Greener days are coming for gardeners Products: 'Gardening made easy' innovations are growing, to the delight of planters.

December 28, 1997|By Joan Jackson | Joan Jackson,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

It's no secret that gardening can be hard work leading to a pain in the back and blisters on the hand. And then the plant dies.

But take heart, gardeners. Judging from products shown at the recent Western Nursery and Garden Expo in Las Vegas, the new gardening season will be a bit easier, faster and more foolproof.

All kinds of garden goods point in that direction.

One-step lawn repair kits, shake-and-grow flower gardens, ergonomically correct tools that are easier to use, and flowers -- even roses -- that are close to foolproof are some of the products that will line the aisles at neighborhood garden centers when serious growing kicks in this spring. Everything from better-fitting garden gloves to easy-to-choose seed packets vie for the gardener's eye.

At stake are the big bucks gardeners spend on lawn and garden products. According to a Gallup Poll, gardening is the No. 1 leisure activity for U.S. homeowners, a multimillion-dollar industry driven by desires for the greenest lawn, the earliest tomato and the most perfect fragrant rose.

"The green industry is very healthy right now. It's a combination of the weather and the economy. No one's worrying about El Nino or the stock market," said Steve Atwood, owner of Clyde Robin Seed Co. in Hayward, Calif., and vice president of the California Association of Nurserymen.

The rosy garden outlook, he said, "is because so many homeowners are young, and they have money to spend. They're nesting, and they're spending their money on their home and garden. Lucky for us.

"Don't expect this trend to turn around anytime soon. It's why the garden industry going into the 21st century is going to be in good shape."

At the Las Vegas show, more than 650 exhibitors showed every aspect of the green industry from plants and pest controls to garden tools and gift ideas.

As usual in the garden market, practical outweighed glitz, results more important than hype. Here is a sampling:

* Carpet roses. A pretty pastel pink rose is the newcomer to Monrovia's line of Ground Cover Rose Flower Carpets.

This pretty baby named Appleblossom shows multicolored pastel pink petals, a color that contrasts with the iridescent Flower Carpet Pink and the softly clean Flower Carpet White.

In California gardens, the Carpet roses have proved to be quite hardy and need no spraying since they're resistant to black spot and mildew.

Introduced three years ago, the Carpet roses are showing up in mass plantings, borders and patio pots because they grow very low -- like a ground cover 20 to 24 inches high. They need trimming once a year when dormant in winter, but that's about all you need to do. They bloom from early spring to early winter.

* Kids' gardening. This remains a hot market because there are big bucks to be made from parents interested in bonding with their kids in the garden.

Kids' gardening products are everywhere. NK Lawn and Garden Products has expanded its line of Kid Garden seeds, but the parents of the youngest green-thumbers also can buy small-size tools, tiny gloves and pint-size planting kits.

"Pooh and Pals" is the name of White Swan's kid line, exclusive licensee of Disney Pooh seed products.

Included is a Pooh Wild Bird Feeder, Pooh Outdoor Flower Garden, Pooh flower and vegetable seeds -- well, you get the idea. The packaging is charming, and the marketing strategy is aimed at "great impulse buying." Better bring the checkbook.

* Fabulous fakes among the pots. I found myself asking, "Is it terra cotta, or is it poly?" as I ran my hands over the polyethylene pots from Campania. The lightweight polyethylene planters have the natural look of antique terra cotta or weathered stone. You have to tap one -- and then pick it up -- to tell the difference.

The Campania pots range in size from window-box planters to the big stuff. Their price ranges from $24 to $300 depending on size of planters, which are from 14 inches to 52 inches in diameter.

"You would pay at least double, if not triple, for real terra cotta this size. And these don't crack or chip like terra cotta," said David Tanguay of Campania. Information: 215-538-1106.

* Little things on wooden sticks. Garden stakes are not exactly new, but they are very au courant, part of the garden art craze that ranges from flamingos to expensive Grecian stonework.

These garden art-plant stakes are popular because they are cheap -- generally priced under $10 -- and cute. They can be tacky or high class, in materials ranging from plastic and wood to glass and brass. I spotted tulips, miniature birdhouses, frogs, turtles, sunflowers and butterflies in endless shapes and choices.

Judging from the vast array of choices, the only rule is: If it makes you happy, buy it.

Pub Date: 12/28/97

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