Engebretson, aka the Renegade Gardener and writer/scouter
for Better Homes & Gardens magazine, travels the
county, dispensing his brand of no-nonsense landscape
name, Renegade Gardener, comes from his willingness to
"tell it like it is, and sometimes that runs
contrary to what the gardening industry sells and
espouses," he says.
one is born with a green thumb," he adds.
you have trouble getting plants to grow and remain
healthy on your property, while a friend of yours plants
stuff and it grows like Jack and the Beanstalk, it may
be as simple as you having bought property with lousy
soil, while your friend got lucky and has much better
soil. Gardening has a massive and sophisticated learning
curve. Learn how to garden and you will turn your thumbs
just beginning his spring sprint of gardening shows --
southeastern Virginia Feb. 7-9; Feb. 13-16 in St. Paul,
Minn; Feb. 21-23 in Charlotte, N.C.; Feb. 28-March 2 in
Council Bluffs, Iowa; March 7-16 in Pittsburg, Pa.;
March 28-30 in Detroit, Mich.; and April 5 in Wisconsin
Rapids, Wis., just to name a few.
shows, Don typically does a stage program and then
offers one-on-one consultations with people who bring in
photos of a current or potential landscape project.
can give some good suggestions in a brief consultation
at the show, mainly concerning bed size, shape, and
placement," he says.
placement also, and placement of landscape features such
as patios, pathways, water features. It’s difficult to
get very involved in actual plant types and varieties.
It’s up to the homeowners to decide what they like; my
opinion in that regard does not take precedence over
theirs. They need to visit nurseries and go online and
choose the plants they like.
common thread through many past consultations I have
done with homeowners is their reluctance to remove
existing plant material that negatively impacts future
design. Very often the start of a new landscape involves
removal of old material."
landscape designer for 20 years, Engebretson has
published five books on gardening and landscaping. For
four seasons, he was the gardening expert on HGTV’s
"TIPICAL MaryEllen" show, and in 2002 served
as landscaping consultant to the PBS TV series "Hometime."
Online, he’s at www.renegadegardener.com.
see a continuation of the trend toward growing food,
vegetable gardens, fruiting trees, etc.," he says.
"Container gardening and using containers as artful
accents is also going strong. Unfortunately, I also see
a trend toward the continuation of the quest toward ‘low-maintenance’
landscapes, which do not exist.
do see a move toward sustainable gardening, even if the
definition is somewhat muddled. Water conservation,
gardening so as to cut down on the use of organic and
synthetic chemical products, reducing lawn areas,
planting more trees — these are all good and important
things to move toward. But yes, many in the media are
writing and talking over their heads. Sometimes you need
to control insect pests, and fungal diseases, but far
too few realize that it’s never a choice between an
organic product and a chemical product. Your choice is
between an organic chemical product and a synthetic
chemical product. Either way, you are always using a
chemical. Some organic chemicals are safer for the
gardener and for the environment than some synthetic
chemicals, and some synthetic chemicals are safer and
better for the environment than some organic chemical
should always be leery of gardening trends. Do what you
like and what serves your needs."
famous for not liking daylilies (Hemerocallis). I think
they are fabulous in flower, but their foliage brings
nothing to the party and they soon grow into this large,
mounding eyesore for much of the growing season.
are afraid to cut down trees in their yards, often trees
that are on their last legs and already in decline. I
often recommend tree removal of trees that are going to
be dead or felled in a storm in 10 years anyway. There’s
nothing wrong with removing an old, battered, ugly tree
— or even a healthy tree that looks fine, but is
planted in a really dumb spot. We can always plant new
trees as a part of the redesign, while using the
opportunity to plant new, properly sized,
disease-resistant varieties in better spots than the old
I love lilies — true lilies, not daylilies -- as well
as iris, heuchera and sedum," he says.
"Shrubs, I love rhodendrons and azaleas, junipers,
fothergilla and Physocarpus (ninebarks. Flowering trees,
I love magnolias (yes, we grow them in Minnesota),
cherries and redbuds.
Van Mullekom is garden/home columnist for the Daily
Press in Newport News, Va. Follow Kathy at Facebook@Kathy
Hogan Van Mullekom, Twitter@diggindirt and Pinterest@digginin;
her blog can be read at Diggin@RoomandYard.com. Email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.