Greetings, Gardeners! I will be answering garden questions live this Friday, Feb. 24, from 1-2 p.m. on Boston.com. Meanwhile, high-value, water-wise plants, small water features and Mediterranean style are among this year’s gardening trends to consider.
In Boston and other colder areas, where the blooms are gone and deciduous leaves have fallen, 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.
The number of front yard gardens is on a steady rise (29 percent in 2011, compared to 27 percent in 2010 and 25 percent 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-percent hit, down from 50 percent in 2009 and 2010.
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.
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,” Zaretsky and Associates’ 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 Anthony Tesselaar, cofounder and president of Tesselaar Plants. “In fact, in many municipalities now, saving water is not only ‘in’, but mandatory”.
Black and amber shades in plants continue to be a “hot” color trend, says North Coast Gardening’s 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. I grew a Tropicanna Black canna last year and liked the dark leaves very much.
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.) “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.’”
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." 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.”
“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.