Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Garden Trends 2011

What will be the trends that dominate the landscape and garden this year?  In 2011, the garden matters more than ever.  Americans are turning to their under-utilized yards and realizing their potential.  The era of the lawn is waning as homeowners create spaces for living, for ecology, and for food.  Take a look at my top seven trends for the garden in 2011:
1.  Intentional Gardens:   By far the biggest trend of the year is that yards will have a purpose.  Yards are no longer viewed as pretty filler space between the street and the house; more than ever, home-owners are viewing their gardens as places where they can make a difference.  This year, expect more home-owners to embrace their roles as conservationists and stewards of the earth.  Lawns will be dug up and replaced with vegetables, meadows, pollinator gardens, and places for prayer and meditation.  Pretty is out, purpose is in. 
2.  Landscapes Go Wild:  Landscapes and gardens designed to look wild will increase in popularity this year.   Take a quick look at the 2010 ASLA award winning landscapes.  The vast majority of them used highly naturalistic, if not downright wild-looking planting.  Or look at last year’s winners of the Chelsea Flower Show, a trend-setter for garden design.  The carefully choreographed meadow-look dominates. 
The wild look is being fed by a nostalgia for wilderness and wild places.  Children spend an average of 6 hours a day in front of computers and televisions.  At no time in human history have Americans spent less time in wild and natural places.  Expect to see more landscape architects introduce constructed wild places in highly urban areas.  Projects like the Highline in lower Manhattan and Shanghai Houtan Park  juxtapose hyper-naturalistic plantings into intensely urban areas.  The contrast is delightful. 
The wild look at the Highline in lower Manhattan
3.  The Farm-Yard: It’s the new domesticity.  Urban and suburban home dwellers will continue to convert their yards into places of urban agriculture.  Consider these statistics from 2010: seed sales were up 30%, canning was up 45%, and vegetable gardening was up 19%.  Neighbors beware: the urban farm movement is not just about veggies.  Expect to see more henhouses, bee boxes, and even ducks in your neighborhoods.  Citizens across the country are lobbying  to change zoning codes to allow for more livestock use in neighborhoods.
4.  Go Native, Go American:  Last year, Americans preferred domestic cars over foreign cars for the first time in 13 years.  The local food movement is reaching a fevered pitch.  Even during the recession, Americans were willing to spend as much as 18% more for food labeled “local” than for non-local food.  That same impulse will continue to influence plant selection in gardens. 
I predict that hyper-native plants—plants grown from regional seed sources—will be increasingly in demand.  Nurseries such as Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota are leading the way by providing  “source-identified ecotypes,” telling you exactly what ecosystem and region the seed was harvested from.  
5.  Propagation Nation:  Last year, Americans embraced canning as the new self-reliance.  This year, I predict that propagating one’s own plants will be more popular than ever.  People will not only grow plants from seed, but also harvest seeds from the wild in order to bring nature into their yards.  Expect a reaction against laboratory-cloned nursery plants as gardeners embrace the genetic diversity and beauty of straight species plants. 
6.  Edible Ornamentals:  This year, homeowners will maximize every square inch of the yard by selecting plants that are both edible and beautiful.  Since 2006, the average American home has shrunk by 9%.  These smaller abodes mean that plants must perform double duty.  Expect to see more demand for small fruiting shrubs and trees, highly-colored greens, and compact veggies as Americans begin to mix these edible plants into their ornamental flower beds.  Hot plants may include rhubarb, cardoons, banana trees, lavender, swiss chards, ornamental melons and peppers .
7.  Mandated Sustainability:  Uncle Sam wants you . . . to be green.  In fact, they are downright demanding it.  More than ever before, governments are mandating that new construction meet the highest sustainability standards than ever before.  The LEED Green Building Rating system is only the first step.  The newly released Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) is an interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the United States Botanic Garden to create national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction, and maintenance.  Right now these guidelines are voluntary, but not for long.  After the SITES program finishes its pilot projects, the standards will soon be adopted by municipalities across the country. 


  1. Hmmm. As one who lives next to an urban farm-yard, it is apparent to me that zoning regulations need to be modified to allow for this type of use and, at the same time, put limits on how this use impacts the adjacent neighbors. The farm-yard next to us is a bit of a cesspit, with a massive untended compost pile that harbors rats all year and stinks to high heaven in the warm weather.

    Yard-farms, done properly, are a lot of work. If they aren't tended regularly, the result is unpleasant. And, while chickens are great, they need daily care. I worry that keeping chickens will attract more of the urban farm trendista sorts and innocent animals will suffer as a result of neglect once the novelty wears off.

  2. Turning the front lawn of a home into a meadow may work in communities that are truly rural. In urban areas, and suburbs that are close to the city, I fear that the meadow look will prove to be too messy for most homeowners' taste, especially in areas where manicured lawns are still considered ideal. Nevertheless, I hope that I am proven wrong, if only for the sake of our planet's health.

  3. Thanks for the trend ideas. On #2, my area has a few untrained plant primadonnas (and a cadre of disciples) who know little of design principles, and they promote perhaps a diff version of "wild". Most of their works are unappealing to those who think for themselves, designer or public...like gray cottage gardens. If nature looked so shabby, no one would go hiking. They set xeriscape back 20 years and as the domain for an uppity, exclusive group. Their works do not look good most times, because it ignores native structure, and is not abstratced well into the constraints or context of the particular space. (10 miles of desert grassland looks great - cramming it into a 10'-20' wide median & calling it a prairie or meadow does not work) So, I in full agreement w/ anon... and allanbeck...

    I think success will come from understanding a given ecoregion's processes and resultant patterns, and the designer and savvy non-designer can then work their magic - abstracting those to various urban spaces.

    #6 - oh yeah, food! #4 and even #7 will only work with competent suppliers, but in the wetter east, you are probably ahead of us in the high desert SW.

    Thanks...you provoked some needed thought.

  4. Hi Thomas,

    Needless to say, I love these trends. I hope they are more about fundamental long lasting cultural changes than mere trendiness. To seriously embrace any of them requires a willingness to learn about one's home ecosystem--a good and great thing!

  5. Thomas, welcome back! I have truly missed your posts. When your last recent post arrived to my inbox I gasped "Where have you been?" But it didn't take long to realize you'd shifted your priorities, kudus to you!
    Hope you are still enjoying plenty of time with your little bundle of joy!
    Happy New Year!

  6. Anonymous, that's a great point . . . there's a reason those zoning codes are there in the first place. Perhaps a bit more flexibility would be good though.

    Desert Dweller, I agree. The wild look takes a lot of skill to be executed well. Otherwise, it's just messy.

    Adrian, let's hope they do stick around.

    Nancy, thanks for the kind words. It's nice to be back online.

  7. Your post has inspired me with great information and facts to back all of it up. Thanks for sharing! I think 2011 is going to be a great year--and you just confirmed that notion for me.

  8. After my mother moved to Florida, I spent over 20 years creating a wild eco-utopia out of her sterile yard. Proponents of conventional wisdom were warning me against the use of bromeliads, for they would provide breeding environments for mosquitoes... Her yard now harbors a variety of wildlife, including birds, frogs, snakes and more lizards than you could shake a stick at. The result is that she has less mosquitoes than any of the neighboring, manicured, water thirsty, predominantly lawn based yards do.

  9. Thanks for a great post. Like all things, those projects done right and maintained can be successful. (Hey, maybe that's why people should hire professionals?)

  10. I have loved Prairie Moon Nursery for years, and am thrilled at this new project of theirs. I keep reading how, for example, a bluestem from eastern NE is different from one in western Iowa. Amazing.

  11. Here are different types of new trends of gardening that are being populated now-a-days. The farm yard is a far better option for the persons who lives in urban or suburban areas and wish to do urban agriculture. This blog is much helpful for persons looking the most suitable way for gardening according to their climate.


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