Ready, set, prognosticate! The 2008 gardening trend forecasting begins



Of course, the biggest trend is also a color. As a magazine editor, it’s easy for me to be cynical about this—too often the movement looks like a green gravy train, with Barney’s offering a green holiday catalog, Prius parts being jetted in from all over the world, and a forest being massacred for each crop of books and magazines about how to Go Green. (Our Green issue comes out in April.) So I’m kind of turned off by all the branding, but you can’t argue with other facts. If more people will recycle pots, use rain barrels, and make compost rather than add water to Miracle-Gro in 2008, that’s a good thing.

However, from CNNMoney: “ScottsMiracle-Gro also announced the launch of a new Web site in February, a new advertising campaign to support its Miracle-Gro brand and the launch of a major initiative in its lawn fertilizer business that will be backed by the highest level of marketing and sales support in Company history.”

Related to concerns about sustainability and global warming, many writers are advising gardeners to be ready for droughts, hailstorms, and all kinds of weather extremes by planting drought tolerant plants together and having protective measures at the ready. I also noticed more efforts to enforce bans on invasive plants—in England.

It’s widely conceded that more people will be growing vegetables than ever before, but more often than not just a few plants in containers, not huge backyard plantations. Container planting period will be bigger than ever.

Hot plants for 2008: all grasses, especially muhlenbergia. In hotter climes, flax lily (dianella tasmanica) varieties are touted. And then there are the 2008 AAS winners: Skippy Gold viola, Asti white osteospermum, and some kind of eggplant. Skippy is another of those violas that’s supposed to bloom all summer, no matter what. I just bet.

Less lawn. Well, we’ve elaborated on that enough here, but it’s heartening that garden writers across the country are routinely advising it.

More natives. A wide variety (depending on the region) are being touted. For our area, I am most interested in growing more tall coreopsis, filipendula, eupatorium, solidago, and lilium candense. Maybe abelia.

Sadly, gardening as a pastime is expected to continue to decline, overall, but outdoor living (complete with firepits, water features, and glamorous and durable furniture) will continue to grow in popularity.

And here’s a rather unattractive item I noticed in the Boston Herald. According to this article, sales on the Internet will equal or exceed catalog sales in 2008. After quoting Garden Rant favorite George Ball, the article ends by suggesting that totally online businesses like Great Garden Plants will take over from the catalog/internet hybrid. I hope not. I clicked over to the GGP site and promptly shuddered.

Finally, I think I like Austin Montessori teacher Ronda Dizney’s advice the best: “Go out and play.”

These items were gathered from newspaper websites and various online sources in Boston, Austin, San Diego, Sarasota, Vancouver, Akron, Orlando, and Chicago.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. One trend that I would really like to see more of in 2008 is incorporation of accessability into garden planning. Forget about the PC stuff — Doing so makes our gardens so much more pleasurable for any of us to view.

    Too many gardens are made as a place to get the garden work done. Why not make them a place for easy, enjoyable viewing?


  2. Really enjoyed this post Elizabeth.

    But if “gardening as a pastime is expected to continue to decline,” we’re clearly not doing our jobs. It’s a puzzling question–how to make new gardeners out of people whose parents shunned gardening.

  3. Gardening in decline? I have a theory that gardening as a pastime cycles opposite the economy, in part anyway. When jobs are scarce, households are scraping by on less than two full-time jobs, and there’s less disposable income for expensive toys and vacations, gardening — particularly vegetable gardening — grows in popularity. At least among those who have the space and skills.

    On internet vs. catalog: A friend of mine who runs a small nursery says this is the last year for their print catalog. It’s just an expensive way to do business for small, specialty enterprises.

  4. IB,

    In fact, many of the writers advised (rather than predicted) that gardeners should plan–make a calendar of tasks, keep a journal, etc.

    But I think you mean planning a garden for people as well as plants and I totally agree. I guess I take that for granted, as my garden is much more a place for me and friends to hang out than it is a plant corral. That may not be true for all. Interesting.

  5. Craig, not sure we’re there yet, but I can see what you mean. Since I’ve been paying attention, everything I’ve seen has indicated that while outdoor living remains popular, actual gardening is not always part of it.

    Buffalo is certainly one of the economies where you would think people living on the edge might take to gardening but I don’t see it.

  6. I agree with many of Elizabeths prognostications, especially the one about seeing more sustainable information being touted to the public with an emphasis on how to best work in concert with drought like conditions for each site specific area of the country.

    Outdoor amenities such as spas, built in kitchens, outdoor dining rooms and synthetic materials for outdoor furniture will still continue to grow in popularity.
    Making your backyard a place of escapism in the form of a vacation resort will be seen marketed in the glossies.

    Here in the west we have already embraced the ornamental grasses trend for a few years now and have moved on to succulents and restios and bold unusual foliage plants.
    I think you’ll see more of these types of plants showing up in the magazines along with a healthy dose of the drought tolerant South African and New Zealand introductions.

    Green roofs will continue to be seen highlighted in the landscape architectural trade as will the newer lithochrome concrete admix’s for creating durable and innovative hard surfaces.

    LED lighting will permeate the middle end residential landscape sector. The high end saw a lot of this last year and now it is catching on as manufacturers are making less expensive fixtures for the general public.

    But what I really want to know is when the trend for Hybrid Pick Up trucks for us professional gardeners is going to kick in.
    I’m waiting Toyota !

  7. I see the rest of the indoors coming outside. I see the rest of the rooms to follow the kitchens and fire places – outdoor rugs, artwork for the outside walls of the house, outdoor floor & table lamps, chandeliers, mirrors, coffee tables, end tables, speakers, clocks and more. God forbid someone invent the weather-resistant TV.

    Next it’ll be outdoor vacuum cleaners.

  8. I’m with Michelle. And while they’re either making or importing fuel-efficient pick-up trucks, don’t forget SUVs. It’s only a dirty word – and a dirty vehicle – because the market here was allowed to not care.
    A gal’s gotta haul, after all.

  9. I, for one, can not wait to see the back end of the wood-burning fire pit fad. Personally I find them an odd fit for the green, sustainable gardening movement and the emphasis on healthy living I’m also seeing. They are promoted as an innocuous form of entertainment but rarely is their downside mentioned. Yes, wood is a renewable energy source but wood smoke is an air pollutant, often one of the most toxic pollution threats for a region. Additionally, fire pits, chimineas and open fireplaces are inefficient wood-burning appliances – less heat and more smoke. Thanks to this fad (gladly promoted by companies selling these appliances), summertime smoke is increasing, as are smoke complaints to my local fire department (by law, they respond to these complaints, dousing the smoke-producing fires).

    As an asthma sufferer, smoke from neighbors’ fire pits has robbed me of evenings in my garden. I miss inhaling the sweetness of my evening garden; it’s all masked by smoke. If I want to breathe smoke-free air these days, I go to a restaurant. My, how times have changed.

    Neighborhood smoke also forces me to close all my windows. Instead of cooling our home with refreshing night breezes, we turn on the air conditioning, effectively eliminating any sustainable benefit from burning wood.

    This fad is negatively affecting my health, altering my lifestyle, costing me money and increasing my impact on the environment.

  10. Personally, I find ordering online rather than from catalogs a lot easier — if the place is out of something, you know right away and can order something else. I barely look at catalogs for anything anymore.

    I want the hybrid Toyota pickup truck — I don’t know any woman who is serious about growing that doesn’t have a pickup — and since most of these women are organic/sustainable, I would think the market for hybrid pickups would be cost-effective.

  11. Prognostication? Here’s my take on 2008 (and the near beyond): As a returning college student I am rubbing elbows with a lot of 20-somethings right now and noticing how different they are.

    Maybe it’s just the college people, but it seems that burning the candle at both ends is just as common and even more expected than a decade ago. Mentioning gardening to my current associates gets wide eyes and confusion as to how they could possibly even consider fitting a houseplant into their hectic schedules. They wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway, they haven’t tried to grow anything since that bean-project in first grade.

    The American dream has gone from the “house with yard and a few plants, 2.3 kids, dog, and car” to something more like Condo/Efficiency (with lawn service), maybe 1 kid later after career is set, and a bus pass. They seem happy if they never have to touch a plant that isn’t a cut flower from a grocery-store.

    I hate to be negative, but from this perspective my prediction smells nothing like roses.

  12. At least here in the UK, two big trends set to continue into 2008 are cultivating Exotic plants and making more use of the garden after dark. Plants, especially ‘exotics’ and bedding plants seem to be getting cheaper each year as mass production kicks in and mass bedding seems to be revivying, despite lack of labour and time.

  13. Perhaps it’s just my talent to hyperfocus, but there are some internet plant purveyors whose sites make GGP’s site look, well, not so very bad. If the nursery has plants I crave, I don’t notice the dreadful visuals after the first page.

    I’d far rather have even a tacky print catalog to look over than resort to just a website, but when the fever hits, I just don’t really care. All I know is I want some Calanthe hybrids and a Cymbidium goeringii and some more Epimediums (preferably unusual species) and some hardy Agave species and…you get the picture. Chances are, if it photosynthesizes and it’s not algae or bacteria, I WANT one.

    Other than the trend toward “outdoor living”, a trend I find vulgar and reprehensible because gardens are for GARDENING and for contemplating, not entertaining and living (we have HOUSES for living in, after all).

    One trend that may save gardening as we know it, the slow, plant-loving, soil-grubbing kind of gardening, is the influx of Latinos (legal and illegal). In my neighborhood, they have been buying homes, repairing roofs and siding, and planting flowers and vegetables. Rose bushes have become a common sight on my street. I’ll just start learning some horticultural Spanish.

    I see the big box garden centers continuing to slowly increase their market share, eventually forcing out all but the most determined of local garden center owners.

  14. to Ellis Hollow: I’d like to see more smaller nurseries with print catalogs switch to email delivery of those catalogs. Ron Ratko of Northwest Native Seed and Jane McGary (author, editor, and queen of rare bulbs) both use email lists exclusively to sell their products. It seems to be very cost-effective, targeting only customers likely to purchase or at least appreciate your offerings, with no extra paper or postage costs.

    I don’t mind downloading and printing out a .pdf file of glorious text. I might not be so enthusiastic about a full-color flower porn catalog like White Flower Farm’s, but at least people would have the option of printing or not printing, or printing selected pages.

  15. The above paragraph by Lisa struck me as the most ridiculously myopic statement so far in 2008.
    “Other than the trend toward “outdoor living”, a trend I find vulgar and reprehensible because gardens are for GARDENING and for contemplating, not entertaining and living (we have HOUSES for living in, after all).”
    First I thought , poor goil, she is so deprived, then I started to chuckle as I thought back through the history of horticulture and garden design to the first gardens that were used as outdoor rooms and pleasure gardens.
    The first ‘outdoor rooms’ that came to mind was in the 1780’s at Versailles , but then I recalled the gardens of 1600 Renaissance Italy and their makers who were the first really true artisans who knew how to blur the line between interior and exterior spaces.
    Le Notre ( gardener and designer of Vaux-le-Vicomte) would be turning over in his grave if he heard gardening was only for contemplating and gardening.
    Louis the XIV would have her head.
    In more recent history, the 20th century famed designer Thomas Church wrote an entire book ( Gardens are for People ) on the pleasures of outdoor living that included entertaining, recreation, horticultural/ agricultural pursuits as well as places for meditation and contemplation.

    The ‘garden room’ is not a trend. It’s been around since Barney and Fred Flintstone held their first bbq around the fire pit.

  16. The decline of gardening is not only due to young people having parents who shunned gardening. We’ve had a garden for most of my five children’s lives, but except for one who spends a lot of time on her small yard, and maintains a tiny ‘public garden’ around the telephone pole near her house, they are not interested. The Texan daughter has one of those garden crews. They all love visiting us amid the fields, forests, and gardens at the End of the Road, but do it themselves? Not really. Is the answer continuing youthful rebellion?

  17. back to Jim’s comment: they have an outdoor vacuum cleaner! They’re called leaf blowers. Some of them actually work in reverse, too – like a vacuum cleaner – complete with a refuse bag.


    The sound permeates everything – even out in our woods where it’s hard to see another house. Still we hear the ‘outdoor vacuum cleaners’ being operated by the ‘hired help’.

    I don’t get it.

    Here are people who live in a forest, but object to leaves.

  18. Yet another thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Elizabeth. (and comment-leavers, too). Here’s a thought regarding a downwards trend in gardening: many of the boomer generation are getting on, and physically aren’t able to garden like they once did. They’re moving to smaller properties, or condos/flats with no outside space of their own save a balcony. I get asked regularly, and am researching an article, about gardening for the older set: how to create a garden that is lower maintenance but still possible for the older gardener to putter away in, how to keep fit as an older gardener, etc.

    One aside to Michelle Derviss: perhaps what Lisa was objecting to was not so much the garden as outdoor living site but all the consumerism spawned by the notion of outdoor living. A recent article in a glossy gardening magazine talked of trends in gardening; of those trends, only three had to do with the garden itself, while the others were all about consumerism of tres expensive plunge pools, garden sheds that double as guest houses, outdoor furniture that would cost as much as some people make in a month of working. *I* object strenuously to such ridiculous paeans to overconsumerism (one of my favourite piques is the electric outdoor fireplace–what the hell is wrong with just sitting in the dark looking at the stars?) but not to the idea of outdoor living spaces.

  19. Not to wander too far off topic but to address Jodi’s musings:
    Consumerism has it pro’s and con’s.
    If it is to inflate one’s ego or a means to feed an empty soul with frivolous accouterments then that is negative consumerism that is bathed in materialism.
    If consumerism is viewed in the context of its achievements in a free market economy then this is a good thing for both developing and developed societies . ( What can I say, I worked for economist Milton Friedman for 6 years and a few things rubbed off )
    After all , we all like to purchase and plant new nursery grown plants and relax on a comfortable ( store bought ) garden bench after toiling in the soil all day long with quality ( store bought) garden tools.
    PS. you can still see the stars while sitting next to an environmentally friendly electric fireplace . –

  20. I have a problem with the all hardscaping/no gardening side of outdoor living. And TVs outside. I have a big problem with that. If my neighbor had one, it would be as if I were in the living room with her. It’s just not neighborly in an urban setting.

    I need my green growing stuff in the city, not more concrete.

    And, thank god, firepits and any fires whatsoever outside of a grill are illegal outside in Buffalo and If I see one I will be the first to call it in. Bad for air quality and dangerous in other ways.

  21. Eliz, how wonderful that outside fires are illegal in Buffalo! I’m envious. I’ll have to visit regional websites to learn more. I’m gathering information to present to my town’s city council in an effort to raise awareness about (and, dare I hope, ban) these features within city limits. When neighbors live practically on top of neighbors (new homes are being built on 4000-5000 sq. ft. lots), it’s impossible to escape the smoke.

    Star-gazing was one of my favorite nighttime pastimes as a kid. It’s just not the same with today’s light pollution (alas!).

    At the Farwest Show (nursery trade show) in August, a presenter talked about gardening trends. She shared some interesting perspectives – I’m pretty sure Elizabeth touched on all of them or at least the key ones. One thing the presenter revealed is that the rise of outdoor kitchens has let to a demand for outdoor kitchen cleaning products (and yes, suppliers are already leaping into that niche). I heard that and thought, now why would I want another kitchen to clean?!

  22. In response to jodi in response to elizabeth in response to my post:

    Jodi, you said it far better than I did. What I find so objectionable in the phenomenon of “outdoor living” is the rampant consumerism that accompanies it in magazines and the media. Of course it’s nice to have a bench in the garden to sit on while just enjoying said garden. Sometimes, if the weather cooperates, it’s lovely to dine al fresco. Hardscaping can contribute to a garden’s overall aesthetic.

    I don’t like it, however, when a garden becomes mere wallpaper, a setting in which to impress your coworkers and neighbors. Once a garden becomes just another space in which to display more non-living stuff, it ceases to be a true garden.

    For me, a garden is, first and foremost, about plants. After that, a garden is about the other living things (including humans) that associate with the plants. I will never be able to see a garden as little more than a backdrop for the gas grill, the patio set, the gazebo and the swing set.

  23. I’ve been growing Dianella tasmanica for a few years now in Sunset Zone 23. The yellow variegated cultivar was a weak grower and faded away. The white variegated variety has been vigorous, but not overly so. It does not seem to set seed–even with my local bee population crawling over the flowers constantly–the berries on the all-green species are an amazing color–like blue M&M candies. I have seen a new dwarf cultivar with a blue cast, but a sheenless dull blue–a rainy day in a pot. They have been easy plants to grow. Poor drainage does them in. They survive full sun but get a bit sunburnt in the process–some afternoon shade and they are more attractive. The berries are showier than the flowers. The effect overall is very similar to a Phormium, with a little more grace.

  24. The reunion comes about as result of a fly on the wall documentary being made about Egg. Clare, a young twenty- something, film maker is following Egg’s every move and it is she who comes up with the idea to get them all back together. Not surprisingly, Egg has a bit of a thing for Clare. Will it lead to anything…?

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