Everybody's a Critic

Garden Writing Cliches I’d Like to Ban

"Who says organic gardens can't be beautiful?"

No one.  No one has ever said that. Don't create a false sense of defiance to make your piece seem more innovative.

Any others you'd like to nominate?

Posted by on June 5, 2009 at 7:14 am, in the category Everybody's a Critic.
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33 responses to “Garden Writing Cliches I’d Like to Ban”

  1. Bad gardening puns. “Now this is an idea I can really DIG!” “Let your gardening imagination BLOSSOM!” And so on.

  2. tai haku says:

    how about the potentially true but generally tedious “vegetable gardens can be just as beautiful as ornamental/flower gardens”?

  3. jaz says:

    almost anything on any garden t-shirt!

  4. tai haku says:

    Oh yeah, anything about the soothing sounds of “running water in the garden”* or “the wind rustling through bamboo”**.

    * makes me want to pee
    ** just isn’t soothing

  5. Ed Bruske says:

    How about, “Who says vegetables can’t be beautiful.”

    I just used that one in a blog post this morning: http://www.theslowcook.com/2009/06/05/squash-are-happening/

  6. Kerry says:

    “green is the new black” ugh, was original a few years ago but now – not so much.

  7. What about calling something a “traditional garden,” in which tons and tons of unnecessary pesticides/etc are used? I don’t see why that’s “traditional.”

  8. “the heady fragrance of….” (fill in the blank)

  9. LauraBee says:

    While we’re at it, can we get rid of the phrase “conventional vs. organic”. Why is organic unconventional ? And why does convention call for chemicals ? Can we at least change it “chemical vs. organic” ?

  10. Tom Fischer says:

    Why are gardeners always “avid”?

  11. John says:

    Anytime an author automatically assumes everyone reading their piece is put off by insects. I prefer neutral words to describe the bug rather than a long list of “icky” words. I like insects and pretty much dismiss anyone that goes on and on about not liking them.

  12. Pat says:

    “Bring the tropics to your (Buffalo/Akron/Indianapolis) garden.” OR “Make your (Buffalo/Akron/Indianpolis) garden a tropical retreat.”

    What’s wrong with all the north temperate stuff that we can grow. If I wanted tropical, I’d move to Key West.

  13. My least favorite in catalogs and plant databases: ‘Prefers consistently moist, well-drained soil.’ Well I prefer ice cream.

    The corollary is that you should create consistently moist, well-drained soil at a great cost of sweat and treasure instead of finding plants that will thrive in the soil you’ve got.

  14. J says:

    I get my dander in a fluff (or my knickers in a twist or my fluff in a poof) when someone says something along the lines of “Low maintenance, because you have better things to do than garden.” The only thing low maintenance that I can imagine is a nice concrete patio. Why garden if you don’t want to get dirty?

  15. Michelle G. says:

    I get a funny twitch in my eye whenever I see a plant described as “extremely cold hardy” when its cold hardiness zones aren’t listed – or, worse, when the supposedly hardy plant is revealed to be only hardy to Zone 6. That is not “extremely cold hardy”! You want cold? Come up here to Zone 4, and I’ll show you cold!

  16. julia says:


  17. emily says:

    I HATE “veggies”. Especially since my children picked up the term from my ex-husbands 3rd or 4th wife. I forget which.

  18. donna says:

    “Wherever you grow, there you are.”

    — Buckaroo Bonsai

    “Bloom where you are planted.”

    “Water Feature”

    And oh, let’s see, just leafing through my Sunset here…

    “cozy outdoor kitchen”
    “backyard farming”
    “turn your patio into a lush tropical lanai”
    “stylish kitchen garden”
    “outdoor room”
    “right plant right place”

  19. ~~Melissa says:

    Gardening is subject to cliches the same way quilting is. We quilters want to stab something every time we hear, ‘Quilting: it’s not just for Gramma anymore’. Which we’ve been hearing for approximately 56 years…

    Ok, gardening. Here’s two:
    “green thumb”

    “tranquility garden” -> unless of course sedatives are added to the sprinkler system….

  20. Plantanista (Maureen D) says:

    “Slugs. It’s the New White Meat.”

    “Poor? Grow your own Cabbage!”

    And my favorite,

    “Living la Vida Loca with Datura metel.”

  21. Ella M. says:

    I think you’re inventing that false sense of defiance to make your post seem interesting and worthwhile. It is neither.

  22. Elizabeth Stump says:

    “permaculture” – it’s called COMPANION PLANTING , you dope. Don’t make it sound fancier than it is.

    “xeriscape” – unless you are a catalog that specialized in drought tolerant plants, or live in an area with very little rainfall/Mediterranean climate, you can’t call it “xeriscaping.” You must call it drought-tolerant because you forgot to water it and it lived.

    “You can neglect this (insert plant name).” Sorry, more often than not, you can’t. Not unless it’s a native weed to your area and you don’t want it in your garden.

    “organic” BAN THIS WORD! So many people tout the word “organic” without knowing what the word means. According to my college Chemistry professor, anything from the earth is organic, but would you call dumping unrefined crude oil on your plants “organic”? So I am suspect to anyone who claims to grow “organic” food at the farmer’s market or anyone touting organic growing methods, unless it is some respectable (Rodale’s, Sunset) organization or garden writer who is not a complete and udder clueless twit. Sorry, but this makes me want to rant when ever someone says “organic.”

  23. greg draiss says:

    The hiolier than thou approaches such as “proper watering”, “did you know”, “companion planting”
    ‘pest free’
    The TROLL

  24. My worst cliches are practices more than phrases — impatiens and bark chips may break my aesthetic sensibilities, but names will never hurt me:

    boxwoods and conifers clipped into Dr. Seuss-like balls next to the house;

    a random selection of shrubs from the garden center plunked down “artistically” against the back fence, swimming in a sea of bark chips;

    parking lot divisions and mall strips planted with garish low growing roses, barberries and caryopteris, surrounded by equally garish water-hungry annuals floating in a sea of — wait for it — unnaturally red bark chips;

    massed impatiens used to cover up tree pits or borders; I find them so boring I’d rather look at bare dirt;

    Ditto hostas;

    faux marble statues on tiny front lawns;

    front lawns;

    — but if I had to pick a verbal cliche, I’d go with “average, well-drained soil,” similar to what Craig said.

    (Can you tell my in-laws are in town?) Thanks for giving us room to rant!


  25. erick says:

    “Who says organic gardens can’t be beautiful?”
    -Sorry, that was me. It was an early spring morning in 2004; I was under a lot of stress and I had just quit smoking. I guess I didn’t fully comprehend the question. Anyway, as soon as it rolled off my tongue, I realized my mistake and recanted. Still, even five years later, quote this continues to haunt me. No one ever remembers the good quotes like: “Juliette tomatoes are delicious.” What I meant to say was “Organic gardens are really great.” My apogees to all affected. It won’t happen again.

  26. Todd says:

    I’m definitely tired of “bring the outdoors in”
    and “garden rooms.” some garden shows that repeat these are light on gardening on heavy on decorating.

  27. Katie says:

    I like garden puns. . .

  28. I’m with Elizabeth: organic has to be the number one cliche here in Australia. Second place would go to the term “native plant”. We’ve got this weird love/hate relationship with Australian plants that tends to manifest itself in extreme, all or nothing, ways.

    If you want to hear a litany of gardening cliches, our incarnation of Better Homes and Gardens is about as good (or bad?) as it gets. The presenters on that show dish out some of the biggest loads of tosh you’re likely to hear. Most of it is complete drivel.

  29. Sharon says:

    Oh dear. How can one dislike hostas and impatiens? They’re backbones of the shade garden (note how I slipped an irritating cliche’ in there?)

    One internet cliche I’d like to see die is the poo-pooing of certain plants by those who fancy themselves more original and creative than the average human.

  30. Carla says:

    Sustainable, low maintenance and all native—much overused. Like many things—a good idea that people take to the point of dogma!

  31. Molly says:

    “Veggies” is my least favorite word of all time. It makes me cringe.

  32. Foy says:

    “Stunning garden pergolas” – I am still not sure exactly what these are but I have a hunch the a simple name like trellis would suffice.