Hot Gardening Trends for 2012

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.”

Coates thinks it’s a maintenance issue. “People either have to be really into ponds and all the maintenance they take, or they have to hire someone to do it for them.” (See image.)

Heavy metal

What’s more, says Schmidt, fountains made with natural stone or metal are hotter sellers than features made of manmade materials. “The ball-shaped fountains made of stone are very big this year,” she says, “and I think that copper and other metals are coming into fashion as accents in fountains and as materials for planting containers.”

Seasonal interest

In colder areas, where the blooms are gone and deciduous leaves have fallen, Coates is seeing more people keep their ornamental grasses instead of cutting them back, so they can provide winter interest. For the same reason, they’re looking for plants with winter berries, evergreens, barks of different colors and textures or deciduous trees and shrubs with dramatic forms. But they’re also adding plants that change with the seasons, offering new interest with each.

“Customers have grown tired of the stark, all-season gardens that were so fashionable a decade ago,” Tesselaar says. “Every garden needs its backbone of plants that look great year round, but that doesn’t have to be at the expense of seasonal interest and color.”

More front yard gardens

The number of front yard gardens is also on a steady rise (29% in 2011, compared to 27% in 2010 and 25% in 2009), according to the Garden Trends Research Report’s Early Spring 2011 survey (conducted for the Garden Writers Association Foundation). Meanwhile, the number of backyard gardens has taken a 3% hit, down from 50% in 2009 and 2010.

Gardening “up”

Vertical gardening is also on the rise, as documented in the new, popular book “Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces” by California garden designers Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet. The practice of growing plants up from the ground instead of out, or of planting them off the ground to start with—on trellises, arbors, balconies and walls—has become especially popular among those with small spaces, landscape eyesores or an awkward “skinny spot” in their garden.

But Coates also notes the growth of a different kind of gardening up: green roofs.

“Green roofs have definitely seen more of a commercial application and have been done in mostly urban areas, but they’re still a huge trend,” she says. “Green roofs help save on heating and cooling costs and actually protect the roof underneath from the degrading effects of the elements, so cities have received tax incentives for green roof installations.” Some cities, like Toronto and Chicago, are even starting to require green roofs on some new buildings, based on the square footage.

About Tesselaar

Tesselaar Plants searches the world and introduces new plants for the home garden, landscape, home décor and gift markets. Tesselaar Plants undertakes extensive research and development of its varieties and, once selected for introduction, provides marketing and promotional support for its plant brands through its grower and retail network. Tesselaar’s portfolio of plants is small by design, given rigorous standards that result in high-quality, dramatic, prolific plants that are also environmentally friendly and exceptionally easy to grow.

The Tesselaar philosophy is to introduce exceptional plants while “making gardening easy” for everyone, so it makes them widely available as possible. Tesselaar believes that the more gardeners there are, the better it is for everyone.

Blog: www.youreasygarden.com

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