What to look for in gardens in the new year

Published: Saturday, January 15, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2005 at 10:56 p.m.
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Tropical heliconias in containers can brighten a summer deck, giving it a lush appearance during the warm months. Tropicals are popular all over the country.

Photo courtesy of REGINA ROPER
As we head into another gardening year, there are changes afoot. While fashions in gardens don't change year to year, there are some trends that emerge over several years' time.
Here are some of those trends that the industry is saying we can expect in our yards and gardens this year: Cocooning is evidently going out, but that doesn't mean we are leaving our homes. We are choosing to invite friends for an outdoor party or alfresco dinner instead of going out on the town. The garden has become the new living room.
According to Kip Creel, a market-research analysis with NQuery, a national statistical-analysis firm, landscaping is now the No. 1 "discretionary project" for today's new homeowner. Today, some four in five American families garden, spending some $67 billion on gardening and landscaping services combined.
And Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and author of "Why People Buy Things They Don't Need," sees that figure increasing. She predicts that for the next five to 10 years consumers will shift their decorating focus from the home's interior and will spend more money enhancing their gardens, patios and lawns.
In its "2005 Garden Trends Report," Susan McCoy, president of the Garden Media Group, says these new lifestyle gardeners, although still short on time, are more self-confident and determined to add their personal signature to their backyards.
Released at the 56th Annual Garden Writers Symposium on Long Island in September, McCoy says gardeners should "use these trends to discover how to make your own outdoor statement this spring."
Here's what we can look forward to:
  • Reality gardens: Designer-driven gardens, those perfect landscapes we homeowners can only envision in our dreams, are on their way out. This is not to imply that a landscape architect or designer will no longer be useful. But the designs will reflect the owners' style and personality, rather than some photo in a magazine.
  • Cooke-cutter is out: "Cookie-cutter" landscapes - the result of developers building a subdivision of similar houses, with the same ligustrum, oak tree and St. Augustine grass at every home - will be going the way of personalized gardens. Homeowners are armed with more knowledge these days, and they should have some say in what goes in their front yard.
  • Simple is in: Cottage gardening will never go completely out of style, but the look will be more streamlined. Colors that complement each other will replace the rainbow-hued palette. Fortunately, the mass planting of red salvias - dramatic, but boring after a while - has gone the way of mass plantings of colors that work together. It's much easier on the eye. Low-maintenance and color or interest for more than one season - spring-flowering trees with fall color, for instance - will make it easier for us to enjoy our gardens, away from a hectic world.
  • Tropicals are in: We are lucky here in Florida, where we can easily grow tropicals, but even up North, the trend is for the big bold flowers and foliage. Container plants with huge leaves and unique colors - Tropicanna canna comes immediately to mind, as do heliconias - bring a real lush look to decks and patios.
  • Get some help: According to Robert Dolibois, executive vice president of the American Nursery and Landscape Association, mowing and yard care services as well as fully installed landscapes are the fastest growing areas of the $69 billion lawn and gardening segment. The latest study reports almost $30 billion was spent on landscape services alone. "People just don't have the time, the knowledge or the inclination to do many of the tasks so they hire someone to do it for them."
    This gives the homeowner time to focus on the details.
  • Containers still in: People in apartments and condominiums do not have much space to garden, but plant breeders are accommodating them by creating plants - flowers, trees, vegetables - that are very happy living in a big pot. Go to www.amazon.com and type "container gardening" in the books search, and you'll find that it is a popular topic indeed.
    Next week I'll cover some more of the trends to look for.
    Marina Blomberg can be reached at 352-332-0080 or neophyte@bellsouth.net
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