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GREENFILE COLUMN: Our take on garden trends 2018

A sprinkler sends water to surrounding plants in a garden.
A sprinkler sends water to surrounding plants in a garden. - Mark Cullen

By Mark and Ben Cullen

Gardening trends are constantly changing. Never faster than now.

Some things don’t change (thankfully), like the sound of the wind in the trees, bird song and the daffodils that arrive each spring, while others do. Here is our list of the top six current trends that deserve your attention:

  1. Unique and heirloom plant varieties will gain traction as beginner gardeners build confidence and discover a world of wonders beyond the front page of the seed catalogue or the homepage of a seed company’s website.

Our friend Niki Jabbour has published a great new book that provides a thorough overview of many new vegetable varieties, including some not-so-new but newly rediscovered,  “Veggie Garden Remix: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun”. Niki opens our eyes to the weird and wonderful world of obscure veggies that are suitable for Canadian gardens.

Seed exchanges (sometimes referred to as “Seedy Saturdays”) are growing in popularity. These are social events where open-pollinated and heirloom seeds are exchanged between amateur and professional gardeners. Your local library may have news about seedy Saturdays in your area.

Continuing education. Millennials especially, the most educated generation in history, just can’t get enough information. Classes and workshops for everything from woodworking to bread making are more popular than ever, and that applies to gardening, too. If you prefer to go online, check out www.craftsy.com. They are providing quality instruction on garden projects from the convenience of your computer screen.

  1.  Indoor plants continue their takeover of apartments, condos and homes across Canada. This trend has been growing for a couple years now, so expect to see newbie-growers moving from bullet-proof spider plants and pathos into more exotic specimens, such as orchids, tropical hibiscus, or carnivorous plants such as Nepenthes Rebecca Soper. Where indoor plants are concerned, it seems like the ‘70s all over again, minus the macramé.
  2.  Biodiversity will be important as ever as we learn more about threats to the Earth’s rain forests and green spaces closer to home. You can mark Mark’s words on this: in 20 years there will be as many insect hotels as there are birdhouses in Canadian yards.

For that to happen, expect a continued shift in mindset for gardeners who are open to the ‘naturalization’ of backyard gardens. Insect hotels support biodiversity by providing habitat for bees, beetles, insects and critters which all play a crucial role in the food web, often as pollinators. There are countless designs, but the best ones embrace rot and decay – just how the guests like it.

You can also foster biodiversity by planting native varieties, which are proven to support more wildlife than non-natives. Seed and berry producing plants also provide fodder for birds, which are an important part of this picture.

  1. Photogenic plants: There is an ongoing trend towards gardeners wanting to share their successes through social media. We expect that this will drive a boom in ‘photogenic’ plant varieties. That is, plants which make for a great photo. This could mean colourful vegetable varieties, such as a “Rainbow Mix” of tomatoes, carrots and Swiss chard or purple potatoes. Expect a comeback for some classic ornamentals such as roses and peonies. Rose collecting is a thing of the past; however there are many new varieties which are disease-resistant while producing impressive colour and fragrance which will win over Canadian gardeners.

The wind will continue to blow and frogs will croak through mating season. Indeed. However, change is a necessary constant to retain our interest – and this year’s trends have us as captivated as ever.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and holds the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, on Facebook and bi-weekly on Global TV’s National Morning Show.

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