Gardening Trends for 2016

IMG_2650.JPG – Version 2What will trend in the gardening world in 2016? A few years ago, vertical gardening was all the rage, then growing your own edibles came into vogue. Now, I get questions about rain gardens and how to design small spaces. More homeowners are raising chickens. People are concerned with bees dying off.

Alex LaVilla from Swanson’s Nursery offered his thoughts on some trends he sees developing from customer needs as well as from interaction with horticulture professionals in the industry. Here they are:

Low-water use plants and plantings.

Last summer we had an unofficial drought in Seattle. We didn’t suffer in water rates because the folks who monitor the reservoirs wisely didn’t drain extra supply. But summers seem to be getting hotter and gardeners are interested in planting accordingly. Just remember, as LaVilla warns, even plants thought of as drought tolerant still need some water. “I tend to not use the term ‘Drought tolerant’ very much,” he says, “as many mistakenly assume it means ‘no water, no care.’ This notion made for a lot of dead plants in the summer heat last year.”

Bees and pollinating plants.

IMG_4649Unfortunately, the bee population is declining at a rapid rate. If we don’t have bees, we don’t have food, it’s that simple. Those little guys zoom around carrying pollen in orchards and home gardens and thank goodness they do. Fortunately, researchers are pinpointing pesticides as the problem and some action is being taken. Now, homeowners, especially in Seattle, are getting a clue about this. Raising or attracting bees is becoming more popular and along with that, the availability of supplies and plants to attract bees.

Low-maintenance plants and designs.

I see this often in my interactions with clients. Most couples have two working adults in the family and don’t have the time to spend watering, fertilizing, or trimming plants. La Villa sees this population as, “Downsizing, older Boomers, short-on-time new parents, and career Millennials.” The good news is some nurseries now label plants as “easy care” or “a workhouse” of the garden.

Rain gardens. 

We had a rainy fall and winter this year, which was great for plants but not so great for homeowners with poor drainage on their property. Luckily, more homeowners are learning that they can naturally channel the water coming off their roofs and or pavement into designated beds of pretty plants rather than flooding their lawns (or basements).

Raising chickens, urban homesteading, canning, drying.

People are realizing that the best way to avoid artificial preservatives, weird hormones, and pesticides in their food is to grow and preserve their own. I’m not interested in raising chickens but boy, there’s nothing like a fresh egg from a backyard chicken. And I love homemade jelly and pesto. When you grow and make food from the backyard, it’s usually organic and tastes a hundred times better than a store bought version.

Artisanal growing of herbs and heirloom vegetables.

herbs, sedumsLaVilla says, “Smaller wholesale growers are adding more exotic herbs in addition to the mainstream selections: cilantro, epazote, Mexican Oregano, medicinal herbs (i.e. Gotu Kola, ginseng).” This is exciting because it means nurseries will begin carrying more exotic herbs and heirloom vegetables for gardeners to grow — and for cooks to experiment with. Heirloom vegetables are wonderful because they usually taste better and because they’ve adapted to an area’s climate for a longer time, they produce a higher, longer yield of crop. By the way, epazote is a South American herb often used in Mexican dishes.

Irrigation controlled with wireless technology.

This goes back to busy couples who only have time to focus on working and their families. If you’re caught working late, a wireless remote control can help water the garden. Rachio, Blossom, Hydrawise all offer wireless control systems with varying features.

More diverse but low maintenance designs.

You often see rows of grasses or similar small trees planted around newly constructed, modern homes. But these designs, while easy care, are monocultures that don’t really increase biodiversity or add much seasonal interest. Homeowners are discovering one can have a contrasting selection of trees and shrubs that are still low care while attaining more color and blooms.

Rabbit resistant plants.

I was surprised to hear LaVilla say that this was becoming an increasingly bigger problem in urban areas. Out in a North Seattle suburb where I live, we’ve seen a lot more bunnies in the last year or so but I didn’t realize they were moving into urban areas as well. Rabbits don’t like veronica, salvia, peonies, daylilies, astilbes, or foxgloves. Ask a local nursery person for more plant ideas.

Privacy screening in yards and on decks.

As Seattle grows and densifies, people live closer than ever to each other. Any bit of backyard privacy is becoming precious. Tall homes are often constructed in tight spaces so homeowners are buying shrubs and small trees to screen out buildings and eyesores. Trellises atop a fence and arbors with vines can also help create a private, relaxing space.

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