There are useful color trends, like this one above, and less “sticky” trends, like this year’s Radiant Orchid.
Even a timeless activity like gardening is subject to the ebbs and flows of trends. Though I’m constantly reminded that there’s nothing really new in the world, a cleverly written book, new product, or a general societal trend can breathe new life into something that’s been around for a while. In previous years, edible gardening, succulents, and vertical gardening have been huge trends, while in 2013, indoor gardening with terrariums, air plants and houseplants, as well as fairy gardening were on the upswing. Here are my predictions for what’s going to be big in 2014.
Garden trends for 2014: what’s hot
Plant breeding at home
The premise sounds too good to be true: if you can’t find the exact color and style of plant you want at the nursery, just breed it yourself at home. Yet the popularity of books like Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener by Joseph Tychonievich shows that the passion of home gardeners knows no bounds when it comes to using creativity to engineer the perfect plant.
Tychonievich outlines the qualities to look for and techniques needed to breed anything, and gives the lowdown on breeding a number of common faves that are ripe for tinkering – brassicas, squash, roses, snapdragons, and columbines are a few top picks.
Though the average home gardener may not get further than the simplest breeding technique, which is planting reseeding annuals like violas and simply weeding out your least favorite colors each year – the enthusiastic presentation of the book got me fired up to experiment. The idea that I might be able to breed a tomato that actually does something in my grey Humboldt fog is a major draw.
This one is for real compost enthusiasts. If you’ve been composting your green waste, and have maybe even ventured into worm composting, then Bokashi might just be for you. The technique was developed in the 1980s by a Japanese scientist, and involves layering food waste in a bucket with a mixture of wheat bran, molasses, and a type of microorganism which ferments your kitchen waste.
In contrast to most types of compost, this no-stink technique allows you to make use of all of your table scraps, such as dairy, bread, and even meat and small bones. You can set the Bokashi buckets under your sink, so it’s good for urban or apartment dwellers. The only problem is that even after the fermentation cycle is complete, you still need to compost the waste further, either outdoors or in a worm bin (that’s a big downside).
However, until now there haven’t been many practical ways of getting rid of meat and dairy scraps from the kitchen unless you have chickens or other livestock, so for the environmentally minded gardener, this is a fun new way of having a small carbon footprint. Plus, that leftover Bokashi juice is said to be a supercharged microbe boost for the garden.
Dehydrating, canning and fermenting
Photo credit: Mikey and Wendy via Creative Commons
Edible gardening has been popular for so long that I hesitate to call it a trend anymore, but I think we’re seeing an evolution where people are either quitting edible gardening and getting to know their local farmers instead, or going big and branching out into canning and fermenting in order to make healthy use of all they are producing.
Part of the reason casual vegetable gardeners are quitting is that even a small vegetable garden does take time, water and energy (often at irritatingly specific times) and the large quantities produced at harvest time can overwhelm even the most enthusiastic cook (especially for those who make the rookie mistake of planting more than one zucchini).
That said, books, websites, and classes on dehydrating, canning, and fermenting abound. For people who are geeky enough about both gardening and health to persevere despite the learning curve and hard work, the food preservation trend is taking off. I know something is becoming really popular when friends who aren’t health-oriented begin asking after the health of my kombucha mother, or discussing homemade sauerkraut.
Of course, among frugal country types, this isn’t a trend, it’s just the way you do things – but for the majority of us who are used to buying everything at the grocery store, this is a welcome and dramatic shift.
Photo credit: Albright Garden via Creative Commons
Permaculture’s been around for some time, and the techniques have been a mainstay for hippie gardeners for years, but I’m calling this a trend because there has been an explosion of new books and discussion on the topic in the last year. What I love about permaculture is the enthusiastic grassroots emphasis on using what you have, controlling your own inputs and outputs (like growing your own fertilizers and mulch!), and the way the philosophy focuses on creating an edible ecosystem that benefits not only the humans who work the land but the wildlife that visits.
Unfortunately, some of the permaculture gardens I have seen use shredded typing paper, straw, and knocked-down plants as pathway and mulching material. Though it may be eco, it looks pretty darn ugly by most people’s standards, and weeding copious amounts of comfrey (a staple perennial used for mulch, chicken food, and more by permaculturists) out of otherwise-orderly flower gardens gets old fast.
This type of gardening is earnestly focused on productivity and the environment, and for that it is commendable. However, the lack of focus on visual design elements can make it hard to woo the neighbors into following suit. I think it will be hot for 2014, but will have to evolve aesthetically or it will go back to being a fringe movement.
More attention to lawns
Or less attention to lawns, as the case may be. Ripping out your lawn in favor of edible gardens, natives, or merely a beautifully laid out planting scheme has been a major theme for the last few years. I mean, lawn really isn’t doing much in terms of productivity, wildlife, or even plain old aesthetic beauty – and it certainly can take a lot of input in the form of water, mowing, fertilizers, and weed or pest control. That’s why so many people have been considering alternatives to that default postage stamp of green in our front yards.
However, when we considered our gardens mindfully, many of us discovered we actually enjoy and use a small patch of lawn. After making a conscious choice to appreciate what lawn we have, I think more people are moving towards treating our little patches of turf with more respect, by applying appropriate amounts of organic fertilizer and lime, top-dressing with compost, and occasionally weeding and edging for a finer look. Whether you are in the “no lawn” camp or the “much beloved and well used lawn” contingent, mindfully designing and caring for the patch of land you have is something we can all agree on. Though I hope never to return to the days when a perfect green ChemLawn was a status symbol, I am delighted to see that eco-friendliness and a beautiful lawn can coexist.
On the wane: the bombs of 2014. . .
Miniature and fairy gardening
Photo credit: Carolyn Wakefield via Creative Commons
While fairy gardening (setting miniature scenes in the garden out of figurines, benches, etc.) has been a rising trend, it seems to be more of a trend from people who are selling the accouterments rather than a trend that actual real-live gardeners are into. Admittedly, it gives people an excuse to offload some of their knickknack overflow into the garden. I mean, what else are you going to do with that kitschy ceramic figurine from last year’s white elephant exchange?
However, as people become overwhelmed with the amount of clutter in their lives, both in objects and activities, we’ll collectively remember that the reason we enjoy gardening is that it is such a break from all the “stuff” in the world. Clutter is clutter no matter where you stick it, and I’m guessing that most of the people who fell prey to the fairy gardening trend will make a clean sweep of it when they realize it’s no more soothing looking at that kind of junk outdoors than it is inside.
Pantone’s Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid
While I usually love color trends and the excuse it gives me to break out of my own boxes, this year’s color of the year is so unabashedly girly that I doubt it will take off as more than an accent color. Don’t get me wrong – I have a few cute workout tops in that color, and a glittered hairband to boot. But in the garden? In home décor?
Sure, ladies do a lot of the decorating, but we are usually decorating a home or garden that we share with the men in our lives. We can get away with changing up cushions, throws, and outdoor décor when the on-trend colors are things like emerald or reddish-orange (like in previous years), but I think most men would feel unwelcome lounging against Radiant Orchid seat cushions, for example. This color is probably best in nail salons and on samba dancers and probably won’t take off in the home or garden.
And the Energizer Bunny of garden trends. . .
I like to think of myself as someone who tries new and interesting things, and so any trend that’s been so aggressively popular for so many years would seem a good candidate for my mockery. Unfortunately, I’m as in love with succulents as the rest of the world. Every time I think I might be moving on from the trend (like when I discovered how much my chickens enjoyed eating them), I see a new project or plant and fall in love all over again. If you’re with me, check out Debra Lee Baldwin’s book Succulents Simplified for some beautifully artistic projects, an overview of the most popular and useful plants, and some easy reference pages with tips on care, designing, and more.
Succulents are like the ornamental grass of the millennium. Remember when ornamental grasses started becoming popular – what, 15 years ago? Most of my clients were aware of them, but they were trendy, and not to everyone’s taste. Now, grasses are such a common part of our collective experience of the landscape that even though they aren’t universally adored, they’re no longer considered a passing trend. Succulents are headed that direction, and unlike grasses, they’re so varied in their looks and uses that I don’t know anyone who actively dislikes them.
So, what do you hope will live and die in the hearts of gardeners in 2014? Leave a comment and put forth your own trend predictions.