It was hot last year, it’s hot again this year – eco-chic gardening|[05/24/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2008

Last year, the average household spent more than $400 for garden-related items. Landscaping grew by 19 percent, water gardening by 49 percent, fruit tree planting by 26 percent and vegetable gardening by 1 percent. Experts watch sales and several other areas to distinguish trends.

Why are they important? Garden and landscape trends shape consumer choices for the next year and years to come.

I mentioned last year after returning from the International Master Gardeners Conference in Little Rock that green gardening was the undertone of many of the speakers. For 2008, the Garden Media Group identified going green as the No. 1 global trend, professional trend-watchers for the gardening industry.

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“Environmentally savvy homeowners know that it’s not just good enough to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle; you’ve got to be environmentally responsible ” said Garden Media’s Susan McCoy.

Gardeners want to find ways to conserve water, use locally produced or recycled materials and use environmentally responsible maintenance procedures.

Eco-chic is the buzzword for gardens designed and maintained in an ecology friendly manner. Gardeners are recycling plastic pots, composting and using rain barrels to catch rainwater. To restore balance in nature, they are creating feeding spots for birds and planting flowers so that bees, ladybugs and beneficial insects have fruit and nectar to eat.

Water gardening is still trendy. However, it is not necessary to have a huge water feature. In fact, wasting water is out. New smaller scale fountains and ponds are en vogue. They use less water, require less maintenance and can be more interesting in a home landscape. Pondless waterfalls are an option as are tabletop and recirculating fountains.

Many gardeners are opting for less grass in smart and easy landscapes. They are adding stamped concrete patios, walks and driveways. Turfless landscapes are showing up as gardeners install rocks, shrubs, trees and ground covers rather than traditional grass lawns. More expensive initially, it will save time, money and energy in maintenance, especially if combined with a drip irrigation system. Natives show up frequently in low maintenance gardens as well as ornamental grasses.

Half of this country’s consumers say that a lack of time is a bigger issue than a lack of money. The landscape service industry is exploding as homeowners who have purchased homes with large landscaped lawns just cannot find time to maintain the outdoor aspects. Full-grown plants and trees are hot sellers for homeowners too impatient to wait for smaller ones to naturally mature in the landscape.

Outdoor rooms take center stage in gardening trends. For the past five years, outdoor living and decorating were cited as the top two mega trends. In 2007, $6.2 billion was spent on outdoor furniture, accessories and grills. More than a million outdoor kitchens were constructed, and upscale homeowners opted for construction of gazebos near their outdoor pools. Stylish table lamps, special submersible lighting for fountains and dramatic illumination options are now on the market as a result of interest in outdoor living projects.

Simplicity is in with a new twist on the monochromatic slant. One basic color theme dominates a bed or pot with foliage plants and succulents, many of them variegated, used as accents. A ratio of 60 percent of a primary color, 30 percent of a secondary color and 10 percent of accent color is attractive for a pot or bed. Big is beautiful these days. Big plants in big containers with big bold color are being used to create stylish pot scapes.

The “slo” food movement is growing, according to Landscape and Garden Consultant Adele Kleine.

“This philosophy reduces dependence on convenience and processed fast food. One of the purposes of gardening is to encourage adults and children to feel better emotionally and to inspire them to take more control over what they consume. That’s what slo food does,” Kleine said.

Farmers markets and organic food stands are part of this movement, as well as home vegetable gardening. Garden sales via the Internet are increasing dramatically. This year, sales are expected to equal or exceed catalog sales, growing from $7 million in 2007 to more than $10 million.

Consumers jump on the bandwagon for products that are new and hot, so growers will continue to introduce hundreds of new plants each year to meet consumer demands. Organic pesticides, fertilizers, eco-friendly products and drought tolerant and/or pest-resistant plants, many of which are container suitable – plus more native options – are expected to be big sellers this year.

Hopefully, these eco-friendly trends are not merely fads that will fade with time. We all can be responsible caretakers of the environment, but need readily accessible products to help us do so.


Miriam Jabour, a Master Gardener and master flower show judge, has been active with the Vicksburg Council of Garden Clubs for more than 20 years. Write to her at 1114 Windy Lake Drive, Vicksburg, MS 39183.