Gardening Trends 2017

New 'Autumn Fire' encore Azalea
New ‘Autumn Fire’ encore Azalea; blooms twice a season

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.

Chatting with Stephanie Cohen (left) and my Mants partner Gretchen Schmidl (right) at Walters Gardens
Chatting with Stephanie Cohen and my Mants partner Gretchen Schmidl at Walters Gardens at the MANTS show

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.

I loved this Super Bells 'Tropical Sunrise'
I loved this SuperBells ‘Tropical Sunrise’

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

Doesn't this container scream "Greenery"?
Doesn’t this container scream “Greenery”? No flowers needed

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.

Hakone Grass 'All Gold' is the Pantone color of the year
Hakone Grass ‘All Gold’ shows the Pantone color of the year
Pantone colored chairs match perfectly
Pantone ‘Greenery’ colored chairs match perfectly
Using dental floss to hang a chrysalis
Monarch chrysalis is the Pantone color of the year!

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.

I admired this Proven Winners plant Ligustrum
I admired this Proven Winners plant Ligustrum
'Caramel' Heuchera is a villosa hybrid which performs like gangbusters for me
‘Caramel’ Heuchera is a villosa hybrid which performs like gangbusters for me, from Walters Garden
Heucherella 'Buttered Rum'
Heucherella ‘Buttered Rum’, a Terra Nova intro is a new one that I am trying this year
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‘Golden Balcony’ Begonia from Longfield Gardens

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.

Proven Winners Supertunia 'Bubblegum'
Proven Winners Supertunia ‘Vista Bubblegum’

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.

Dwarf Hibiscus with full size flowers
Dwarf Hibiscus with full size flowers

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.

Having your greens ready to pick outside your doorstep
Having your greens ready to pick outside your doorstep
Ruffled kale grown in my garden
Ruffled kale grown in my garden
Spotted heirloom lettuce
Spotted heirloom lettuce

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.

Cauliflower is being grown in home gardens because of its versatility in cooking
Cauliflower is being grown in home gardens because of its versatility in cooking

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.

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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.

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‘Black Pearl’ Coral Bells, image from Walters Gardens
'Silver Gumdrop' Coral Bells, image from Walters Gardens
‘Silver Gumdrop’ Coral Bells, image from Walters Gardens
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A sweet potato vine that is jet black

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.

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Bromelliads are long lasting tropicals that I use in shady containers
Bromeliads are long-lasting tropicals that I use in shade containers

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.

Vanda Orchid
Vanda Orchid
Vandas come in incredible colors
Vandas come in incredible colors
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Air plants used as hair jewelry

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Bromeliad flowers are beautiful also

Succulent/Cactus Craze

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.048-2

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Succulents filling a hanging basket at Disney World’s greenhouse
Succulents come in all colors
Succulents come in all colors

 

Cactus are trendy;unfortunately these have been dyed
Cactus are trendy;unfortunately these are dyed

Cool Nurseries 

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.

Flora Grubb's has unique containers
Flora Grubb’s has unique containers
Me posing at Annies Annuals which has funky gardening stuff
Me posing at Annies Annuals which has funky gardening stuff

 

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Annie's has demo gardens scattered around so you can see plants other that in pots
Annie’s has demo gardens scattered around so you can see plants other that in pots

The Worst Garden Trends

I admit with the start of a new year, that I get on a trend kick. Looking back, I see things that are in the negative column, that we as gardeners should not be doing.

Read on to see my take on it. If you want to see things that are up and coming, see my post on 12 top Garden Trends for 2014.

1.Excessive Mulch/Volcanoes

Tree volcano around a holly
Tree volcano around a holly

The practice of piling up mulch around trees and shrubs in the landscape is ubiquitous and I cringe every time I see it. Landscape firms need to take Landscape Planting 101, to learn the detrimental effects that happens to any plant material if you pile layers of mulch around a plant trunk. Rot, insect damage, and small rodent damage is liable to kill this tree above, within a couple of years. And how about the practice of piling too much mulch in a garden, sometimes as much as 4 inches thick, that can smother your plantings? And form an impenetrable crust on top? Rampant in the mid-Atlantic region, mulching excessively is too much of a good thing.

2. Bradford Pears

Uprooted tree
Uprooted tree

I can’t understand why people are still planting this fundamentally flawed tree. Hybridizers claim to have improved cultivars of the Bradford Pear, which are stronger and less likely to break and blow over. I haven’t found that to be the case. Bradford Pears are beautiful when they bloom, but short lived. Stay away from them and choose something as beautiful or better, like a variegated Kousa Dogwood, which also has a plus of great fall color.

Variegated Kousa Dogwood
Variegated Kousa Dogwood

 

3. Patented Plants/Seeds

Cardinal Candy Viburnum
Cardinal Candy Viburnum is a patented plant so you cannot propagate it

Just about every plant developed today has a patent or trademark.  Patents last 20 years,, trademarks into perpetuity. I understand that the plant breeders would like to enjoy some profits from their new varieties, but it is getting excessive, especially with trademarks, since they last forever. It is illegal to propagate a trademarked or patented plant, which makes criminals of many gardeners who love “pass along” plants.

"Pink Marble" Helleborus is a trademarked plant
“Pink Marble” Helleborus is a trademarked plant

Traditionally farmers saved a portion of the seed from their crops to plant the next year or trade with other farmers which is called “farmer’s rights.” However, if there is a patent on the seed a farmer has grown which is very likely nowadays, or it is Genetically Modified seed (GMO), the farmer cannot save the seed to plant the following year. To continue to grow plant patented crops, farmers are often required to sign written contracts stating that they will not save any seed at all. Instead, they must annually purchase their seed from a biotech company or agro business, rather than other farmers or local seed companies. In addition, big agro-businesses are buying up seed companies to control their supplies. Pretty soon, local seed companies will be a thing of the past.

4. TV/Radio Gardening Programs

A little British humor displayed on a sign in the Cotswolds
A little British humor displayed on a sign in the Cotswolds

What ever happened to Victory Gardening? I loved this show but it was really hard to find on my local station, if at all. The dearth of garden related shows in the U.S., both TV and radio is depressing.  Ok, I know about landscape makeovers on HGTV! That show is all hype and no substance. But the British have a great sense of humor and know how to garden.

Listen to what the British public can see: The Edible Garden, The Landscape Man, Garden Question Time, Gardeners World,  and Great British Garden Revival. And if you go to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/tv-and-radio-reviews/10506390/Great-British-Garden-Revival-BBC-Two-review.html, you can see some reviews. These programs offer “sensible advice and lovely shots”. The English always know how to garden well. See “Brilliant“, my post on the Philadelphia Flower Show with a British theme.

Here is my wish list of a gardening TV program. I would like someone to cover things like Mosaiculture, which moves around the world and was recently in Atlanta and Montreal. It is an expression of new millennial values and is a refined horticultural art that involves creating and mounting living artworks made primarily from plants with colorful foliage (generally annuals, and occasionally perennials).

Or cover the gardening revolution with edibles. Here are edibles on the front steps of Parliament Building in Quebec City.

Edible gardening in Quebec City in front of Parliament building
Edible gardening in Quebec City in front of Parliament building

How about a show on gardening trends like the new tomato varieties, “Purple Tomatoes” or the “indigo” varieties, see “Top 12 Garden Trends” for more details.

Purple Power Tomatoes by Mighty 'Mato Grafted Collection
Purple Power Tomatoes by Mighty ‘Mato Grafted Collection

Or, wouldn’t you like to see the artists in action drafting the new seed packet cover illustrations? See “Art of the Seed“.

The topics are endless, but there aren’t any TV or radio shows on gardening in my area.

5.  Garden Snobs

I love garden gnomes!
I love garden gnomes!

You have all met one if you have been on a garden tour or gone to a plant sale. It is the person ( I won’t name names!), who is spouting the Latin names of plants and wouldn’t consider planting a petunia on their property. Annuals is a bad  word and their gardens are full of unique and very expensive plants and statuary. And no, I did not just describe myself! I admit that I do use Latin names, but I only spout them out when I am with garden professionals, and I love annuals and garden gnomes! I won’t deny that I do have a garden of very expensive plants that die all the time, but nothing that I had to mortgage the house for!

Gardening snobs want the latest and greatest plant. They don't care if it fits in with their garden.
Gardening snobs want the latest and greatest plant. They don’t care if it fits in with their garden.

 

6. Invasives 

Get over it! Invasives are here to stay and nothing is going to change that. I get frustrated when I hear about groups arranging slash and burn weekends to remove invasives from designated areas. I say-  Forget. About. It. This is a losing battle and you are just going to go crazy trying to fight it.

Oriental Bittersweet is an invasive that is attractive but taking over the woods
Oriental Bittersweet is an invasive that is attractive but taking over the woods

For example, English Ivy is a rampant growing invasive, brought by the earliest English colonists, choking out native species. Lots of people still grow it, as it does cover the ground in the shade, and is deer resistant. At Princeton University, an “Ivy League”, they pulled it off the brick walls of the buildings to repoint, and then re-attached it! So, what is one man’s meat, is another’s poison. Ivy is still sold at garden centers because people demand it.

Princeton University covered with Ivy
Princeton University covered with Ivy

 

7. New Pests

Have you noticed that there are lots of new pests to bother you, and more prolific poison ivy? That is due to a variety of factors, namely climate change and the globalization of food production. I will quote from Shashi Sharma, an Austrailian plant bio-security scientist. He said at a recent conference that “Globalization of food production and distribution has enhanced potential for pests to disperse to new regions, find new vectors, new hosts, new environments and new opportunities to evolve into damaging species and strains.” Enough said.

Stink Bugs are here to stay
Stink Bugs are here to stay
Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy

 

8. Ultra Pruning

Why do people want ultra tidy and manicured properties?  It seems that the entire property has to be scalped clean, with no wild areas. That means that the field that used to be in the back of the property, that was let go to wildflowers, is cut like turf grass. Or, how about the huge front expanse of lawn in the front that is cut and doused with chemicals periodically?  Let it go! Plant natives, like butterfly weed, rudbeckias, cornflowers, and golden rod. It is a lot less maintenance and the pollinators will flock to it.

Let some areas in your yard to native
Let some areas in your yard to native
Plant Joe Pye Weed and other butterfly friendly plants in your yard
Plant Joe Pye Weed and other butterfly friendly plants in your yard

Pruning should be done regularly, but beware of doing it excessively, or into tidy meatballs! See my post Pruning 101 for tips on managing your pruning.

9. Decline of Honeybees

I hate to say this, but as a beekeeper for over 15 years, I don’t see things improving.  See my post on Colony Collapse Disorder. I think that this trend of declining bee populations is here to stay. For the past couple of years, my bees have struggled and died. I have put a lot of money into starting up new colonies, but I am going into 2014 without any honeybees in my hives. I will try again with new packages and nucs this year, but I don’t see things getting better in the near term. I got my first mason bee habitat this year and will be putting this box up in the spring, trying to attract these native bees instead.

Mason Bee house with tubes
Mason Bee house with tubes

I am also dedicating a portion of my property to planting milkweed, Aesclepias syriaca, the plant that sustains monarch butterflies.

Plant Butterfly Weed or Milk Weed for Butterfly populations
Plant Butterfly Weed or Milk Weed for Butterfly populations

 

10. Rollout of Plant Varieties that Stink

Stick to the old classics like Agastache Blue Wonder which butterflies and bees love
Stick to the old classics like Agastache Blue Wonder which butterflies and bees love

Do we really need another Heuchera (Coral Bell) that looks great in the pot, costs a small fortune, has a snazzy name, like “Red Velvet Ambrosia”? But the instant you put it in the ground, it sulks, and then dies? Or, maybe it looks good for a season, but come winter, you find that that the plant is not hardy as stated? Remember, ‘Limerock Ruby’ Coreopsis??  The hype that is attached to a plant sometimes is so premature and over stated, that I look at every introduction with a jaundiced eye. I have had more Echinaceas die on me than I have Carter has Liver Pills! Remember, my rant earlier in this post about patented plants? It seems like the patented plants are put on the market before they are fully tested!

Lavender Phenomenal- This is a new variety that has a lot of hype attached and I planted it last season to see how it does
Lavender Phenomenal- This is a new variety that has a lot of hype attached and I planted it last season to see how it does

Lavender ‘Phenomenal’ is a plant that comes highly recommended as a lavender that tolerates our wet winters and humid summers. Normally I treat lavenders as very short-lived plants, here in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. But, I am giving this a try and was pleased with it last summer, as the flowers branched off the main stem to form new flowers, which is unique in lavender plants. But I have to see how it weathers this winter which is turning out to be very cold and wet. Before I stand behind a plant, I have to grow it for 3 to 5 years, and I suspect growers who introduce these new plants, don’t give them enough time as well as trying them in different parts of the country.

I stand behind this variety, African Blue Basil. It is a stellar performer, great for pesto and pollinators, and beautiful
I stand behind this variety, African Blue Basil. It is a stellar performer, great for pesto and pollinators, and beautiful

I periodically showcase varieties of plants that I have luck with, can take neglect, are pollinator friendly, and are foolproof. See African Blue Basil or Monkshood, Deadly BeautyButterfly and Bee Magnet, Joe Pye Weed, or Autumn All Stars.

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