Better Homes and Gardens Than Yours

If you’re like me, you are drawn to the glossy pages of gardening and design magazines such as Garden Design, Fine Gardening, etc.   The old classics Southern Living and BHG always feature a residential garden or two in each issue as well.  In case you hadn’t noticed, the gardens pictured in these magazines are beautiful, and you could learn a thing or two from studying them.

For example, look out your window right now.  Is the view you see resplendent with old world charm?  Is it a sublime vision that synthesizes classical European design elements with exotic tropical plants?  Let me ask you something.  Where is your recessed open-air dining loggia?  Your series of outdoor rooms? DO YOU AT LEAST HAVE A FOOTED URN??

That’s okay.  If you look at the homeowners in these pictures, clearly they are more gifted and attractive than you and your family.  Just take a look at their cute little son, dressed all in white and playing a game of croquet on the lawn.  He’s so clean you could eat lunch off of his head.  Now look at your son in his juice-stained Elmo t-shirt.  Looks like he wandered outside without his pants again and is spitting at the birdfeeder. 

You’d better put your magazine down and go get him.

30 thoughts on “Better Homes and Gardens Than Yours

  1. You live my life, really, don’t you?? Thanks for keeping me laughing and knowing that someone out there can relate!! Hopefully I’ll be seeing you soon over break.

  2. So true. But I am endlessly fascinated by the glossies, I read them, I try to emulate them and then I post blog entries about how I have failed in a major way in my own garden to implement the design concepts they show. But I keep buying and trying. Such fun. And usually I learn something. Thanks for the laugh!

  3. What a great post. Hilarious.
    Don’t despair. Those magazines shamefully overuse the stamp tool in Photoshop. On my bulletin board I keep a page from one of the high-end garden mags. It’s an obviously over-Photoshopped ‘glorious’ garden-that-I-don’t-have and reminds me that so often these photos are a graphic designer’s fantasy, not a landscape designer’s!

  4. Very very funny. Whoa, that description of the son with the juice stained Elmo shirt paired with no pants is my son to a tee. He can also be found rubbing dirt in his hair. Thanks for the laugh. I found you through Thomas Rainer’s blog. I look forward to reading more.

  5. Ha so funny. Well if you had a team of professional gardeners tending to your garden on a daily basis, and had the Jag and Ferrari parked in your driveway….ha ha. The rich are different for sure. Well we can always buy the knock off garden supplies at Walmart, and purchase 4″ plant specimens and watch them grow. I also fantasize about writing for a glossy like Garden Design in addition to my blog. That magazine is like the Stepford Wives, too perfect for our reality. Nice post there Mary.

  6. Mary –
    So true – thanks for putting into words. These mags are going the way of what has turned off much of the architectural community in their industry glossies – the 1% and ignore the 99%. Handrails photoshopped out; plants photoshopped in; perfect skies; etc. Would be great to see the other 99% of gardens designers do and the reality of not-so-perfect gardens, but everyday gardens that everyday people enjoy. Thanks again for the bright side and looking forward of reading more!

    • Michael, it’s funny that most people are aware that photoshopping takes place in fashion magazines, on models, etc., but have no idea that perfect gardens and landscapes in magazines are equally manipulated just as much. Thanks for reading!

  7. Hilarious Mary!! Thanks for the laugh. And by the way where are all the trash cans and recycle bins in the BHG world?? I never seem to spy them when I peruse their beautiful glossy 8×10’s.

  8. Hi Mary,

    I found your blog through Thomas Ranier’s blog. I am in his planting class now. I laughed out loud when I read this article. I am so happy to have found you!


    • Hey Donna! I remember you! We took Site Design together a couple of years ago — I remember me, you and Janet measured that lovely site with all the mosquitos and poison ivy — ack!! I’m glad you found me, too. Aren’t you loving Thomas’ class? — Mary

  9. Pingback: A Walk on the Wilder Side: My Review of a New Garden Mag! –

  10. Well said! I am in the landscape design/build business of upscale properties so I have many opportunities to see this type of life style of the ‘successful’ and still have yet to come across the ‘ever so perfect’ moments that these magazines seem to capture!!

    I see incredible moments of outstanding gardens but without the ‘gloss’!

    I sometimes go home thinking we are doing it all wrong! But no, I love those real to life stains on my children’s shirts!!

    Thanks for the reality and grounding!

  11. Everything I feel, Sister!!

    Thank you. I thought I was the only one busted with the garbage cans hanging out by my back patio sliders where it’s convenient…instead of in a $17K enclosure built of repurposed barn wood from three different organic farms in Wisconsin…where the impregnated aroma of generations of cheese production masks the smell of our toddler’s diapers. Disposable diapers, that is.

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