Trends, anyone?



UPDATE: Lisa A. wins the book. I, too, agree with much of what she says. On the outdoor kitchens, maybe a return to a simple kettle grill, which cooks the food better anyway?

Clueless. I must admit I’m clueless on this one, dear readers. I (and I assume all the Ranters) received an email from a garden media group asking us the following:

So what do you think is in the future for gardening? More color? Bigger plants? More planting vegetables instead of flowers? Front-yard gardening? Sustainable gardening? What trend do you think is in the works or about to burst onto the incredible world of gardening?

Maybe some of you received a similar email. This group’s job is to report trends, so that’s why they’re asking. I kind of have a love/hate affair with trend reporting. In the regional magazine world, we report on trends a bit—mainly food trends and home design trends. And I must admit I like to read lists of trends and in/out lists now and then. My favorite trend reports come from the Color Marketing Group. I find them fascinating; they decide what the hot colors for any given year will be and often publish gorgeous images that will use those colors. There are always political, socioeconomic, and psychological reasons the colors are “in.” Interesting. But on the other hand, I distrust glib trend lists and sometimes suspect ties to the industries whose products are listed as trendy.

Getting back to gardening, every January I look for trend reports so I can blog on them. But I don’t like to be the one to make up the trends myself. I would guess that veggie gardening would continue to grow. I would suppose that more people might grow from seed as plants become more expensive, thanks to gas and other factors. I might also presume that with the real estate market tanking, outdoor rooms might lose their appeal.

But why depend on my own fumbling guesses? I have you! Can you think of some cool in/out lists for gardening, with the “ins” looking toward trends of the future? To egg you on, I have a beautiful book, Lilacs, A Gardener’s Encyclopedia, from Timber. I haven’t even looked inside it, and will send it to the best/funniest/smartest in/out list, whichever of those qualities rises to the top.

Sample: Out: exterior kitchens In: green roofs. (I doubt the trend people would promote that one, BTW, it’s just a random example.)

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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. Being in the retail end of the biz I can tell you that organics/naturals will be big again next year. Anything the homeowner can do to save money will be big as well. Drip irrigation, herb and veggie gardening as well as what I have done…..let part of the backyard go wild. This has given me a great place for beneficials to breed and a nice screen to the county road out back. But I can still see the dairy farm across the field.

    OUT FOR 2009: Fancy plants, fancy pots, furniture and anything unnecessary to grow and eat stuff.

    Lawns will shrink due the the 30-40% increase in fertilizer costs.

    Composting will continue to grow and you will see a lot of “backyard farmers” selling their wares at farmers markets.

    I do however see alot of people spending too much for Earthbox and Topsy Turvy products.

    The Aerogarden however is worth the price and can pay for itself in less than a year if you sow your own seeds.

    The (Crystal Ball) TROLL

  2. In: Das Gardening ist Gut with Heidi Klum on HGTV–muted
    Out: Das Gardening ist Gut with Heidi klum on HGTV–surround sound high def digital….

    In: Dividing plants to save money
    Out: Me, if my wife sees one more nursery receipt before 2009

    In: Clever responses to GR posts
    Out: My attempt at ” ”

  3. I can only report what I like, and sometimes I’m in style and never ‘out of style,’ only a ‘little old skool’ or ‘a bit ahead of my time.’ With people either simply not having the bucks or feeling like they don’t have the bucks, I’d focus on who your core garden audience is- the folks who are fanatical about gardening enough to continue garden purchases in tighter times.

    I’m looking for ecological fertilizers and soil builders, but not just local and organic, but I look for products that are some other industry’s waste. There’s crushed crab shells from Maryland’s crab industry – a nice alkaline soil enhancer perfect for MD’s clay, acidic soils. Chicken manure – we’re swamped in manure: of every beast including humans. Why you even have to pay for manure fertilizer is beyond me- the gov’t should screen the toxics out and give it away so it doesn’t pollute the waterways (spread out over lawns is better than a single-source stinking pile).

  4. Veggie gardening is hot and likely will stay so. Local nurseries couldn’t keep veggie starts in stock this spring while perennials sat on the shelves.

    Not that perennials are out. One designer told me she thinks they are on the upswing and that shrubs with foliage interest are on the downswing (I won’t follow that trend, not that I generally do follow trends).

    Speaking of perennials, look for Heucheras bred for flowers, not just foliage. I’m working on an article on them and I’ve heard this viewpoint expressed several times already.

    Dwarf conifers are hot! And I think we’ll also see more narrow, upright or dwarf forms of trees and shrubs hitting the market, especially in areas with shrinking lots sizes.

    Purple and chartreuse foliaged plants will stay hot. Variegated foliage not so much.

    Organic gardening will stay hot.

    Interest in eco-gardening will grow (no pun intended) but in what form yet is unclear to me. I predict we’ll see over-use of the term as well as skating around the edges and barely qualifying as has happened with organic produce, lite foods and anything else with a good sound bite that didn’t really deliver.

    Simplified container planting with architectural interest will continue. Out are crammed and jammed, in are containers with a single, stunning plant as its focus.

    Speaking of containers, I think we’ll see bright colors, especially sunrise colors, and creative glazes. Neutrals will still have holding power but they’ll be offered in great new shapes. I also think we’ll see an expansion of good-looking plastic and fiberglass pots.

    Glass and metal in gardens will still be big.

    Hard economic times has spurred the ‘staycation’ trend, which I think will impact garden design and use. I think we’ll still see outdoor kitchens but in versions more fitting to real life and tight budgets (who really wants to clean a second kitchen anyway?!).

    One trend that I hope is on a rapid downward spiral is the promotion of air-polluting, stinky, sooty, livability-liability, wood-burning fire features. Ugh. What I’d like to see are artistic, creative, clean-burning fire features that compliment a garden’s style. Seriously, how many gardens fall into the ‘camp ground’ genre?

  5. DJ Monet, speaking of manures, do you see growth in biogas production as a way to use all the xxxx we Americans create? I’m just dipping my toe into this area but it sounds as if there’s opportunity here. It’s still a hydrocarbon but it’s got a much smaller carbon footprint than natural gas, propane and such, and it’s main by-product is water.

  6. I’m not entering to win the book, but I did want to comment. This is more what I hope for than a reflection of what I think real trends will be. Because not only do I not follow trends, I’m so hopelessly impaired that I often don’t even RECOGNIZE them.

    Out: Endless Summer hydrangea
    (don’t hate me)
    In: Pinky Winky hydrangea

    Out: endless impatiens and red geraniums at the garden center
    In: a better selection of ornamental grasses

    Out: plastic “stone” and rubber mat edging
    In: victorian trenches

    Out: Stella D’Oro
    In: heirloom lilies

    Out: white pine hedges/screens
    In: mixed evergreen screens (with Cryptomeria)

    And my biggest hope for in next year – a little kitchen garden that’s a good bit bigger than this year.

  7. I don’t know about the rest of the gardening world, but what’s going IN my garden will be more veggies, some dwarf fruit trees, and native berry-bearing shrubs for the birds. Oh, and a Peace rose when I can figure out where to put it. Call it a tacky hybrid tea if you like, but I have fond memories of grandma’s Peace rose and I intend to have one.

    Fashion? Bah. I don’t have the time or the money to rip unfashionable things out and replace them with fashionable things. What is IN is whatever survives, and what is OUT is whatever doesn’t.

  8. Lisa Albert nailed it right on the head with much of her forecast.
    I particularly like her term ‘staycation’ .

    I live in California where much of the trends start and then they reach the rest of the country a few months to a full year (+) later.
    Most everything that Lisa mentioned is already in full swing here so it will only be a matter of time before ‘these trends’ reach the rest of the U.S.

    I like to add that a wide variety of rain catchment and redistribution systems will receive more press, even in non gardening publications.
    These articles will cover rain barrels but will also educate the public to the uses of bio swales, permeable hard surfaces , green roofs and more land planned ‘catch and release’ systems.

  9. Vertical gardening and urban gardening integrated into architectural design. Not just green roofs but walls of buildings designed for greenhousing plants all year long for better air filtration and for a food source.

    I recently saw an article on this somewhere… hhhmmm… maybe I’ll dig around here and find it again… where is that…

  10. Wow, Michelle, I nailed it? I usually consider myself the last to catch on (or maybe that’s just with fashion trends. If it fits and I like it, I buy one in every color I like and wear it until its worn out.) I guess somewhere along the line, I’ve gotten savvier or more in the know or whatever the heck you want to call it. Or maybe I’m just having a good day today.

    And how could I forget the whole realm of rain gardens, rain barrels, etc? Big, big, big! I’m still waiting for a rain catchment system that will hold more than the typical 55 gallon rain barrel, doesn’t look ugly or need camouflaging, doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and is easy enough for the average consumer to install without lots of cussing and the need for chiropractic care. Am I dreaming of the impossible?

    I can’t claim credit for the term staycation, Michelle, I heard it somewhere else (newspaper, TV, can’t recall).

    Thanks DJ Monet for answering my question about biogas. It will be interesting to see what comes next in this area.

  11. In: Gardening, as measured by person-hours spent doing it or acreage in home gardens — not necessarily in dollars spent on gardening stuff. Real ‘sweat and seeds’ gardening. Gardening is countercyclical to the economy. I think Lisa A. is a little timid with her downsized outdoor kitchen vision. I’m seeing a lot of ‘staycations’ next summer where folks learn how to get a tan while wielding their new shovels and rakes.

    Also in: Gardening information. The gardening world will welcome more and more newbies to our ranks. They need our help and our patience.

    Out: Gardening products of dubious value. Know of any?

  12. In: Local. Sharing know-how. Pass-along-plants. Edible weeds. Purslane is going to be huge.

    Okay, just kidding about that last part.

    Picking up one Ellis Hollow: I’m seeing a real interest in local networking. Experienced gardeners in my neighborhood are connecting like never before. A group of them are working to get the city to revise the chicken ordinance (legal, but with some challenging restrictions). Another group is setting up a home-grown produce market. There are a few newbies tapping into these networks. I expect to see more next year.

  13. First of all – staycation term already so overused. No ONE person invented!

    That said:

    Harvesting the rain and diverting for irrigation is THE trend!

    Reducing lawns with new mixed (edible and design plants) borders and letting clover take over. Healthy organic green reigns!

    Some celebrity has one of us ghost-write an exercise program based on weeding – – groups form to weed together!

    Gas mowers are frowned upon and push mowers take over. (I adore my Sunlawn!)

  14. The big trend in my yard will be more plants with a function beyond looking pretty. Plants that provide fragrance or food (for me or wildlife) while looking showy in the ground or in containers.

    Lately I have been experimenting with all sorts of tropicals for large patio containers with the biggest success being guavas and citrus. I am also intrigued by all the various solanaceous plants from the mountains of South America that would make easy warm season garden plants that also provide a “berry” crop – like all the various husk tomatoes, naranjilla (bed-o-nails plant), and tamarillo (tree tomato).

  15. Sadly, I think these trends are more what we hope will come to be, than what will actually happen…but here’s my .02 anyway!

    -Growing from seed (my husband was making fun of my set-up, then was invited to a housewarming where the hostess showed off her own grow-light setup)
    -Online purchasing of seeds, plants, supplies, Wellies, etc…
    -Less grass, more flowers/shrubs in the front yard
    -Gardening stuff as gifts (ever notice every garden center has gift cards?)
    -Victory/Community Gardens (there’s a wait list for the one the next town over, a lot of elementary and middle schools are starting gardens too)
    -Fences (I see them going up everywhere)

    On their Way Out:
    -Men in the yard (unless they’re the hired help) — what happened to all the male gardeners? Both my grandfathers tended gardens, but no men in my family do anything but mow now. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or just a sign of the times. Anyone else noticed this?

  16. In: Collecting seeds from heirloom veggies. Anything, really, to do with growing, selling and eating heirloom veggies. Multicoloured heirloom tomatoes, cukes, taters etc.

    Also in: or rather, continuing to be in, anything that will grow without a lot of water. Succulents. Cacti. Rusty farm implements. Dianthus (my favourite) and the incredible Silphium Compass Plant. More, please!

    Out: masses of sharp-bladed, bloody forearm maiming seed spreading ornamental grass that need to be cut back in the spring.

  17. Lisa,
    I think you could do well by writing a book on gardening in dry shade (I noticed you recently did a presentation on this topic). As homeowners’ trees grow and their yards tend to (trend to) become shady, they have to learn how to make the most of those conditions. There’s a need out there waiting to be satisfied.

  18. Wow, Lois, how kind of you to say! As a tree-lover, I point out how to garden under them without harming them. An article on this subject is in the works, likely to appear late summer/early fall (no publish date set yet). It will include tips from several sources, including Dan Moeller, curator of Hoyt Arberetum,, which is a fabulous place to spend a day.

  19. Woo hoo, I just saw I won the book! Do I get to give an acceptance speech? I’d like to thank all the little people that made this possible….wait, stop the music, I’m not done yet!

    Thank you, Elizabeth! I hope I don’t have to give the book back if my predictions prove to be incorrect.

  20. Lisa, I do need your address to send the book–my emails to you keep getting bounced. Could you email me–


  21. Oops, I know why! I didn’t realize until just now but I had a typo in my email addy here. I’ve corrected it and sent you an email. Hopefully it comes through.

    Sorry about that!

  22. The trend is that men have given control over to women when it comes to gardening. My husband is great and I don’t love him less because he doesn’t pull weeds. Weed and Feed will be banned because no one reads the label.
    If gardening makes us healthy and happy that will be the trend.

  23. I see all trends coming from a disire to have as much “inside/outside” interaction as possible. Anything that extends the season (zone 6, midwest)
    Also big here is “rain gardening”… Trapping rain water to allow fliltration vs. runoff, and reusing in the garden. A wrinkle on this is bog gardening.
    In constructed features, people seem to be moving away from faux materials, and using the real thing–stone, brick, flagstone.

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