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If you have full sun, these are easy—though even these can be problematic.

Here’s more news from the gardening tips for newbies front. Huffington Post published a piece from Hometalk yesterday that offers the “9 best gardening tips for beginners.” I liked it OK—particularly the emphasis on good soil and organics—but couldn’t go along with some of the directives, which seemed chosen at random, including some rather dubious and incomplete seed starting instructions (I don’t think beginners should mess much with seeds.) and a bizarre list of “easy-to-grow” plants, as follows:

 Some plants are just known to be easier to grow than others- plant these! For easy-to-grow produce, Hometalk’s gardening experts recommend tomatoes, peppers, onions, chard, basil, and bush beans. Easy to grow and maintain flowers include clematis(a vine), sunflowers, dahlia’s, foxglove, roses, petunia & black eyed susan’s. Just ask your local plant nursery employee to direct you to the “hardy” plants.

Forgetting the misplaced apostrophes and the fact that this list appears under a picture of mums, and ignoring the vegetables, with which I have no expertise, I take exception to many of the ornamentals on this list. Roses can be very disappointing for beginners, unless you go with landscape types (all roses are the same according to this). Dahlias? Really? Most must be started from tubers, need full sun, must be staked, and in many cases need to be wintered over. Foxglove? I suppose, but the newbie will be very disappointed when she finds this needs two years to bloom and is not really a perennial.  As for clematis, these have somewhat complex classifications and pruning needs and can be very prone to wilt. At least mine are, which is why I’m ready to rip them out en masse. Petunias are easy. Though I see they make no distinction whatsoever between perennials and annuals.

This is always the way with gardening generic advice. You have to stay away from the micro—like which plants to grow—and keep to the macro—soil care, hardscaping, exposure. Otherwise, it’s really best to listen to your local experts and—to a lesser  extent—your gardening neighbors.

I know—it’s so easy to make fun of stuff like this. The problem is, though, that there’s so much just like it online, and that’s where people look now.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on July 8, 2014 at 7:57 am, in the category CRRRITIC, Everybody’s a Critic, It’s the Plants, Darling.

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8 Comments

  1. 23rd December 2015 at 2:47 pm —

    It would seem likely the person who wrote the article was directed to do so and had little personal experience with those plants. I have had minimal luck with foxglove. And I am still trying to find a place where I think clematis will be most successful given the blasting summer heat we have. Cheers!

  2. 15th May 2016 at 2:43 am —

    Maybe they did a google search for ‘easy to grow’ and picked names they recognized (rose) or that had pretty pictures to it 😉

  3. 27th October 2016 at 3:32 am —

    That is depressing (and you are quite right about each of your reservations, of course.)
    Is it true that there is a lot of this silly stuff online? In which case how do beginners discover who to trust? There didn’t used to be so much information pre internet but it was reliable in books by trusted authors.

  4. 22nd November 2016 at 6:51 pm —

    Yes, a lot of online advice is bad, though I do find good plant information on individual plants via wikipedia and extension sites.

  5. 24th November 2016 at 1:57 pm —

    Thanks! You just gave me an idea for my next Addicted Gardener article.

  6. 24th November 2016 at 1:57 pm —

    Sunflowers, arrgghh..I cannot grow these to save my life! I always fume silently when I see them on a list of ‘easy stuff even a child can grow”!

  7. 24th November 2016 at 2:07 pm —

    The internet is really a mixed blessing here. I got seriously interested in gardening long before the web existed, and I have many books to thank for saving me time and heartache. I would specifically recommend Allen Lacy (Home Ground) and Eleanor Perenyi (Green Thoughts) to beginners, but I garden in the Northeast. Amy Stewart’s From the Ground Up might be a similar inspirational/cautionary tale for beginners in CA. And she has nothing kind to say about growing your own roses!

  8. 25th November 2016 at 10:59 am —

    Sadly, these type of articles…the ones that start with “9 Best… 10 Steps… 5 Ways…” seem to be proliferating on the internet these days. For some reason we seem to be a people of lists. I was amused that the first tip was to start a garden! Seems obvious enough. And then the tip of putting wheels on your containers so you can move the plants to the correct lighting was even more amusing! (Why didn’t I think of that?) Unfortunately I think that I would be super nervous about starting a garden after reading this article…what happens if the rain wets the leaves on my plants? Eeeeck!

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Advice from others