A friendly, fun habitat

Future: A fresh crop of ideas to sow for 21st-century gardens.

In The Garden

January 02, 2000|By Kathy Van Mullekom | Kathy Van Mullekom,Knight Ridder/Tribune

In the garden, trends are often tied to genetic engineering and other forms of horticultural technology that breed bigger and better plants, ones that fight off pests and diseases and that flourish in all kinds of weather.

What can gardeners look forward to in the newest century?

Marc Cathey, president emeritus of the American Horticultural Society, says gardeners have lots of exciting times waiting for them:

* Frontyard gardens: Our front yards will no longer be boring evergreens and massive shade trees. We will have highly seasonal plants of natives, exotics, tropicals, herbs and aquatics to make home fun to live in and to visit.

* New "Smart Garden": Our gardens will become solutions to environmental quality, not the source of environmental problems, because all our good gardening alternatives and pointers will finally begin to pay off.

* Food gardens: We will grow our own food without toxic agents. Many new cultivars and types of vegetables will enter the market from all parts of the world.

* Dark gardens: Even under dense tree shade, garden areas in containers will be created.

* Children's gardens: All schools, churches and recreational facilities will build gardens to teach about plants, critters and the environment. Those gardens also will teach math (measuring), language (plant names), geography (origin of plants) and health (exercise).

* Meadow gardens: Millions of acres of land lost to invasive plants will be reclaimed to become habitats for native plants and animals.

What are the AHS and Cathey doing long range to promote the creation of the new gardens?

* Coding: Developing maps that correspond to plant labels giving the needs for water, light, heat, hardiness, pH and wind. The maps will be similar to the new heat-zone map and heat-tolerance plant codes featured in the Time-Life book "Heat-Zone Gardening: How to Choose Plants That Thrive in Your Region's Warmest Weather" by the AHS.

* Colorization: Developing a new color system to give consistent names for all the colors of plants.

* Communication: Preparing to provide interpretations for flowers and plants similar to the 1857 book "Life Among the Flowers" edited by Laura Greenwood. In that book, plants are assigned feelings and emotions; tulip means beautiful eyes, for example. "It's truly a way to say it with flowers," says Cathey.

THE BIG TRENDS

Millennium gardening trends include:

* Outdoors comes indoors, especially water gardens that bring tranquillity to homes.

* Brighter colors light up landscapes.

* Native plants grow in popularity.

* Gray and blue are hip garden colors for 2000. Gray/black plants have a blue cast to foliage. Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' is the Perennial Association's Plant of the Year for 2000.

* Foliage, not just flowers, fills color needs, especially in shade gardens.

* Gardeners express their personalities through plant selection and garden accents, wanting all-season color with less effort.

* People get creative with their time, preferring water gardens and outdoor rooms with spiffy barbecues -- even complete outdoor kitchens and comfortable weatherproof furniture -- in lieu of mowing grass. Candles and incense even go outdoors.

* Annuals become fashionable again.

* Wildlife thrives in gardens, especially birds such as hummingbirds, and butterflies. Gardeners raise more caterpillars.

* Interest increases in organic gardening and nonchemical controls, even among nongardeners.

* Homeowners do fun gardening and hire out major maintenance and installations.

* Vines add vertical interest to gardens.

* Industry introduces more plants that thrive on heat and drought. Breeders are now trying their best to develop heat- tolerant violas.

* Garden meadows combine grasses with flowers for easy-care, natural landscapes.

* Plant breeders introduce more dwarf-type plants for small-space and container gardening.

* Heirloom vegetables are sought after as gardeners fear older varieties will disappear in favor of modern hybrids, which could result in a loss of genetic diversity.

* Feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of placement and energy, continues indoors and outdoors.

Sources: Garden Center Merchandising and Management's December magazine, American Nursery & Landscape Association, Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia.

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