Gardening Trend Predictions for 2014

by Genevieve on December 28, 2013

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

Plant-Breeding-for-the-Home-GardenerThe 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.

Bokashi composting

This one is for real compost enthusiasts. If bokashiyou’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

dehydratingEdible 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.

Permaculture

Photo credit: Albright Garden via Creative Commons

permaculturePermaculture’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

Big kittens 170Or 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

fairy gardening photo via cc flickrWhile 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

radiant orchidWhile 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. . .

Succulents

frog (4)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.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Sietse de Wit December 29, 2013 at 6:18 am

Let’s get the trends into 2014, can’t wait.

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Rochelle December 29, 2013 at 8:51 am

What a fun article! Made me want to contact my local county extension and see when they are having their canning classes this year. It’s been over a decade since I took them last and I’m sure I could use a refresher course!

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Genevieve December 30, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Yeah, me too, come to think. I’ve always wanted to learn.

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Casa Mariposa December 29, 2013 at 9:47 am

Hmmm…. It always cracks me up that gardening can be as trendy as everything else. My phlox got busy when no one was looking and did a bit of their own plant breeding. I have a new cultivar I like to call “Love Child’ or maybe ‘Oops’. I agree about permaculture needing to be a bit less chaotic to keep the HOA Nazis at bay. As for succulents, I heart them but my coldish winter climate doesn’t. My jade plant is spending the winter looking out a basement window, dreaming of sun and warmth while my sempervivums are hunkered down in the cold like hibernating bears.

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Genevieve December 30, 2013 at 6:03 pm

You are cracking me up, Casa, and you’ve found a new reader for your blog. I don’t know whether I’d rather have an “Oops” or a “Love Child” in my garden, but when the Phlox get busy we better watch out!

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Deirdre December 29, 2013 at 10:20 am

The City of Seattle wants people to put their kitchen waste, including meat, bones and dairy, in their yard waste bins. I don’t know if other cities do it, too. I’d like to see that trend.

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Genevieve December 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm

That’s definitely a trend I can get behind. We can’t compost that stuff at home, but a city absolutely can! Good for them!!

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Jim December 29, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Nice to see you back blogging Gen!

I see what you see with succulents- people can’t get enough! From San Diego to Brooklyn (wonderful, fast selling displays at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden)- there is huge interest.

Thanks!

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Genevieve December 30, 2013 at 6:01 pm

It’s nice to BE back blogging, Jim! Thanks for stopping by, and thanks so much for the Facebook share! Really appreciate it!

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Kat December 30, 2013 at 10:10 am

Fun post. I’ll be curious to see how your prediction about fairy gardens pans out. I’ve always believed that this trend has high appeal amongst the hoarder set and “uncluttered” is not in their vocabulary.

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Genevieve December 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm

You might be right. I have to say that even in the most classy of gardens, I have seen little fairy areas here and there. I personally don’t care for them but perhaps I am wrong about this trend!

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Mary B December 30, 2013 at 11:37 am

I see what you mean about clutter in the house and garden, but I also see parents with their children still getting excited about the fairy gardens we have on display and wanting to make them at home. Fairy gardens pull you into their little world and it’s a wonderful way to share the gardening experience with your kids.

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Genevieve December 30, 2013 at 5:57 pm

That’s an excellent point Mary, and very well-taken. I have to admit that they are really great for kids. I used to love that kind of thing when I was small! Thanks for bringing that up! :)

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Sylvia P. December 30, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I first acquired my love of succulents at about the age of four. My grandfather had hens and chicks in a small corner of his garden and they absolutely fascinated me. Jump to two years ago when a friends mother had a succulent garden and my love and interest was rekindled. Now I have a massive succulent garden which I love now at seventy as I did at four.

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Lisa December 30, 2013 at 7:58 pm

It did not take much persuading to get my husband to plow under the majority of the yard…as I do all the the gardening and now he doesn’t have to mow…love it!

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Cristina da Silva December 31, 2013 at 9:20 am

Very interesting list, and I think you right on. Thank you for sharing your insights.

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Robert Kourik December 31, 2013 at 10:08 am

I very much agree with “I think it will be hot for 2014, but will have to evolve aesthetically or it will go back to being a fringe movement.”
Also, permaculture better get some real science into its mix. And we need to see yield comparisons with other types of food gardening. And a greatly reduced use of comfrey – which can’t be correlated with science.

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Ed Remsrola December 31, 2013 at 11:48 am

My goodness, let’s not confuse Fairy Gardens with Miniature Gardening! Creating delightful miniature gardens using miniature conifers and other cool miniature plants in either containers or in special sections of the garden is not only a great way to get kids involved in gardening, but it opens the doors of gardening to our urban, city-dwelling friends. (Great to see you back blogging again!)
Ed-

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BTS January 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Sadly, I foresee the rise of artificial lawns. It’s something we’re increasingly receiving inquiries for.

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Mike the Gardener April 17, 2014 at 10:46 am

Also, school gardens. School gardening is a trend that is picking up steam and that is a good thing.

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Genevieve April 23, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Great addition, Mike!

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Charlie@Seattle Trekker May 7, 2014 at 8:46 am

I am always looking for new ideas and great gardening information…I really appreciated your post.

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