It’s OK to kill plants– Hear Zampini at PLANT WNY’s Education Day

Sully garden in Eden, NY
Maria Zampini, co-author of Garden-pedia: An A-Z Guide to Gardening Terms, was wowed by gardens like Marcia and David Sully’s gardens in Eden when she visited Western New York with other garden writers in 2017. She’s returning to speak on garden trends at PLANT WNY’s Education Conference on Feb. 1. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


by Connie Oswald Stofko

“It’s okay to kill plants.”

When I heard Maria Zampini say that, I gasped. Loudly!

I know what she means, but it does take your breath away to hear it stated so bluntly.

Zampini, co-author of Garden-pedia: An A-Z Guide to Gardening Terms, will speak at PLANT WNY‘s daylong Education Conference on Friday, Feb. 1. She shared tips with me in a phone conversation from her home in the Cleveland area.

Zampini always tells gardeners that your garden is yours, and you don’t need to please anyone but yourself. If someone criticizes you for planting red flowers next to pink flowers, ignore it. “Do what makes you happy,” she said.

“It’s all trial and error, even for me,” added Zampini, who is a fourth-generation nurseryman.

That’s when she added: “It’s okay to kill plants.”

None of us are trying to kill plants, but it happens. She told of the time when she was working in a garden center and a customer came in with a pot, saying, “You sold me a bad plant.” When Zampini looked at the plant, it was obvious that it hadn’t been watered.

“We all get busy,” Zampini said, acknowledging that we sometimes forget to do what we’re supposed to do. Other times, “We may not read the plant tags” so we don’t know what to do. 

Sometimes we get adventurous and try out a new plant, and she encourages that, even if the experience turns out to be a flop.

“If you buy a plant and it doesn’t work, that’s okay,” Zampini said. “It’s okay if something ends up on the compost pile. Everybody’s on a learning curve, even professionals. Yep, they kill stuff.”

If you think it’s bad to let one plant dry out, try seeing a crop of 10,000 get toasted, she said. She was working at a nursery when a new variety of barberry with shallow roots had been planted. When an especially hot, windy day came along, the poor plants got toasted. Don’t worry; this story has a happy ending. While a few plants bit the dust, the rest came back after watering.

If one of your plants dies, try not to let it bother you. It happens to the best gardeners– and professionals!

PLANT WNY’s Education Day

More of Zampini’s tips are listed below, and she will provide great information in two talks during PLANT WNY‘s daylong Education Conference on Friday, Feb. 1 at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens, 6461 Transit Rd., Depew.

The program (Friday only) is open to professionals and to Master Gardeners and advanced gardeners as well. (The material may be too advanced for beginners.) You can see the entire day’s presentations here. 

Hurry and register by Jan. 28; after that, the price goes up. See registration details here.

Zampini will present “Garden Trends” and “New Introductions: Trees and Shrubs,” which will include some new vegetables and perennials as well.

She will be selling and signing her book, Garden-pedia: An A-Z Guide to Gardening Terms, which was honored by the American Society for Horticultural Science. Zampini co-authored the book with Pam Bennett of the Ohio State University.

Zampini is the president of UpShoot, a boutique horticultural marketing firm, and is a freelance writer.

Updating your landscape and more tips

Keep your landscape on trend

An easy way to make your landscape look trendy is to update your color scheme. Zampini notes that each year Pantone, provider of professional color standards for the design industry, names a Color of the Year. For 2019, the color is Living Coral, specifically PANTONE 16-1546.

An easy way to change up the look of your garden is to use annuals in that color, either in containers or in your landscape, Zampini said.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money,” she said. It’s like updating your decor inside your home. Add a new throw or other accessory and it can change the look of a room.

Use plants as decorative objects

Having an outside party? Bring in some plants for that weekend, Zampini said.

For an inside party, we might use an arrangement of cut flowers, so why not do the same thing with flowers in pots?

“It’s no different than decorating inside your home,” she said.

This isn’t a new idea for people who share their gardens on garden walks. I know many of them dash out the day before the garden walk for annuals to set on a patio table or fill in a blank spot somewhere in the landscape.

mouse melon by Stofko
I saw this mouse melon in the garden of Gordon Ballard and Brian Olinski in Buffalo. It has fruit that looks like tiny watermelons, but tastes like a cucumber. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Be adventurous and try new plants

“If I have a limited amount of space, I want to try something new and funky that you can’t get everywhere,” Zampini said.

I’ve talked to gardeners who like to experiment with new plants, and I’ve learned that they tend to make the rounds, visiting many different local garden centers. Each garden center carries different plants, and the selection of plants changes from year to year. You can see garden centers in our Gardening Directory.

Also watch for articles on sales, such as the Great Plant Sale held by the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. This year is sponsoring the sale.

Zampini suggests checking out All-America Selections, a non-profit that is the oldest, independent testing organization of flower and edible varieties in North America, and the National Garden Bureau, a non-profit that serves as the marketing arm of the gardening industry.

All-America Selections lists its winning plants nationally and regionally. (Western New York is in the Northeast region, not the Great Lakes region.) AAS has a blog.

The National Garden Bureau each year selects one annual, one perennial, one bulb crop and one edible as their “Year of the” crops. Plants are chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse and versatile. The National Garden Bureau has a blog and an enewsletter.

Go on a garden walk!

“Whenever I give talks, I talk about Buffalo garden walks,” said Zampini, who visited with other garden writers in 2017. “It’s one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen because these aren’t estate-type gardens. These are gardens the average Joe did, and they’re what other gardeners can aspire to.”

If you want to get ideas for gardening or ideas for decorating, she urges you to go on a garden walk. Garden Walk Buffalo is the largest in the nation, but there are more than a dozen other garden walks. And there are Open Gardens, too, which are select gardens open on Thursdays and Friday.

“You guys are so lucky to have that in your backyard,” she said.

2 Comments on “It’s OK to kill plants– Hear Zampini at PLANT WNY’s Education Day

  1. What a wonderful article! We all lose plants, whether they are established in our gardens or homes for many years, or are that new one that you just had to try. Kudos to Maria Zampini for making it feel okay!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *