1. Color Chameleons
Last year saw a marked interest in conifers (as evidenced by articles in leading publications, websites, and blogs). In particular, gardeners flocked to those varieties that not only hold their own in the garden as backbone shrubs year round but add a bit of magic in winter when they morph from shades of summery green to a rainbow of otherworldly hues in winter.
People love seasonal colour shifts in the garden—especially in winter. That’s one reason why conifers that change colour when it turns cold are selling out. Junipers that take on a purple cast, pines that glow in shades of gold or plum, arborvitae that morph into coppery-bronze foliage with orangey tips are proving to be immensely popular. Expect to see a revival in the use of fuss-free conifers in general and a boost in those that colour-up for unexpected winter interest
2. Extreme Naturalism
A new kind of landscape aesthetic is having a moment. Meadow-filled, slightly wilder gardens are losing popularity, as are landscapes dominated by hard textures, right angles, Cor-Ten steel edging, and sheared-to-a-knife-point formal garden borders and hedges. In their place, use of natural elements such as rocks, boulders, and beautifully untouched hedges that impose a more integrated sense of structure is on the rise.
3. “No Waste” Food Movement Spurs More Backyard Edible Gardening
Home gardeners have embraced backyard agriculture for lots of reasons—flavour, cost, bragging rights—but expect to see the “no waste” food movement added to that list. You’re likely to eat what you grow rather than throw, whether picture-perfect or not (and maybe Instagram it).
Food waste has been on the radar, but shocking new research indicates that 50% of U.S. commercially-grown produce is discarded including more than six billion pounds of fruits and vegetables, rejected by grocery stores due to appearance.
With about 1 in 3 households now growing food, led by a 63% increase in edible gardening by millennials, home gardeners are poised to be a critical part of the solution to the social and environmental issues of food waste and the associated impacts on food security, food transport miles, wasted water, and depletion of arable land. On a global scale, look for increased interest in and facilitation of consuming, even glorifying, so-called “ugly food,” whether home-grown or purchased.
4. Tough and Tender Mixes
It seems that having a garden of established “easy care” plants are giving gardeners the time and peace of mind to try more delicate plants that imbue the space with old-school romance, colour, and fragrance. After a decade of loading up on bulletproof, always-on Knock Out roses, succulents, and new varieties of hydrangeas with thicker, more heat-and-sun-tolerant leaves and flop-resistant stems, gardeners are adding glamorous plants to the mix such as Itoh peonies (which sold out in 2016) and wisteria even though they take work to maintain, have a short period of bloom, and can be expensive. Even in places like California where natives and xeriscaping are buzzy, people are finding ways to slip in a few of these beauties, if only in a pot or two. Always a bellwether, wedding floral trends exemplify this yin-yang idea.
5. Bright, bold colours
Even as more consumers look to their gardens for a respite from a stressful world, they’re turning to celebratory colour for the sense of vitality it brings. We’re not saying that soothing hues such as whites, greens, and mineral tones such as creams, taupe, silver, and greys are going anywhere, but bright colors—really bright colors—led by bullish sales of annuals are about to flood the market.
While serene blues and peachy pinks dominated the market for a few years, we’re now seeing a pivot toward more saturated colours as evidenced by offerings at the 2016 California spring plant trials. Brave-not-beige hues—brilliant oranges, feverish reds, neon yellows, vivid purples, deep, dark reds and black-purple and lots of bi-coloured versions —provided strong proof of where garden colour is headed
6. One Pot Wonders
Whether it’s due to limited time for fussing, a commitment to quality over quantity (trending from home to fashion to food), or a desire for an “instant” garden, consumers are filling large pots with a single impressive statement plant. Breeders have made this aesthetic easier to achieve with boxwoods that don’t require as much shearing, reblooming, compact hydrangeas that only need spent flowers nipped off, and pomegranates, lavenders, roses, and berries that do exceptionally well in containers.
7. Flora tourism
Blame technology: too many of us spend our days shuttered indoors in front of a computer screen, whether at work or for leisure. That alienation from outdoors (known as “nature deficit disorder”), is leading to record-breaking interest in visiting green spaces to rejuvenate and reconnect with nature. Millennials, in particular, may have grown up connected with technology, but as a generation, they’re reversing a decade-long trend, living up to their “basophilic” designation. They’re filling national parks and camping grounds, turning an urban treehouse (and treehouses in general) into the top Airbnb wish list destination, and adding nature-inspired activity to routine travel.
8. Smaller-sized Luxury
Once upon a time, it was not unusual to see large properties defined by imposing stands of impressive shrubs and towering trees. As lot sizes shrink but the desire for this luxurious look grows, this classic estate style is being replicated for a smaller outdoor footprint, thanks to more scaled-down versions of beloved plants hitting the market in 2017.
Like the elegance of a Hamptons-style hydrangea hedge but live in a condo? There’s a look-a-like for that. Just have a few pots but want the romance of a Pacific Northwest rose garden? There’s a mini-me version of that too. Love clematis covering a wall but not getting on a ladder to care for them? New ones top out at human-height. This trend began a few years ago, but as breeders catch up to the market, expect to see many more of these super-useful compact and dwarf plants at local garden centres.
9. Climate Adaptation
Interest in the possible effects of climate change on our landscapes has accelerated rapidly. The ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) reports increased demand for rainwater and greywater harvesting systems, permeable paving, and more efficient irrigation systems—all of which reflects a growing consumer demand for beautiful residential landscapes that also save water. This is beyond installing native and drought-tolerant plants and reflects a national, rather than regional trend. And predicting plants for your region is also becoming more difficult. Not so long ago, simply staying within your recommended USDA plant zone spelt success. However, over the last three winters alone gardening has become less predictable, thanks to wildly varying winter weather conditions. Fluctuations in rain and snow levels, as well as historically high temperatures, have made it evident that our climate is changing in a more dramatic way, impacting the plants that people have success within their region.
While it takes at least five years before you really know if a plant is hardy, some that would likely not survive in colder zones are beginning to adapt to those regions warm up. It’s too soon to make any conclusions about whether plant genetic composition may change in response to the selection pressure of climate change, but for sure, something’s up.