The Seven Deadly Sins of Landscaping – Sinners Beware!

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Guest Rant by Lori Hawkins

Just as Dante identified the seven deadly sins in his Inferno, so we will explore the cardinal sins of the landscaping world.  Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride are all alive and well!  They will all be identified with examples of the offenses.  No names will be used, but surely the sin of the offenders will find them out.  ‘Yeah’ though we walk through the valley of the shadow of Garden Gnomes we will fear no evil!  Let’s begin our journey:


Lustalso known as lechery, is derived from the Latin, objet d‘artmultus, meaning much artwork. This sin could be best identified by intense or unbridled desire. For anyone afflicted by this vice, one of anything will never be enough. Their garden overflow-eth with yard art, gazing balls and garden fairies.  You will truly know this sinner by their fruits:

•    Inappropriate or overuse of yard ornamentation: Too many ceramic figurines, flower choices, birdbaths, fountains, etc.

•    Over improvements to the landscape: A Koi pond, a large fountain, and five birdbaths do not all belong on the same 10 foot plot.


Gluttony. Derived from the Latin floracophany, meaning to assault the garden, gluttony is the over-indulgence of anything to the point of waste. This sin was first identified in the yards of kindly grandmothers, where the sin took root. Contemporary examples of this can be seen in:

•    Random use of any and all plant material, regardless of appropriateness or function.

•    Leaving near-dead shrubs and broken amenities for nostalgia sake. Maybe Aunt Tillie’s dead rosebush just needs to go!


Greed (Latin, Multifontis), also known as avarice or covetousness, is also a sin of excess. Greed, however, is usually seen as an excessive pursuit of material possessions. This sin manifests itself in:

•    Over-use of inappropriate, even grandiose, features in the landscape. 


Envy. Like greed and lust, envy (Latin, iwanta) is characterized by an unquenchable desire. Envy can also be characterized by discontent towards one’s current situation. Another attribute of the envious is their inability to possess the object of their affection. Observe the envy in these examples:

•    Using objects that should never be used in landscaping, i.e. car tires as planters, fountains, etc.

•    Inappropriate or tacky focal points.


Wrath (Latin, Ipruna), also known as “rage,” may be described as inordinate or uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath, in its most severe form, includes destructive and even violent behavior. See this vice manifested in:

•    Practice of unnatural pruning all shrubbery into small meatball-like shapes

•    Crape Murder (i.e. unnatural pruning of Crape Myrtles.)


Conversely, Sloth (Latin, Inopruna) is most often defined as physical laziness. As seen in the following example, Sloth is indeed a deadly affliction. This vice manifests itself in:

•    No pruning or ongoing maintenance of the yard

•    No landscaping at all. This is especially evident in a large or estate style home devoid of landscaping.


Pride (Latin, watchmedoit)  is considered the original and most serious of the deadly sins and the source of all others. Pride can also be described as an unnatural elevated belief in one’s ability. This vice can have many strange manifestations, as seen here.  This sinner has trouble leaving the big jobs to the professionals! 

Yes, salvation from these cardinal sins IS possible. Just when you imagined all hope was lost, you can find redemption from the landscaping gods. Here are some acts that may appease them:

•    Simplify the impact of your focal points by limiting them to one really spectacular one, two at most. Less IS more!

•    Group plants you love in 3’s, 5’s, 7’s, keeping larger plants at the back of the bed and smaller in the front.

•    Stay away from any landscape element that will draw attention away from your house or be an eyesore to your neighbor.

•    Prune judiciously, retaining the natural shape of the plant material.

•    Hire a professional for larger projects! 

Lori Hawkins, ASLA has been a practicing landscape architect out of the Greensboro, NC area since 1999. Wife, mother to three grown daughters and an ever expanding family. She blogs at Musings of a Garden Diva. 

Posted by

Lori Hawkins

on December 11, 2014 at 7:21 am, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes, Guest Rants.

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  • Oh dear. While I understand that this article is mostly intended as tongue-in-cheek and I did recognize some valid points, I just can’t get behind the cookie cutter tips offered there at the end. Yes, following these instructions will probably result in a yard that is inoffensive and unmemorable to most. But I don’t much see the point in that. Go ahead and choose a monoculture lawn with a well behaved shrub here and there if you care that little about actual gardening.

    Laura 25th June 2017 4:37 pm
  • Hi Laura:

    Lori 2nd July 2017 1:29 pm
  • Hi Lori, Oh I found the article very amusing and certainly did appreciate some of your points. I think part of my issue may have had to do with some of the photos chosen to illustrate the “sins.” The gardens in the lust, gluttony, and pride pictures all resemble mine in some way and I find them completely charming. Yes, if you want things to look neat and magazine-perfect then hire a professional and do away with the frippery. Same with any other space in one’s home.

    Laura 6th July 2017 1:41 pm
  • As an English teacher who has taught Dante, I loved this piece! What a great satire. Except, I totally with everything you said. Who wants tacky garden crap in their yard? It’s looks bad.

    admin 6th July 2017 1:51 pm
  • I am glad that you enjoyed my attempt at satire Laura! I understand where you are coming from. As a Landscape Architect, I feel that I have to be the ‘middle man’ in between the wants and desires of many people who live in and around a space that I am designing. The homeowner may want one thing, her spouse may want another. Their next door neighbor may stop my crew and try to get them to do something else (YES! That happens.) Needless to say, there are many parameters to be taken into consideration, but ultimately the homeowner makes the final decision. I have had to steer a customer away from a design element, due to the issues with the neighbors. Lots to consider! Thanks for your comment.

    Lori Hawkins 6th July 2017 1:57 pm
  • I’d wager that there is some third option that can stand beside the tired, unsuccessful monstrosities pictured in this article and the “inoffensive and unmemorable” gardens that Laura posits as the alternative.

    Vincent Vizachero 6th July 2017 1:57 pm
  • Vincent-
    Welp, I for one certainly have no desire to consider the opinion of someone who might consider my humble little garden to be a “tired, unsuccessful monstrosity,” but, yes, I agree that there is often a middle ground. We often can honor our own personal tastes in our gardens without offending (most of)our neighbors. Unless of course our neighbors subscribe to the rigid rule set outlined above and find plants grouped in even numbers and multiple focal points offensive.

    Laura 6th July 2017 2:00 pm
  • Ok. I agree with so much if this, but tires shouldn’t be used as planters? You’ve lost your mind.
    In the South, no respectful garden doesn’t have a painted tire planter. And seriously, they can be very good.
    But I’m also not appreciating the comments at the end.
    None of that is relevant to a good designer. I never group plants in odd numbers, for instance. Give me 4 of anything!
    And an ugly house certainly should not get the attention in the landscape.
    And check out the work of Pearl Fryar for tips on pruning.
    Remember that gardening is an art form. Creativity and innovation get the best results.

    David mcMullin 6th July 2017 2:09 pm
  • Oh I am guilty of these sins, certainly. Especially in my neighbors’ eyes. I prune too much or not enough. Parts of my garden are woefully neglected because I’m too lazy to deal with the problems therein. I find a plant I like and plant it in abundance. Bird feeders? A dozen or so in my plot of suburbia. I find things I like (or the kids do) and it stays in my yard until well past the point of usefulness or attractiveness or impact. No professional will ever touch my garden. It’s mine.

    Laura Bell 7th July 2017 1:43 am
  • HI Laura:

    Lori Hawkins 7th July 2017 9:34 am
  • A whole lot of preaching going on in this Rant, eh? Along with what I can only assume is a pretty heavy dose of ironic holier-than-thouness. I loved the picture of the ski lift gondola – it would be pretty cool in a garden up here.

    Chris - PEC 7th July 2017 1:42 pm
  • I also love the ski lift! I love seeing stuff in a garden that is unexpected. When I was little the garden in our apartment complex had a VW bus with no wheels or doors. It was kinda tacky but so much fun to play in!

    Mary Gray 7th July 2017 1:54 pm
  • Like the analogy that you did with the 7 deadly sins. Anyways, it boils down to this: you know, just make use of what you have and don’t go overboard. Right? I guess when you are too ambitious about your landscaping project, it may lead to disaster. Thanks for this eye opener, by the way!

    Oliver The Landscaper 7th July 2017 1:56 pm
  • Hi Oliver:

    Lori Hawkins 7th July 2017 2:00 pm
  • Diana:

    Lori Hawkins 8th July 2017 9:59 am
  • Respect your first attempt at satire, and REALLY respect any one who puts there words or images or art out there for others…takes courage.

    Barrie Collins 8th July 2017 11:59 am
  • I couldn’t agree with you more Barrie about protecting our ecosystems! In reality, gardening is much more of an art form than ‘landscaping’- which is mostly only for aesthetic purposes. I do have to say that many of my customers are much more educated on green practices for fertilizing, weed control etc. so we have come a long way.

    Lori Hawkins 8th July 2017 12:17 pm

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