When it comes to garden trends, as well as other influential directions, the big-picture themes emerge on the world stage and then they prompt garden designers and plant breeders to shift their work toward our changing needs and desires. This year, most of what is heading our way has to do with population, technology, cooperation-over-competition and plants that solve gardening issues.

Crabby comment of the week


Two billion gallons of fossil fuel — that’s what we are burning in this country every year — just to maintain our lawns. That total includes fuel to power mowers, edgers and leaf blowers. Not only are those devices burning up fuel, they are emitting noxious fumes and destroying our peace and quiet with ear-splitting decibels. If that doesn’t make us crabby, then I don’t know what would. Maybe it’s time we got out the rake or a broom or hand edger, and got some exercise while we clean up the yard, instead of polluting our world. Better yet, get out the shovels and reduce or eliminate that expanse of turf all together. Now, that’s a thought.

Some of this year’s trends are familiar ones, while others are new takes on old favorites and standbys Drum roll, please:

Container gardening

Returning again this year, container gardening isn’t exactly new, but it is primed to get a whole lot trendier. Population predictions are set to rise in cities over the next 30 years, and homes are already being built smaller. Yards too are often smaller, and so more and more people will choose to do their gardening in pots.

Be it ornamentals like annuals or perennials or a series of mini-vegetable gardens, there are new varieties specially developed to thrive and produce in pots. Always remember, when filling containers, use a commercial potting soil and not plain old garden soil. The special mixes are designed to drain and many also contain essential added nutrients. For a selection of varieties especially for container growing, visit the Renee’s Garden Seeds’ website at: reneesgarden.com/blogs/gardening-resources/container-varieties.

And here’s an idea, why not consider roses in containers? “English roses, with their shrubby, bushy habit, are ideal for growing in large pots and containers,” according to David Auston Roses. “Unlike many other potted plants, English roses will flower in fragrant flushes throughout the summer and into the fall. For instant impact in the garden, try planting a tree rose in a pot.” Visit the David Austin website for more inspiration. davidaustinroses.com/us/

Pollinators and cooperative gardening

Providing flowering plants for pollinators — including last year’s Plant of the Year, butterfly weed — is motivating gardeners everywhere. The showy, native perennial butterfly weed produced a cooperative attempt across the nation to help the struggling Monarch population. Likewise, other flowering native plants are earning recognition and finding places in more landscapes to provide habitat and food for pollinators.

While many associate the term “pollinators” with honeybees, butterflies and a host of native bees, wasps and other insects constitute a huge group of bugs that provide valuable pollinating services not only for home gardens, but also for agriculture. We now know how complex and interconnected the insect world is, and that broadcast elimination of insects can result in killing the beneficial insects as well. Using fewer or no chemical controls is another way home gardeners can benefit these essential insects.

Privacy

It is true that our homes are our castles, and even though our “castles” do not have moats, we still enjoy the privacy and solitude found at home. A private retreat can be achieved with tall, vining-plants, foliage-heavy varieties and a sprinkling of colorful favorite flowers to block out annoying noise and eyesores. In this case, think native plants and trees for subjects that are sure to survive and thrive with little care.

Not only that, but native trees, shrubs and plants often provide habitat and food for wildlife — yet another dimension to enjoy in your mini-retreat. For a list of natives to choose, begin your search at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s “Yardscaping” website at: maine.gov/dacf/.

Groundcovers

If you’ve ever stopped to think about the time, effort and expense required to maintain a lawn, the thought of groundcovers might have entered your mind. Turns out you touched on another of the year’s growing trends — groundcovers, which can save time, money and resources, even remedy annoying landscape problems (think erosion).

Replacing turf with groundcovers has become a very smart trend. Groundcovers can be used in a variety of locations, even ones where grass does not thrive — like in shaded areas, for instance, or in difficult-to-mow locations. When you incorporate native groundcovers, you are using plants that are not invasive exotics, plants that are suited to thrive in our environment and often plants that can provide food and flowers for native pollinators and animals. Again, the Maine Yardscaping site offers choices.

Gardening trendy or gardening traditionally, it does not matter. However we garden, we are making our own botanical history. The thing is, some of this year’s trends are exactly what a lot of gardeners will be following because they meet our needs and they work.