How to start and grow new sweet potatoes

I’ve been working on this post for months, because it is a months long process. Taking pictures along every step of the way, documenting the process. And then I lost a ton of pictures. I used some recovery software and was able to get some of them, but not all, so there are far fewer […]


A Thornless Native Rose: Wildflower Wednesday

Because the landscape had been neglected for almost a decade, the yard of my former home was full of horticultural surprises when we first moved in: daffodils that started blooming again once dug and divided, irises that smelled like grape lollipops, bulbs that sent up leaves in spring but didn’t bloom until fall (colchicums) and […]

Videographer Teams up with Horticulturist Neighbor by Susan Harris


Connecticut-based videographer Patrick Volk emailed me recently, having discovered my blog posts about videos. It seems that this son of a landscape architect teamed up with neighbor Eric Larson, long-time director of Yale’s Marsh Botanic Garden, to create a slew of outstanding gardening videos. They call their website and Youtube channel GardenClips.

In a follow-up email Patrick wrote that “These days video (primarily on YouTube) has become the first place people look for information on everything from fixing their clothes dryer (I’ve done it!) to gardening. In the beginning you could throw pretty much anything up on YouTube and people would watch it, but the medium has evolved and now high quality is expected. There’s still a lot of junk videos online but there’s increasingly excellent work being produced, too – if you can find it.” Then he “shamelessly plugged” Good Gardening Videos, a plug I’ll shamelessly mention.

GardenClips videos

Over the four years that Patrick and Eric have been making beautiful videos together, they’ve profiled many, many plants, as no one else has, to my knowledge (and I look for this stuff). The formula is simple – a passionate expert talking and showing, filmed professionally. Check out their “Popular” playlists for perennials, flowering shrubs, trees, et cetera.


Then they go deeper with longer ones about topics like hybridizing Mountain Laurel and Iris genetics, using experts in those subjects. Great close-ups like these might actually inspire me to give hydridizing a try.

To date, Patrick and Eric have produced 141 videos.

Their target audience? People who want “information that speaks to their botanical compulsions and satisfies their more esoteric gardening interests.” In other words, plant geeks. Some of my best friends.

To their surprise, viewers everywhere are finding their videos, not just gardeners in the Northeast. So they get questions and comments from viewers all over the world – from Hong King, India, and Saudi Arabia –  and the channel’s subscribers are in 114 countries.


How to grow a Youtube channel

Patrick writes that “The early days of a YouTube channel require a tough or nonexistent ego” – because much like beginning bloggers, they “expected gardeners to FLOCK to the videos, tell their friends, and turn Garden Clips into an overnight success.” It took a lot of videos and a lot of waiting before eventually “Youtube’s all-powerful algorithm detected them, deemed them good, the reward algorithm kicked in, and people began finding the videos.” After the first 1,000 subscribers, GardenClips was invited to join a Youtube network (who knew?), and signing with BroadBandTV gave them extra tools for getting even more viewers.

So while I’m happily spreading the word about GardenClips, Patrick is already on the job as my unofficial Youtube coach. By phone and email he’s helping me figure out how a channel that curates other people’s videos could and should work, and in a recent post I showed off the resulting channel with 16 of those all-important playlists.

Oh, and did I mention we’re almost neighbors?

I’ve saved for last the biggest surprise in hearing from Patrick – learning that he grew up two blocks from where I now live, and as an adult lived even closer. He discovered this amazing coincidence by reading my About page and that clinched his decision to contact me.

Though his parents recently moved to New Hampshire, Patrick still has family and friends in my area and we’re determined to have an local meet-up the next time he’s down this way. We have plenty to talk about.

The Volk family garden, recently sold.

The Volk family garden, recently sold.

Meanwhile, I’ve found and photographed his parents’ garden and will be on the look-out for more of his mother’s designs as I walk around town.

Videographer Teams up with Horticulturist Neighbor originally appeared on Garden Rant on June 24, 2016.

The Greatest of All Time and the Meadow by Allen Bush


Ali Center 061016

Muhammad Ali was laid to rest in my hometown on June 10th.

Tens of thousands lined the city streets for a 19-mile motorcade processional that led from his childhood home on Grand Avenue to Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery.

20,000 filled the Yum Center for a memorial service that followed.

Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky. Richard Hopkins photo.

Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky. Richard Hopkins photo.

Louisville WDRB Sports Journalist Eric Crawford said, “We will never see the likes of this day, or Ali, again.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, didn’t show up.  Abraham Lincoln and Muhammad Ali rank as our two most famous Kentuckians. It’s a pity that Senator McConnell a couldn’t make it home to Louisville, but it might have put him in an odd spot. McConnell is a cunning politician. He doesn’t strike me as joyful or playful. Muhammad Ali was joyful and playful to his core.

The Champ had planned his sendoff for nearly ten years. People of different colors, creeds and persuasions gathered to remember The Greatest of All Time. Ali knew what he was doing, but he wasn’t cunning.

This was a joyful day.

Ali often said, “Ain’t I pretty? You ain’t never seen a man prettier than me.”

He was pretty. But he was so much more. Pretty was a starting point.

Muhammad Ali, Golden Gloves

My meadow is pretty, too. But I can’t look at my meadow without wondering if I’m doing the right thing. I worry too much. How long will it take for birds to start seed bombing the menacing Johnson grass Sorghum halepense into the meadow? This would not be so pretty.

I’ve read recently read that pretty may no longer be good enough for a garden or a meadow like mine. Each should sustain life and benefit the natural world. I think my 2-acre meadow does that, but I’m not ready to give up pretty.

Salvisa meadow on June 20th.

Salvisa, Kentucky meadow on June 20th.

My meadow will soon be full of beautiful colors and textures. The red blooms of the royal catchfly Silene regia and the gray-green foliage of rattlesnake master Eryngium yuccifolium never hog the spotlight. Cut-leaf prairie dock Silphium pinnatifidum will do that! Goldfinches feed on seeds of black-eyed Susan in late winter, and lightning bugs flicker on hot summer nights.

Not all is wholesome. Bush honeysuckles want to gobble up a piece of my goodness. Venus’ looking glass, Triodanis perfoliata, was a pretty newcomer to the meadow this month, and it could become a weedy thug, too. Maybe I shouldn’t trust pretty.

Irish landscape designer Mary Reynolds has gone beyond pretty. She seeks to find a deeper relationship with her garden designs. “I shouldn’t be making any more pretty gardens.”

This is where things get tricky and interesting.

It’s not easy to promote plants and gardening. Otherwise, we would be a nation of gardeners, instead of a nation of gun owners. The NRA is clearly more persuasive than the nursery industry.

Invoking fear sends guns flying off the shelves but doesn’t do much for nursery owners. Start talking too much about the natural world-butterflies and bees-and try telling folks to get over “pretty,” and you will hit a strong headwind. Homeowners get scared. If you’re trying to make a living from horticulture, the chance of selling gobs of plants may fly out the window.

On the other hand, there is Garden and Gun Magazine. Truth told: I own one .22 rifle and three garden hoes.

Silphium pinnatifdum, cut-leaf prairie dock. Shutterstock photo.

Silphium pinnatifdum, cut-leaf prairie dock. Shutterstock photo.

Homeowners want pretty.

We need a deeper understanding of the natural world and a global commitment to keep our planet healthy. We want gardeners with hoes in their hands, not assault weapons.

The world needs the inspiration of Muhammad Ali and Mary Reynolds.

Ali lived in the moment. He wasn’t anxious about tomorrow. He made a complicated world seem simple.

Gardening is not simple.

I needed The Champ’s advice.

I wish he could have seen my Salvisa meadow, where there are butterflies floating and stinging bees buzzing.

“Ain’t it pretty?” Ali might have said. I would have nodded in agreement. We were alike in some ways.

We loved life.

We loved people.

We loved pretty.

The Greatest of All Time and the Meadow originally appeared on Garden Rant on June 22, 2016.

Thanks for the memories! by Elizabeth Licata

The four of us in my garden, 2007

The four of us in my garden, 2007

Ah, the early days of garden blogging. I started in 2005. Facebook was about a year old; Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest were yet to be born. The reason I started is that I had been forced to sign up with Blogger in order to participate in a class as a guest lecturer ( it made sense at the time). Then I decided that this was the place where I could start an online diary of my gardening efforts, which I had been wanting to document-in a digital format-for some time. The first year of posting on Gardening While Intoxicated was pretty quiet, with a burst of excitement (at least from me) when Garden Walk Buffalo came along. I realized that year-round posting about whatever I was growing or not growing might get boring, and I found some other, related, topics.

Susan and me in Chicago, 2009

Susan and me in Chicago, 2009

2006 was the year garden bloggers seemed to start really noting each other. There was a Gardenweb section called Garden Voices, which dragged in all the feeds; you could easily scroll through and read what people all over the place were saying about their gardens and-sometimes-gardening in general. It was the latter than interested me more; in fact, I got into trouble by casually commenting that most people were just “showing off their gardens” (and I added “which is cool,” but everybody forgot that part). This is when I started reading the blogs of the Garden Rant founders, who always had interesting things to say-Michele in Sign of the Shovel referring to peonies as “drunks at the rail,” Susan in Tacoma Gardener relating her sod removal efforts, Amy in Dirt talking about chickens, which was kind of a new thing in city gardens then. The three founded Garden Rant in June, 2006, I wrote my first guest post in September, and I was invited to join the group at the end of the year.

A panel we did at the IGC conference, 2010

A panel we did at the IGC conference, 2010

We all got together for the first time in 2007 at Garden Walk Buffalo and continued to meet at a few conferences and Flings (mainly Susan and me); we even gave a panel once.

This Buffalo front garden was the subject of several posts when it came under attack by the city.

This Buffalo front garden was the subject of several posts when it came under attack by the city.

And the funny thing is it’s all still there. Michele hasn’t been blogging for Rant for years now, but you can still read all her Rant posts as well as her Sign of the Shovel posts. Amy’s archives go back to 2003, and you can still find everything from Susan. I’ve been having a blast reading the old Garden Rant posts and reposting them. We ranted plenty about bogus home remedies, big chem, big boxes, gardeners getting harassed by the man, and a lot more; we even helped save a Buffalo friend’s front garden.

It’s true that now there isn’t as much ranting going on, but I still prefer the ranting. And when I find something  worth ranting about, I promise you, you’ll see it here. In the meantime, I have been absorbing the wisdom of our new fellow bloggers Allen Bush, Evelyn Haddon, and Thomas Christopher, who have way more horticultural expertise than I’ll ever have, and look forward to meeting them some day.

Thanks for the memories! originally appeared on Garden Rant on June 21, 2016.

How 10 Years of GardenRanting Changed my Life by Susan Harris


I’m a late-bloomer. Back in 2006 when Amy and Michele invited me to join them in the venture that became GardenRant, my resume as a writer amounted to some pieces in a college anti-war newsletter, two articles for a local dance magazine (edited by a friend), and then a long stretch until I volunteered to write my garden club’s newsletter. The sheer tedium of that task caused me to leap at the chance to start a personal garden blog in 2005, where my very first rant got the attention of my future partners.

Teaming up with professional writers like Amy and Michele was exciting for me but mostly, I was nervous about performance. I remember suggesting that we not have an archive of our posts so that my subpar ones would only be seen briefly. That idea was quickly overruled.

But I loved GardenRant the minute it launched 10 years ago this week, even before it started getting noticed. Its very name attracted attention in the traditionally anodyne world of garden-writing. And how about the Manifesto, the brash tagline “Uprooting the Gardening World” and the post category “Shut up and Dig!” Yes, we were having fun.

GardenRant got noticed enough that a few publishers actually asked me about writing a book, which requests I always declined due to my teeny, eeny attention span, much better suited to blog posts.

(Aside to garden-book authors: You amaze me. You inspire me, though not to – god forbid – write a whole book.)

Second Career

Coincidentally, my employer in my first career went out of business the very month that GardenRant launched, so I was emboldened by this new venture to attempt a second career in gardening, somehow – by ramping up my part-time garden-coaching business, and exploring income potential from garden writing. Did we think GardenRant would ever pay our mortgages? Not really, as there were no examples of that anywhere. (At least among American gardenbloggers. Can’t speak for the Brits.) Good thing we didn’t count on it because after 10 years our earnings just cover expenses plus modest year-end bonuses.

Blogging for businesses does pay, though, and it’s thanks to GardenRant that I got hired as an online writer by three independent garden centers. And I managed to write a few magazine articles, though I never sought out the assignments. Though not as daunting as book-writing, I’m still intimidated by print, with its editors to please and no chance to amend and correct after publication.

Still, I did support myself through coaching and writing until I retired a year ago (defined by taking Social Security and no longer working for money), but just barely and thanks to living very cheaply.

Unpaid Activism

Much more fun than writing for pay is writing for causes, and GardenRant has helped launch and promote several that are near and dear to me: Lawn Reform, DC Gardens and Good Gardening Videos.


It’s become cliche to claim to have made new friends via blogging, but in the gardening world that’s no BS. We started Flinging in 2007, when we gathered in the hotbed of gardenblogging that is Austin, and next month I’ll be attending my 8th Fling, in Minneapolis.

So we gardenbloggers are friends in every way, including in person, thanks to our shared passions – gardening and writing.

And in writing for this blog I’ve gotten to know all sorts of people in the plant world. I brazenly approach people for interviews and have never been turned down. Those folks have taught me a lot.


So I’ve changed, but so has GardenRant over the years. Our long-time foursome (Elizabeth joined us soon after launch) lost founders Amy and Michele due to career and life changes but we found new partners and and terrific writers in Allen, Evelyn and Thomas, none of whom actually rant.

So our dirty secret is out: at the Rant we do more raving than ranting because one does run out of things to rant about in the gardening world. (Though rest assured, if Scotts MiracleGro starts killing something else, we’ll cover it.)

So GardenRant has become a blog that’s more diverse in its topics and in its line-up of writers, and it’s become a more positive and for me, a happier place than ever.

Thanks for the Decade!

To readers and GardenRant partners, past or present, thanks for making this a blog that’s not just fun to be a part of but a blog that aspires to and occasionally manages to have some impact. Here’s to 10 more!

How 10 Years of GardenRanting Changed my Life originally appeared on Garden Rant on June 17, 2016.