Garden & Landscape Tips

Gardens — and the way people grow them — are constantly changing. Here’s a look at what horticulturists, growers, researchers, and garden trend-watchers think will be the hot gardening trends in the next few years:

vegetable garden
More people are growing their own vegetables.

Grow-Your-Own Veggies. Vegetable gardening has seen the biggest rebirth since World War II. This is due to several reasons including:

  1. People are trying to eat healthier.
  2. Growing your own gives you control over what chemicals (if any) are applied to the crop.
  3. It is a means of reducing the grocery budget.

Eating the Yard. Vegetables aren’t being grown only in traditional, dedicated vegetable gardens. More gardeners are growing veggies in containers — especially those with limited yard space — and some are mixing edibles into the ornamental landscape. For example blueberries make a great hedge; hot peppers and lettuce can really spice up a flowerbed or border.

More Herbs. Herb sales were up sharply in 2011. That’s partly a function of growing edibles in general being more popular, but most herbs are also among the easiest plants to grow. Many are compact, another plus in those small yards. Also herbs including purple sage, variegated thyme, and golden oregano are good-looking enough to grow as and with ornamentals.

rain barrels
Seed-starting cuts the cost of filling all of those new vegetable gardens.

Starting from Seed. After a long slump, the art of seed starting is back in vogue again. It’s a fulfilling and far less expensive way to provide healthy plants for all of those new vegetable gardens than buying and growing small transplants. More gardeners also are growing flowers from seed again. Interest in old-fashioned and “heirloom” varieties of both vegetables and flowers is especially on the upswing.

Pollinator-Friendly Gardens. Concern about dwindling bee and beneficial-insect populations has led many gardeners to plant gardens primarily to attract these pollinators. Others just like having more birds and butterflies in the yard. The result has been an increased interest in landscaping with plants (often natives) that offer pollen, nectar, and shelter to desired wildlife.

Water Saving. Rain barrels, rain gardens, drought-tolerant plants for xeric gardens, and other water-saving measures are fast becoming the norm in much of the United States but especially so in the drought-ravaged South. As a result drip-irrigation systems, soaker hoses, timers, and other water-saving aids are attracting increasing interest.

rain barrels
Bottle trees are making a comeback from their 9th-century African roots.

Smaller Lawns. Municipalities in some drought-stricken areas have begun offering financial incentives for homeowners to reduce the size of their lawns replacing them with drought-hardy native plantings. But even where regular drought is less of a threat, lawns are shrinking as homeowners try to reduce mowing and other lawn-care expenses.

Hard-Working Plants. Increasingly gardeners want plants to pull their weight and be attractive for more than one season of the year (spring flowers, striking summer foliage, colorful and bird-attracting fruits in fall, plus provide winter interest). They should also require little maintenance and be unlikely to die or run into pest problems. More gardeners are willing to pay a little extra for new and improved varieties that offer those advantages. In other words, horticulture is one area where price isn't the overwhelming choice decider.

Bottle Trees. The up-and-coming hot landscape feature is a post or a dead-tree trunk rigged up with arms or branches that hold glass bottles — usually cobalt blue ones. The idea has its roots in 9th-century Africa. Slaves in America often created them as a way to keep evil spirits away from their living quarters. Gardeners like them as easy, inexpensive focal points in the landscape.

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