garbage man, so I adopted him. Just couldn’t help myself.

  11. Linda Pastorino says:

    My least favorite thing besides colored mulch is bad art in a garden that does not enhance the plants or have the esthetics of the house grounds or gardens in mind.

    Another problem is lack of maitained grounds in public spaces which are meant to entice visitation . I’m speaking mostly of highway areas, rest stops and malls especially in NJ where I’m from. Plants die and they are not replaced, weeds grow, mulch becomes the view, trees fall and are not taken away. As a girl growing up in this state, moving away and coming back after 28 years, it took alot of watching Martha and visiting gardens in the UK and here to realize that this is not how it has to be. I would love it if all landscaping companies could have something dropped into the morning coffee to some how change this approach.

  12. tc says:

    This should not just be a no-no but outlawed entirely! LEAF BLOWERS AND LAWN MOWERS! THE INCESSANT UNNECESSARY NOISE and STINK!
    (Sorry for yelling, but this really annoys me)
    Another garden (know-know)-don’t line up your plants in neat little rows. Take a good look at the natural world. It has its own chaotic order and it is not marching in rows and standing at attention.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, TC. Yelling is fine, TC…I hate all the power stuff, too, and hate soldier-like lineups of plants. Thanks. Happy New Year to you, and thanks for starting it with us here.

  13. elsie says:

    I was just asked by my husband, “if I would like to keep the old cast iron sink, (we are redoing the laundry room) the one I have loved for so many years to bath the dogs in, rinse our the garbage pail, paint buckets, brushes etc. to put flowers in out front of our yard.” Of course he was kidding me and wanted to see my reaction. I told him “yes,” along with his pink flamingos that he hates so much. How about the old toilet, bath tub, white painted tires!!!! I think you get the picture of what to us are all real no nos.

  14. Rosella says:

    In my neighbourhood, people buy those benches with the metal inserts in the back (come from the grocery stores mostly), or the old fashioned ones with all the curlicues and the feet that look like the paws of Cavalier King Charles spaniels, and put them out in the front yard in the full sun, on the weedy grass. Not a plant in sight to anchor them to the landscape, no reason in the world to go sit there unless you have no place else to go. Why wouldn’t you try to make a welcoming place if you are going to provide seating?

    But, much as I would like to have natural bamboo for stakes in the garden, I am condemned to using the dyed ones because I have no source of bamboo. But if you leave the dyed ones out in the weather for a while, the dye disappears and they are pretty respectable.

  15. Kathy says:

    Select the right plant for the right spot so it will flourish and grow to be the correct size. People tend to forget the basics…sun/shade, wet/dry, large/small, etc. Read and educate yourself a bit before buying and planting.

    I’m working on large perennial beds with native, drought resistant plants. Some plants have done better than others, but for the most part, it’s a beautiful care-free garden. Occasional weeding is all I need to do throughout the growing season.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Kathy. Really good advice. Plants do mostly fail when chosen for the wrong-size spot, wrong conditions, etc., as you say. Most of them (like us) just want a proper home to make themselves comfortable in. See you soon again, I hope.

  16. Kassie says:

    Hi! I’ve been in England for five weeks [work] and I did not visit many gardens! There’s a big NO NO to start off. But I did hit the Hampton Court Palace Garden Show. You cannot imagine the hideous garden ornaments for sale there!! So I continue to be pleased with my vintage painted cement gnomes on my [indoor] mantel.
    No, my biggest complaint this year, now I’m back, is the virtual disappearance of the six-pack of unusual annuals sold in garden centers. Nowadays one must pay $4.95 for one Proven Winner of a plant that is already too large for where I wanted to put it, instead of paying a lower price for six smaller ones. This is a merchandizing trend rather than a true gardening trend, I have a feeling. Even out-of-the-way, old fashioned nurseries seem to be phasing six packs out. Any thoughts?
    Love the blog!

    1. Margaret says:

      @Kassie: This is a great subject, and oddly someone else (not on blog, but friend here) just said it to me this week, too, and I ranted about it to somebody in springtime myself. I must investigate. Thanks.

  17. Cathie says:

    I use my gnome at the base of a very old maple tree that has a hole at the bottom. The gnome guards the entrance. Inside I place small stones that I have painted gold for children to find when they place hide and seek. This is in our Alice in Wonderland area of our gardens.

  18. Kelly says:

    “Garden art” can easily become garden clutter. Especially when it is leaning over, broken or just laying around unattended.

    Trees and shrubs need to have old dead vines cleared off them periodically or they may succumb under the burden.

    But my biggest – seeing a dog chained to a porch or other nearby structure and obviously it’s been there for awhile!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Kelly. Yes, art can quickly go round the bend, I agree. :) Ditto on the rest. Thanks for saying hello, and I hope you will visit again soon and spend the season with us.

  19. Marewood says:

    I’m slowly making my way through your site… so much wonderful information. The newspaper/cardboard layering looks like what I need for the amazing crop of weeds my garden has been producing. Do you think it will help control nutsedge/nutgrass?
    Living in Kansas, I don’t have access to the Sweetpeet mulch, so what would you recommend? I’ve been using a brown shredded cypress mulch that mats down as the season goes on and can be fluffed up and reapplied. Some of it composts, but not completely. Cotton burr compost and mulch is also available here.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Marewood. Smothering will help slow things, yes, and the nutsedge doesn’t like being shaded, I believe. Your question got me reading about nutsedge (I remembered it makes these little tubers and how tenacious it is) and I read an interesting page on the University of California IPM site that includes some cultural (non-chemical) tactics.

      Sometimes if an area here is really infested with something, I have to acknowledge that I must first try to clean the bed/spot up a bit and not grow things in it for awhile, and I empty it and solarize with plastic sheeting to cook the weeds to death (the longer the better, like many weeks or all summer here in some cases. But often I can stay ahead of a less-intense situation with the paper below mulch, and hand-weeding well in spring, then passing through each bed every week or two through the summer to get the strays before them grow like mad. Vigilance! (Exhaustion!). :) See you soon.

  20. Ann Harrington-DiBella says:

    Love this page– thanks–wanted to ask more about the lack of 6 packs and only being able to purchase the one larger PW plant (re Kassie 7/24/09)— have you found anything more and is there a way we can get the providers llike Proven Winners back in our corner? I do a fair amount of container gardening, and the smaller plants in the 6 packs are much more agreeable. Ann

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Ann. I can forward your comment to them (they are on Twitter, for instance), as a first step. I agree. So sick of having to spent $40 to put 5 things in a pot! Thanks for visiting; see you soon again.

  21. Valerie Gillman says:

    My biggest peeve is landscapers with no imagination. Around here most of the trees lining the streets and parking lots are Bradford pears . The beds are full of Stella d’Oro daylilies. Where’s the excitement?So many interesting and beautiful trees, and I once saw I bed of mixed daylilies in front of a Burger King. It was beautiful!

  22. fennydendron says:

    I live in Northeast Florida and the worst gardening practise I see around here is the indiscriminate shearing of each and every shrub regardless of wether it is dwarf holly or ligustrum.It becomes especially ridiculous when the people incorporate weed trees like Camphor Trees and Carolina Cherries into their sheared “masterpieces”.It is even done to Camellias and Azaleas.And then of course there is the famous “Crape Murder”, the practise of shamelessly whacking down of our lovely Crape Myrtles.
    Responsibility for a lot of this nonsense must be laid upon the Landscaping companies in this area which usually have untrained and ignorant employees.
    Among other hard to ignore garden nuisances are the pink flamingoes and plastic flowers stuck into the garden, sometimes faded and covered with mildew.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Fennydendron. I agree that there are *many* thing that don’t take well to the hedge shears! The “landscape” companies can be to blame sometimes here, too, but also the power and phone company crews and of course a lot of homeowners with power tools of their own. :) See you soon again, I hope.

  23. Donalds Texas Organic Garden says:

    Leaf vacuums used as blowers! NO NO NO NO! If you think it is okay to blow your leaves and debris into other people’s properties, buy a book on good manners and read it!

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