In 2018, we predict, based on extensive research, that the garden will be a both a haven and a laboratory as gardeners seek a respite from a stressful world, and also dive into the flood of new plant choices they’re seeing in garden centers and on social media.
According to a National Gardening Survey, more than six million people nationwide took up gardening last year (millennials, ages 18 to 34, accounting for 80 percent of that total). We’re watching this dynamic play out in unequaled demand for unique, sustainable, and social share-worthy plants and for gardening to be a differentiator of sorts.
As sensitivity about how we impact our habitat increases, and old plants become new friends, we’re changing not only what we garden, but how we garden. It looks like an interesting year!
Roses and Rhodies Renaissance
Gardeners are transitioning from the New Perennial landscape movement that dominated design for the past twenty years to a more integrated garden style with spectacular shrubs as the stars of vibrant mixed plantings. While we will always value perennials for the way they create a sequence of bloom in the garden, sales figures back up the shrubs trend with the lure of Insta-perfect posies, easy to grow edible shrubs, year-round beauty, container compatibility, and tales of low-effort/big rewards making gardeners take a second look at shrubs in general, and the next wave of fuss-free roses and rhododendrons (the “it” flower of UK last year) in particular. Bonus? Emerging evidence that roadside shrub hedges can help combat city air pollution.
The shifting relationship between humans and the environment has changed the balance of nature and we continue to deal with the effects. What’s new is that we’re beginning to explore how the act of gardening effects people as well as impacting the planet, and to view gardening as a type of differentiator. We’re seeing (thanks to social media) a new type of tribalism where the shared experience of gardening inspires a leafy sort of group therapy (see our 2017 trends report on “Floratourism”). As we seek and find community, the garden has become not only a place of refuge and comfort, but also a way to define a world view.
Pitch Perfect Pines
“This genius genus of plants feels fresh and wow-worthy, inspiring a new generation of gardeners to see them with fresh eyes.”
After years of being overshadowed by boxwoods and birches, this compelling conifer’s on the comeback trail. Following their scene-stealing role at 2017’s Chelsea Flower Show (such as this by designer Charlotte Harris) where they were used extensively and innovatively, this genius genus of plants– notably fuss-free problem solvers, but which also offer a distinct personality in the landscape—feels fresh and wow-worthy, inspiring a new generation of gardeners to see them with fresh eyes. Here are five to watch.
“Expect to see programs promoting the application of commercial agriculture principles of “soil regeneration” in the home garden.”
Experts point out that, collectively, home gardeners manage a great deal of land, perhaps as much as commercial farmers. Programs to promote the development of healthy soils in commercial agriculture (known as regenerative agriculture— a practice of farming, based on ecological principles, that builds soil health and recaptures carbon emissions from the atmosphere) are taking root with California’s Healthy Soil Initiative leading the charge. Expect to see programs (such as Soil to Supper and The Credible Food Project) promoting the application of commercial agriculture principles of “soil regeneration” in the home garden.
Suburban Plant Hunters
“These savvy garden-makers are on the prowl for the unique and unusual to design a landscape that’s bespoke, not cookie-cutter.”
First comes a garden, then comes a garden that no one else has! Gardeners, taking a cue from plant explorers like Dan Hinkley, are foraging nurseries, plant sales, even yard sales, for the rare and unique–and the #humblebrag rights that come with it. From heritage fruit trees and “who-knew” annuals, to (always sold out) Itoh peonies, such as this Morning Lilac variety, and complex topiary, these savvy garden-makers are on the prowl for the goods to make a landscape that’s bespoke, not cookie-cutter. Look for growers to respond with rare and limited edition plants.
We See a Pattern
“Plants whose foliage has been patterned with dots, dashes, stripes and slashes have been spotted everywhere.”
It might be due to the 21st century houseplant infatuation, the desire to add zip to the dreaded deep shade spaces, or the allure of the big box of crayon colors provided by succulents, but whatever the cause, there’s no denying that plants whose foliage has been patterned with dots, dashes, stripes and slashes have been spotted everywhere. According to Pinterest, saves of images of plants with interesting foliage were up by +533% in 2017. From trippy ferns and Chinese fairy bells to wildly wonderful aloes and splashy caladiums we excited to report that patterns are in play.
“Gardeners are scooping up new and improved varieties of hydrangeas as fast as we can grow them.”
Likely largely due to plant porn images on social media, gardeners are scooping up new and improved varieties of hydrangeas as fast as we can grow them. Breeders, responding to consumer needs, built a better hydrangea–re-blooming, right-sized for pots, with sturdier stems that don’t flop under the weight of large flower heads, and thicker leaves that are more tolerant of heat, humidity, and heady winds—making this much loved flower into the “must have” flower of the decade. (Crystal ball time? We forecast 2019 will be all about vines and ground covers.)
Show Me State
“Mentoring services are especially attractive to younger, inexperienced gardeners and to social media savvy first-time home buyers.”
In the year of the woman, these gardeners will take back their power, engaging in record numbers the one-on-one services of coaches to teach them the how-to’s of DIY chores ranging from using chain saws and pruning to composting, floral arrangements, and urban livestock tending. Garden coaches were a “thing” about ten years ago and they’re coming back in a big way. Data indicates that these mentoring services are especially attractive to younger, inexperienced gardeners and to social media savvy first-time homebuyers (so many selfie opportunities!). We’re also seeing increased interest in online basic gardening classes, and competition for open slots in Master Gardener programs.