Attending the Mid Atlantic Nurseryman’s Show in Baltimore (MANTS) this past January is an intense glimpse into what is up and coming with the gardening industry. I took lots of pictures, trolled the aisles for new products, talked to people, and used my gardening savvy to figure out what is really brand new or recycled.
Talking with Stephanie Cohen(The Perennial Diva!) she suggested to gardeners that they buy one or two of the plants that they want to try in their garden, before buying 50 of the same variety to cover an area. Only after making sure your choice of perennials are thriving, then feel free to plonk down money for more. I thoroughly agree with her! Garden conditions- drainage, soil, climate, location- are so variable that it doesn’t make sense to buy an untried perennial or shrub for your garden without first giving it a trial run. It is so easy to waste money in the nursery trade without first doing your homework and making sure that it is “right plant-right place”. There are just too many choices out there vying for your gardening dollar.
Gardening trends ebb and flow like fashion crazes. “There is nothing new under the sun” could be applied to the gardening world but practices and products often are packaged and marketed differently to look new. Here are some movements that I see in the industry.
Greenery-Pantone Color of the Year
Pantone’s color of the year sets the tone for 2017- “Greenery”. It wasn’t that long ago (2013) that “Emerald” was the color of the year, so green has been trendy before. Pantone’s “Greenery” looks like a lime green to me and if that doesn’t convince you that the plant world is up and coming, nothing will. Think kale smoothies, retro metal gliders, or lime green crocs that are sitting in your closet- and you have the right color in mind. Our desire to reconnect with nature? Or a symbol of revitalization? Read whatever you want into that color, I think of shimmering foliage shades for a restful experience.
As Good as Gold
Gold has always been one of my favorite colors to design with and I see an uptick in golden introductions, like the one below called ‘Sunshine’. The Ligustrum leans toward the yellow end of the spectrum, the following Coral Bells are pure gold.
New Plant Intros
The pace of new plant introductions has been increasing in the past five years at an exponential rate as more and more people are gardening and want more choices- namely dwarf plants. Virtually every full size plant has a newer dwarf variety that is at least half the size with as many or more flowers than the full size version. Neat and tidy is the name of the game and with so many dwarf introductions, it is hard to keep track of them. The plant industry is working hard on plants that fit into our downsized lifestyle and gardens. Plus, plants that normally bloom only once-like Azaleas, are reworked to bloom again and again so that we get a longer season of enjoyment.
I was glad to see Proven Winner’s ‘Vista Bubblegum’ receive the accolade of Annual of the Year for 2017. Using this plant for at least 10 years and marveling at the toughness and beautiful form and color, I thought I was the only one who noticed! This is one plant that I make sure I buy enough for my containers and window boxes, as well as the landscape and can’t get enough of. A deserved recognition, I hope that it will now be easier to find.
Eat Your Spinach
Greens,beautiful greens! Dinosaur kale, collards, swiss chard, lettuce, arugula, spinach, mustard greens, carrot tops; you name it, someone is eating it and/or growing it! Chock full of good nutrients and easy to grow in the garden or in containers, greens are here to stay.
And not just greens. Veganism is mainstream. No longer a niche group, vegan consumers desire a cleaner product, want to lose weight, and are environmentally conscious. Even if you aren’t a total vegan, people are incorporating more vegetables in their diet. My last trend report for 2016, Top 10 Garden Trends for 2016, included the cauliflower as the trendiest vegetable in the garden. I see it at the supermarket in pizza crusts, brownies, salads, and as a rice. As easy to grow as tomatoes, but more prone to pests, here is a guide to growing – Growing Cauliflower in Containers.
Home Grown Berries
Millennials especially are embracing this trend of eating and growing healthy in portable containers. Berry bushes, like the new Bushel and Berry series of berry bushes- dwarf blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are appearing on decks and patios. As one of the Superfoods that everyone should include in your diet, people are incorporating these dwarf heavy bearing shrubs into their gardens and containers. I am trialing ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ Raspberry and looking for the ‘Perpetua’ Blueberry (2 harvests a year!) and Blackberry ‘Baby Cakes’ and will be reporting on how well they do this year.
Black Goes With Everything
Again, black or dark foliaged plants are in the forefront and they contrast nicely with the limey green ‘Greenery’. Check out my post Black Goes With Everything. Heucheras or Coral Bells come in an array of dark hues, like the ones below called ‘Silver Gumdrop’ and ‘Black Pearl’ from Walters Gardens.
Jungle Redux-Invasion of the Houseplants
Remember the tired looked Shefflarias and Spider Plants from the 70’s? If you look at pictures from that era, houseplants were everywhere, perched on harvest gold counter tops or dangling from macrame hangers. The nostalgia and the plants are back! But instead, clustering succulents in a retro glass container or air plants being thrown together in a wooden trough with glass balls are appearing. Orchids, especially Vandas are mainstream and hanging from the ceiling of your sun room. Bromeliads are coming back with some crazy colors.
Another current use of house plants is to counter indoor pollution, one more way that Millenials are trying to control their environment for healthy living.
Succulents are still huge trend setters with their jewel like rosettes of beautiful foliage. Cacti are joining right in.Easy care plants that are small and portable and take neglect, you see them in hanging baskets, wreaths, trees, and, wedding bouquets, and containers. A crafty plant, go to my post Succulents For the Fall or Deck the Halls-A Succulent Christmas.
Destination nurseries are getting more numerous and more sophisticated than ever. Prolific on the west coast and the United Kingdom, they are trickling into the rest of the country. After my recent trip to Scotland when I visited several garden centers, I realized that the U.S. has some catching up to do. Dobbies is a destination garden center/nursery that has its headquarters outside Edinburgh and bills itself as a leisure destination for all the family. I have posted about a few destination garden centers, namely Surreybrook-A Destination Garden Center located in Maryland, Annie’s Annuals in Richmond, California, and Grubb Heaven in San Francisco. Including restaurants and lifestyle products, these destination garden centers are more than just a place to shop for plants. Marketing of plants has hit big time.
There has been an explosion of black flowers and foliage in the past couple of years in the gardening world. It started out as a trickle and now is a tsunami of everything black! When I go to the nursery and look at new cultivars of annuals, perennials, and shrubs – all shades of black are represented.
The Bat Orchid, Tacca chantieri is one of my favorites but needs to be grown in a greenhouse. An exotic plant with flowers that mimic a bat in flight, deep purple to black, with ruffled wings and long, hanging filaments, the flowers last for weeks. Large, attractive leaves surround the bloom.
‘Black Magic’ Hollyhocks
These blue-black, tall, stately plants look good in any garden. They should be planted at the back of borders to give a beautiful classic garden look. They flower mid to late summer.
You have to know how to use black for the best effect. I like to place black flowers or foliage next to very bright intense colors, such as hot pink or lime green to get the biggest impact. The black color gives the eye a rest when you pair it with bright vibrant colors. If you place black plants next to darker hued plants, it just doesn’t work and the black color fades in the background. So use black carefully and site it with some thought.
Anvil of Darkness Iris
The bearded black Iris’s are particularly showy with the velvety falls of black draped against the foliage.
How to Use Black Well
Black plants can also echo other plants that have black stems, black venation or black undertones. I find that if you have a boring or blah border/container, black instantaneously ramps up the visual interest. It can become a focal point if you have a particularly beautiful black plant and enhances nearby plants.
There are all different hues and variations on black and sometimes the amount of sunlight a plant receives will affect the coloration. Also, juvenile foliage will generally be a darker, more intense, shade. In the plant trade describing many of the black plants, you hear adjectives such as chocolate, deep burgundy, midnight, dark purple, or coffee.
Jack in the Pulpits
The Japanese Cobra Lily, Arisaema sikokanum, is an elegant cousin to our native Jack In The Pulpit. The spadix is a pure marshmallow white which gives the flower such great contrast. It looks like a flower all decked out in black tie ready for a party. And the scarlet berries make this expensive plant worth the money for their multi-season interest.
Black petunias don’t seem natural. But I really like their velvety texture and tones and the Black Phantom one is a stunner and has real ‘wow’ impact . Many black flowers are black wannabees because they are more a dark purple, but the black petunias are closest to the true black color.
There has been an explosion of black flowers and foliage in the past couple of years in the gardening world. It started out as a trickle and now is a tsunami of everything black! When I go to the nursery and look at new cultivars of annuals, perennials, and shrubs, all shades of black predominates.
But you have to know how to use black for the best effect. I like to place black flowers or foliage next to very bright intense colors, such as hot pink or lime green to get the biggest impact. The black color gives the eye a rest when you pair it with bright vibrant colors. If you place black plants next to darker hued plants, it just doesn’t work and the black color fades in the background. So use black carefully and site it with some thought.
Black plants can also echo other plants that have black stems, black venation or black undertones. I find that if you have a boring or blah border, black instantaneously ramps up the visual interest. It can become a focal point if you have a particularly beautiful black plant. I like this Alternanthera ‘Black Night’ in a container with large glossy leaves that echoes the black spiller which is a trailing Alternanthera.
There are all different hues and variations on black and sometimes the amount of sunlight a plant receives will affect the coloration. Also, juvenile foliage will generally be a darker, more intense, shade. In the plant trade describing many of the black plants, you hear adjectives such as chocolate, deep burgundy, midnight, or coffee.
Jack in the Pulpits
The Japanese Cobra Lily, Arisaema sikokanum, is an elegant cousin to our native Jack in the Pulpit. The spadix is a pure marshmallow white which gives the flower such great contrast. It looks like a flower all decked out in black tie ready for a party! Tres chic! And the scarlet berries make this expensive plant worth the money.
In feng shui, which is used frequently in landscape design, black is the color of mystery and sophistication. Black is the negation of color but next to any other color, it will make the color black stand out.
I love the new black petunias! The colors are novel and I tried them for the first time last year. The profusion of flowers faded by the end of the summer and I am watching to see if they do any better this year. Even if they don’t perform as well as other petunias, I will probably continue to grow them because of the wow factor. I think the black petunias are closest to the true black color.
Black Lace Elderberry, Sambucas nigra, is one of those plants that you can grow not only for the feathery graceful foliage, but also the near black coloration. The foliage is similar to a cut leaf maple but with dark hues for added drama. To complete the picture, umbels of pink-hued flowers appear in the summer followed by berries snatched up by wildlife. Elderberry is a cut-back shrub, like a butterfly bush, and will grow at least 6 feet during the growing season.
For instant drama, in a perennial border, pop in the dark, dark Cannas like Canna ‘Australia’, with a midnight burgundy coloration that holds up all summer long. Topping off the plant at around 5 to 6 feet high are shocking fire engine red flowers that hummingbirds will visit frequently.
The same benefits of using black plants in your borders hold true for containers. Use them with contrasting colors to let the other colors pop.
Sweet Potato Vine
I am sure everyone who does containers is familiar with the Sweet Potato Vine. This annual trailing vine up to 15 feet long is becoming ubiquitous in containers. I like to pop it into the garden to twine around shrubs and perennials. It is especially effective in newly planted gardens with lots of blank spaces to fill. The vine grows quickly – sometimes too quickly! – and then dies with the first frost. Then you can dig up the huge sweet potato that forms underground and save it to plant for next year. This black Sweet Potato Vine is called ‘Illusion Midnight Lace’. There is another one called ‘Ace of Spades’.
Black has reached the plant world in every plant group and succulents are really big now so why not black succulents? I love them, but they can be quite prickly and hard to work with.
No discussion of black plants is complete without mentioning Heucheras or Coral Bells. There must be thousands of varieties of these by now – the plant hybridizers are going crazy with them! I like the black one called ‘Frosted Violet’. This one has dark black venation that makes the leaves stand out. ‘Black Out’ is another Heuchera that I am dying to try. There are too many Heucheras and not enough time.