Anthony Tesselaar of Tesselaar Plants travels the world speaking and meeting with horticulture experts. As a result of his travels, he's culled what he thinks are the big spring gardening trends for 2012.
Water-wise plants, products
Most on the minds of landscaping professionals right now are issues surrounding gardening and water, "whether it's the use of water or the cleaning of water," says Sharon Coates, co-owner of Zaretsky and Associates, a landscape design-and-build firm in Rochester, NY.
In light of recent droughts in places like Georgia, Texas and the Carolinas, people are trying to use the water they do have more frugally, Coates explains. “People are making sure they’re watering responsibly, choosing plants that aren’t water hogs and putting rain sensors on their irrigation systems. They’re also making sure the irrigation is monitored so it’s not watering the driveway and sidewalk.”
Water-wise plants will also make the Mediterranean garden style hot in 2012, says Genevieve Schmidt, a northern coastal California landscape designer and author of the North Coast Gardening blog. Mediterranean landscape design, she explains, often features open and airy courtyards, light-colored, textured hardscaping such as mosaic walls, gravel beds or unglazed terra cotta pots, and low-growing, drought-tolerant plants, hedges, topiary trees and vines (i.e. olive, bay and lemon trees, succulents, lavender, palms, roses and grasses). “Of course, the vivid colors also help make this a winning style.”
Also, when it comes to cleaning the water, especially storm water carrying pollutants like fertilizers and motor oil into local waterways, many people are turning to rain gardens. “These shallow depressions are filled with deep-rooted plants and grasses—all of them noninvasive, native or locally adapted—that can handle being inundated with water and also don’t mind being dry,” Coates says.
“Many gardeners are catching their own rainwater in rain barrels and cleaning or recycling grey water (wastewater from domestic activities like laundry, dishwashing and bathing),” adds Tesselaar. “In fact, in many municipalities now, saving water is not only ‘in’, but mandatory”.
Black and amber
Black and amber shades in plants continue to be a “hot” color trend, says Schmidt. “People have already been bewitched by the dark drama of black plants,” she explains, “and as they learn to design with them more effectively, they’ll only become more popular.”
Amber shades, she adds, are also extremely popular—“amber heucheras, the amber Flower Carpet roses, and other plants with amber tones are going to be big in nurseries this year.”
Low-risk, high-value plants
Just as consumers are being more careful with their water usage, they’re also shopping smarter. In particular, they’re looking for low-risk, high-value plants that not only look good in the garden center, but have a tried-and-true reputation.
“Plants bred to withstand attacks from pests and diseases that are also tolerant of climate and soil extremes provide a better value,” says Tesselaar (developer of the low-maintenance, disease- and drought-resistant Flower Carpet roses, Festival Burgundy cordyline, Storm agapanthus and Volcano phlox). “Gardeners are more aware than ever that choosing the right plant for the right situation is imperative if you want to help save the planet—let alone your bank balance.”
For as little as $15 to $25, for instance, you can have long-term color without a lot of expense by using continuously flowering shrubs like Flower Carpet roses, hydrangeas, potentilla (shrubby cinquefoil) and spirea. Or, if your garden already has plenty of beautiful structure, use such colorful, flowering machines to dress up these “good bones.”
Smaller water features
More and more people are moving away from large ponds and toward smaller water features, says Coates. “Now people prefer a cut piece of stone, a boulder or a beautiful glazed urn with water bubbling out of the top.”