The Seven Deadly Sins of Landscaping – Sinners Beware!

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.


    • Laura
    • 5th September 2016

    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.

    • Lori
    • 12th October 2016

    Hi Laura:

    • Laura
    • 2nd November 2016

    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.

    • admin
    • 12th November 2016

    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.

    • Lori Hawkins
    • 13th November 2016

    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.

    • Vincent Vizachero
    • 14th November 2016

    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.

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