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Both images courtesy of Shutterstock (Image at right is St. Paul, not St. Cloud, closest I could get)

What do St. Cloud, Minnesota and Westerly, Rhode Island have in common? Westerly is a seaside community in southern Rhode Island; St Cloud lies in central Minnesota and is bisected by the Mississippi river. Summers and winters are more moderate in Westerly; winter temperatures fall to greater depths in St. Cloud. There are other important differences, including one that gardeners need to know: St. Cloud is hardiness zone 4a and Westerly is 6a.

There is one similarity between the two communities. The newspapers in both just published the same AP gardening story about what to plant during an era of climate change. Recommendations include the possibility of “ripping out the front lawn and its bordering rhododendrons and replacing them with a landscape of native grasses, groundcovers, succulents and rocks.” I don’t have too many problems with the article per se. It warns gardeners to consult their local experts and to find plants that will be sustainable in whatever conditions climate change might produce in their era (drought, heavy rain, etc.) and draws quotes from sources across the US. It tries to be as universal as possible and has a correspondingly bland tone, although much better written than a lot of what I find online.

I’m happy if people replace lawns with native grasses, groundcovers, and rocks. That’s not the problem. I just think it’s sad that these two communities (apparently) don’t have local gardening writers who can talk about these issues, using examples taken from area gardens, and drawing on personal experiences with which readers in the community can identify. Such an article could identify tried-and-true lawn replacements that can be found in nearby independent garden centers, perhaps.

The reliance on syndicated material is becoming common with smaller—and, increasingly, larger—media outlets across the country. We’re lucky enough in Buffalo to have a weekly gardening column written by a local expert, though I am always perplexed when I see that almost all of the food coverage comes from other papers, and we do have a food editor. Food, at least, is universal enough so that it doesn’t matter as much. Gardening isn’t. If my local gardening columnist writes a well-researched and substantiated (with local examples) article about how weather extremes call for different planting strategies, I’m more likely to pay attention. Not so much with generic and generalized advice that attempts to cover coast to coast.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on July 21, 2014 at 9:07 am, in the category Everybody’s a Critic, Gardening on the Planet.


  1. It seems especially silly to have this article in the St Cloud times, when much of it focuses on a garden in California’s central valley — a climate that’s about as different from central Minnesota as you can imagine.

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