Gardens going greener in 2009 - more eco-friendly, that is

December 27, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER

Look for gardens to be greener in 2009, trend spotters report. And we aren't talking about chlorophyll.

Garden Media Group surveyed growers, garden centers, garden editors and public-garden administrators and asked for their predictions for the new year, and it looks like gardeners will continue to be more eco-friendly.

It's a movement that began in 2001, but only last summer did we see it begin to take hold in gardens, said Susan McCoy, president of GMG. "No one was listening. It wasn't on anybody's radar screen. But now this green movement has almost become a tidal wave."

What does it mean to go green in the garden?

First, GIY (grow it yourself) will continue to replace DIFM (do it for me) in the garden. McCoy says the trend toward starting plants from seeds, instead of purchasing 4-inch pots of established plants, will continue.

Certainly that reflects the economy, but McCoy said it also reflects "a willingness to savor all the experience, from feeding [plants] to enjoying the meal they help produce."

Vegetable gardening has exploded - seed sales have more than doubled over last year - and McCoy said that will continue. Gardeners without a vegetable plot are tucking herbs, strawberries, tomato plants, lettuces and other vegetables in every spare inch of their gardens.

Even before we realized we were going to have to watch our pennies, even in the garden, we were content to buy smaller perennials and shrubs and be patient enough to watch them grow, she said.

"The last five years, we've wanted this instant impact. Annuals replaced perennials because we wanted instant results, and perennials were more work and did not have the same kind of color impact," McCoy said.

"Slow gardening," like slow food, has taken hold, she said. "We want to enjoy the process. We see gardening as more than decorating. Now we are recognizing it as an experience."

Gardeners will also be kinder to those who share the environment, McCoy said. They will use more native plants to attract birds, bees and butterflies, and fewer "garden drugs" and other chemicals that can harm wildlife.

Garden centers are also reporting increased demand for fruit-bearing shrubs, such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and elderberries, to be used as ornamentals.

Water will always be an issue for gardeners - especially when there is too little of it. More gardeners are planting natives and collecting water in rain barrels for that reason.

But the sound of running water is soothing, and, as a result, water features - small ponds or fountains in the garden, sometimes more than one - will continue to appear.

Also, knowledge- and information-sharing will continue to expand, especially on the Internet.

"You can have a Ph.D. in rocket science and still not know where to begin in the garden," said McCoy.

"And we saw garden coaches come on strong in the last year," McCoy added. That's a new and important resource for gardeners who are just beginning or who are expanding their space.

Some of the other trends McCoy sees for 2009 include:

* Grocery stores have been selling cut flowers for some time, but they will continue to expand their merchandise to attract the shopper who is also a gardener - potting soil, live plants, compost and garden hand tools.

* More people are composting, and that will continue. Like so many aspects of gardening, that will require more information - how to create compost and work it into the soil.

* Time-starved gardeners will be looking for quick and simple solutions, and those will include more containers for everything from vegetables to shrubs. (Tip: Square is the new round when it comes to containers, and look for bold, bright colors instead of terra cotta.)

* Unusual pieces, found objects, folk art and other personal items will be found in the garden to better reflect the personality of the gardener.

* More families will work together in the garden. "Workshops and lectures on gardening with the family are standing-room-only," said McCoy.

* We have moved the indoors out. Now we are moving the outdoors in by decorating homes with dramatic houseplants and tropicals.

The cloud across the sun this gardening season will be, of course, the economy, McCoy said. "Our home is our castle again," she said. "But gardening is not recession-proof, and we are seeing garden centers planning for a slower spring."

Perhaps this will not be the spring for a landscaping makeover, or for installing a huge, new garden or an elaborate water feature.

But you can't put a price tag on the pleasure of simply getting outdoors and working in the garden. That will still be free.

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