Since the days when "hanging" was the height of garden style in Babylon, aficionados of outdoor decor have followed fashion trends. Today, alfresco fashion has an international flavor. Ideas and outlooks are exchanged by garden lovers around the globe.
The International Flower Bulb Center in Hillegom, Holland, compiled a Gardening Trends Report that tracked emerging or continuing gardening trends observed around the world. The report includes trends observed in Holland, Germany, France, England, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, China, Japan, Taiwan, Canada and the United States.
Here are the findings:
Instant results. Even as gardening gains in popularity, gardeners find time to garden increasingly scarce. Today's busy gardeners crave instant results or, at the least, speedier results. One solution is to buy pregrown plants to shorten the garden maturation process. While most nurseries provide pre-grown plants, even trees, for those who are in a hurry, these nearly fully grown plants are often more costly than their younger siblings.
Bright colors. Fewer gardeners today are sticking with demure stands of soothing pastel pinks and whites. By the late '90s, gardeners worldwide began to favor brighter colors instead of the pastels that had long dominated garden palettes. Many new (and newly rediscovered) colorful plant varieties have become widely available. Increasingly, color is being splashed across the landscape in zingy shades of chartreuse, orchid, orange and purple plus red, yellow, coral, blue, lavender and hot pink. It's a horti-fashion cycle.
Container plantings. People are using more containers for planting than ever before. And they are finding creative ways to use them. Increased use of container plantings is a major trend around the world. Imaginative gardeners group containers to create gardens where garden beds normally do not exist, such as doorways, decks, balconies or terraces. They place large potted plants directly into the landscape as structural focal points or use them as movable accents to lead the eye in garden beds.
New manufacturing and import/export patterns create much of the excitement in container gardening. New pot options are flooding the market as demand increases. Among them: large, lightweight winter-proof planters that are suited to housing small trees and shrubs year-round; inexpensive lightweight decorative containers of molded resins, fiberglass or plastic that capture the look of prohibitively expensive and heavy antique containers made of cast iron, lead, stone and cast cement; and colorful glazed containers from China and Malaysia.
Super-sized plants. Big plants that give an exotic appeal (the "tropicalissimo" look) are another hit with gardeners everywhere. Oversized plants are fun plus offer practical solutions for privacy or screening. A few versatile plus-size plants to try are elephant ears, banana trees, castor bean plants, dahlias, ornamental grasses, cannas, large-flowered hibiscuses, sunflowers and hollyhocks.
Fragrance. The nose knows, as any gardener will tell you. But, in recent decades many naturally fragrant flowers smelled less fragrant to many gardeners. While hybridizers successfully crossbred plants to gain such attributes as bigger blossoms or greater disease resistance, they often lost natural fragrance in the process. Today, flower hybridizers are coming full circle by breeding to bring back long-lost common scents.
A focus on foliage. Flowers may give us a few weeks of bloom but foliage sticks around all season. Artistry exists to mixing the textures, colors, heights and sizes of distinctive leaves to achieve desired effects. Even all-green foliage comes in endless hues.
Black foliage is another appealing option. Plants with dark leaves are excellent mixers in the garden, providing contrast or balance to other flower and foliage combinations. Other considerations: Are the leaves matte or shiny, big and broad or small and feathery, leathery or soft, smooth-edged or raggedy? These foliage factors combine to create a living tapestry, however they're mixed.
Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and home and garden writer for the Journal-World.