Still plenty of trend talk in gardening’s off-season



The T-word floods the internets as all the garden show speakers make their pronouncements. Here’s Dan Benarcik, a horticulturist at Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Pa., and instructor at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, who is speaking at a show in Pittsburgh, March 8:

Three major trends in public horticulture are influencing gardens today, according to Benarcik. They include the return of tropical plants and Victorian bedding plants as seasonal displays, and a newfound awareness of colors and textures in foliage in addition to flowers. The third is an up-and-coming trend toward plant architecture, or selecting plants for their distinctive structure.

On the other hand, Jeff Lowenfels says from Alaska that besides organic methods, the next big thing is “programs selling specialty flowering plants, which are nationally promoted under a brand name in magazines and other media. The most noticeable of these is the Proven Winners program, which has been around for several years. There are four or five big growers who distribute to thousands of nurseries, such as ours in Anchorage, a few dozen hybrid plants developed especially for the home grower. Local nurseries get plants as plugs and grow them until they are sold. Each plant is given a special label with instructions, the trademarked program name and a great picture of the plant. Most are sold when they are in bloom.”

I dunno, I do like some of the Proven Winners cultivars, but sometimes they just seem a way to charge more for plants. Disturbingly, Lowenfels next warns that due to droughts in Georgia, Oregon, and Minnesota, there will be far fewer plants available for sale this spring

Ah yes, the Color Marketing Group. I love them. They pick the hot colors and then distribute gorgeous images that illustrate the colors. They also brought us avocado green and harvest gold in the late 60s. (My mom is shown with her gold fridge, above.) Fortunately for us, they’re stressing “colors of nature,” stressing that colors need to be “green” whether they’re actually green or not. “Anything that looks like something that helps save the environment will be big,” says CMG spokesperson Amy Larrabee. They also predict a heavier use of red, partially inspired by the Beijing Olympics, and concur with British designer Rachel de Thame, quoted by Amy a few posts back: pink and lavender are returning into favor. Too bad I am already well on my way to replacing those colors with yellow/orange, and purple/blue. Lavender always ends up looking muddy in my space.

And then, of course, the usual talk of outdoor living and containers, especially vegetables in containers, continues. I know several people who do really well with heirloom tomatoes in containers.

I don’t know what trends I’ll be following this spring (other than the usual one of trying to keep my garden from looking like crap), but I am interested in trying for 1. More native plants. Regardless of what Michael Pollan might think about that, I’m interested in them. 2. More verticality. I think more tall plants and vines are needed in my narrow, urban space. 3. Less one-of-a-kinds; more groups of the same plant for coherence. 4. And I must find room for a small bar, or some kind of place to stash entertaining accoutrement. I guess that’s trendy.

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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 regular 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. Eliz, your mom looks so cute – I thought she was an actual model, for “Queen for the Day” maybe.
    Trends I’m pursuing in my garden this year are: 1. edibles, and influenced by YOUR inspiring posts, 2. annuals. Gotta go finish my Select Seeds order (for little plants, not actual seeds).

  2. Grouping! I have, for years, been unhappy with my measured spacing for this plant or that plant, my three of these and my one of that because it was pretty and I couldn’t resist buying it anyway. My hostas are going to be moved into one big happy group. I’m such a dork that it took me so long to figure this out.

  3. Thanks Susan! That’s not even a good picture of her, but I remember the “side by each” fridge as we liked to call it being such a big deal.

    Yay! Another convert to SS plants, I think you’ll be happy.

  4. What does Pollan have against native plants? I guess I haven’t read of what you speak.
    My thing for this year is still to have the neighbors look at our yard with a questioning gaze, but they just don’t understand. Yes the foliage is still up and the leaves of last fall are still insulating the ground despite every other household that battles the leaves on days when the wind is 45+mph.
    Oh yeah, also this year my thing is to keep all the stormwater on site via swales and rain gardens.

  5. I love the Color Marketing Group too. I’m not a print designer, but since there’s no one else to do it, I end up designing a good 75% of the ads for the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal every month. I like to snag the Pantone color palette for the season and keep it on my desktop; it makes me feel like there is at least some semblance of method and order to what I’m doing. When I remember to look at it anyway, which I didn’t this issue.

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