CATALYST isn’t big on rehashing materials from marketing and publicity firms. But once a year, one organization produces a press release that makes us, well, swoon. It’s the Garden Media Group, and they define annual trends regarding garden, landscape design and green living, based on worldwide research and just the kind of wishful thinking we appreciate.
In their first report, in 2001, they predicted outdoor living would be big. Since then they noted the rise of container gardening, vegetable gardening, natives, the “buy local” movement and vertical gardening. Last year, they reported on the rapidly growing base of Millennial gardeners, particularly male, and Hispanics. They also observed the expansion of neighborhoods into “agrihoods,” and pointed out that with the inevitable legalization of marijuana, garden centers should begin to carry products that help people to cultivate these plants.
This year’s trends embrace the news that Millennials (along with their digital accessories) have now overtaken the Baby Boomers in the U.S. population. The report says people are merging technology with nature, not as a distraction, but as a way to explore, educate and entertain. “Consumers are constantly connected, and that’s not a bad thing,” says Susan McCoy, Garden Media president. “It’s time for the industry to fully embrace technology and all it can do for the garden. The more consumers learn about nature, the more they will grow to care about it.”
Being in sync with nature is the first step in a healthy and rewarding lifestyle, according to the report. Eco-friendly trends in home landscapes can have a big impact.
Here are some of the trends Garden Media has identified for 2016 and beyond:
1. Connected greenery
We walk, talk and sleep with our phones. Now, people are getting plugged in outside, too, syncing garden habits with technology. People want to be successful with plants without a lot of work or information. To do this, they are turning to technology to help grow plants both indoors and in the garden. Your phone can help you figure out the best sun for precise garden placement, i.d. insects, share photos of your mystery plants—it can answer questions and connect you with all kinds of resources.
The intersection of two of the hottest trends in education: technology and nature. It combines virtual and augmented reality to engage kids with gardening, health and fitness in fun, new ways. Whether running, playing, storytelling or even geocaching, this trend has the potential to mobilize a new generation of nature lovers.
Horticulture is intrinsically tied to health and wellness. From what we eat, to our environment, people want to be happy and healthy in mind, body and soul. For instance, edible landscaping with berry bushes (goji, blackberries, raspberries and more) provides fresh antioxidants at our fingertips. Certain houseplants clean the air of volatile organic compounds.
4. Maker culture
DIY culture with an added dose of invention, experimentation or repurposing becomes maker culture. The line is kind of fuzzy, though the latter tends more toward collaboration and shared tools and knowledge. Gardeners are whipping up their own batches of soil innoculants (and studying them under a microscope!), building creative trellises and composters, rigging ways to save water and more.
5. Backyard boldness
Taking an individualized approach to outdoor living, people are customizing their outdoor spaces with lighting and movement. Whimsy is the word, with a move away from subtle, minimalist aesthetics toward designs that heighten sensory appeal. Masses of multi-colored flowers and interesting uses of LEDs can transform any backyard.
6. Layered landscapes
People want to bring their yard back to a more natural habitat as each plant serves a purpose in supporting local, natural ecosystems, pollinators and other wildlife. It’s an idea borrowed from permaculture (which may be next year’s official trend) in which plant layers of majestic trees, understory trees, shrubs, flowers, native grasses and ground covers provide food and habitat for a variety of wildlife, from insects to birds and small mammals. Creating a lively environment from the ground up is key for a healthy ecosystem.
We spend about $60 billion on our pets each year for food, toys and products to keep our four-legged friends healthy and safe. For those of us with lawns, the safest practice is to use organic lawn products and limit the use of potentially harmful garden chemicals. The trend is to seek out services that provide a lush and chemical-free lawn that is safe for pets, people and the planet, without synthetic fertilizers.
8. Precious resources
The resources that we depend on to garden, particularly water, are limited and need protection. How to garden with less water continues to be a top priority. Water-efficient keyhole-shaped raised beds, another permaculture feature, are gaining popularity. New technologies and plants offer the opportunity to protect and conserve resources with small lifestyle changes that will make an evolutionary impact on the gardening experience.