Every gardener likes to feel their garden is a personal expression. We don't watch garden trends to fit in, we follow them looking for new ideas to take and adapt into something uniquely our own. That's what I hope the following garden trends will do for you.
The gardening industry spends many hours and dollars trying to figure out why we garden and what new plants and gadgets we might need or want.
So some trends are simply the result of there being more choices for gardeners. The amount of new plants introduced each year is head-spinning.
Some trends develop because even gardeners who stick with their proven reliable plants like a change now and then and other trends make me skeptical that they interviewed actual gardeners. For example, painted rocks for color may be a design concept, but it's not gardening.
Here are some garden trends, good and bad, from recent years. In some instances it seems the trend watchers are trying to create the trend, rather than report on existing trends, but there are still some good ideas to be gleaned.
1. Gardening for the Greater Good is In; Gardening for Self-Gratification is Out.
The first trend says that we’re all getting a little more eco-conscious. Supposedly we’re moving toward gardening for reasons other than our own pleasure. I don’t know about this.
Sure, we appreciate the big picture, but most gardeners garden because they enjoy it. We enjoy being outdoors, getting our hands dirty and watching things grow. We love the beauty we create and the food we grow. Filtering the air is a noble cause, but is not the top reason we plant a tree. Still, it's nice that products are being geared toward working with nature and not destroying it.
2. Buying Local is In: Big Eco-Footprints are Out.
This is a two-prong trend. We’re seeing and thinking more about using native plants, which is good for the environment and for the gardener. Plants that have adapted to your area will grow well there, take less effort to maintain, and look good in your garden.
But they are also finding a trend back toward buying food locally, at farms and farmers' markets, and there is also a resurgence in backyard vegetable gardening. The easiest, least expensive way to go organic and ensure you know what you’re feeding your family is to grow it yourself. It's a good idea and certainly not a new one. I'm glad to see vegetable gardening regaining favor.
3. Gardening for the Birds & Bees is In; Reckless Gardening is Out.
Were we really that reckless? Gardeners were a little too free with pesticides, but we didn't know better. Now that we do, pesticide use is down considerably. And in light of the honeybee colony collapse and the struggles of the monarch butterfly, even more gardeners are thinking twice before picking up the spray can. We're also learning what plants to grow, to attract and assist bees and butterflies and birds. Without pollinators, there are few fruits or vegetables.
Or honey, for that matter.
4. Water in the Garden is In; Wasting Water is Out.
Water gardens were considered a luxury, but having water in the garden isn't just a treat for the gardener, it is also a lifeline for animals and insects. And while you might not want deer and mosquitoes infiltrating your backyard, it's possible to keep them out and still invite birds, dragonflies, and other wildlife that can assist you in keeping nature in balance. All that and you still get to enjoy the beauty of water gardens.
On the flip side, you don't want to waste water in the garden. That means growing plants that can handle short periods of drought (don't worry, there are many more than just cactus), making use of the water that is there, with rain barrels and such, and using water efficiently, by considering things like drip irrigation.
5. Eco-Chic Gardens are In; Chemically Needy Gardens are Out.
We all probably agree that conserving water, gardening for birds, and choosing less toxic solutions are good things. There was a time we'd simply have called them common sense, something most gardeners have in good supply. I'm not sure how we lost track of these concepts, but it's good to see them back.
6. Corresponding Color Combinations are In; Complementary Color Combos are Out.
I also don’t like the idea of creating color trends. I don’t change my wardrobe, such as it is, to keep up with color trends in fashion and I don’t plan to re-work my garden just because orange is the new pink. This strikes me as a sales gimmick and I for one have no intention of redesigning my garden for every color trend. (And I like complementary color combinations.)
7. Smart 'n Easy Gardens are In; High Maintenance Gardens are Out.
Which brings us to Smart 'n Easy Gardens being in. Who sets out to design a high maintenance garden? If you’ve got the money for that, you probably have the money to hire someone to take care of it.
But many gardeners are trying to cut back on all the weeding, deadheading and dividing. That doesn't mean we'll settle for a couple of pots on the patio. Mulch, lower maintenance plants and plants that don't require division can save you hours in the garden.
On the other hand if you love a diva plant and you must have it, you don’t care that it’s a prima dona. We’ve always managed to balance our indulgences with workhorses in another part of the garden. After all, it's the so called maintenance that constitutes gardening.
8. Curvaceous Gardens are In; Square Gardens are Out.
Huh? Does it have to be either or? Sometimes clean lines and symmetry are just what you’re looking for. It sure makes harvesting easier.
9. Well-Lit Gardens are In; In the Dark Gardens are Out.
Finally, a trend I’m intrigued by. Usually I work in the garden until I can’t see what plant I’m working on anymore. I suppose garden lighting is meant to extend usable time in your outdoor entertaining areas, but I think it would be great to have some mood lighting while I work in the evening.
Of course lights attract insects, so be careful what you wish for.
Gardening trends may dictate what plants and gadgets garden centers sell each year, but do gardeners really follow gardening trends? Maybe not consciously, but very often we all covet the same new plant or are drawn to the same color palette. Is it the marketer creating these trends or do gardeners? I like to hope it’s gardeners who are asking for specific plants and tools, who are driving the market.