Garden Trends: Balancing technology and environment

As we say farewell to 2015 and greet 2016 with open arms, let’s take a moment to look at what is happening in the garden world. Every year, a company called the Garden Media Group publishes a list of garden trends meant to show retailers (and writers) what gardeners are interested in or doing with their own gardens. This year’s report, titled “Syncing with Nature,” ties together our love of technology and the environment to tell us what is going on in the gardening world. Here’s a quick rundown of the trends. I’ll be examining some of these further in upcoming articles, so be on the lookout.

Trend: Syncing nature and technology

With smartphones, tablets, Bluetooth devices and more, our society is becoming ever more synced. That trend can also be found in the garden. Of course there are any number of garden-related apps you can add to your phone – from identifying trees, weeds, bugs and diseases to selecting plants for pollinators and beyond. One might expect garden lights or speakers that you can control with your phone, but it doesn’t stop there. After a quick Internet search, I found a gizmo called Flower Power from a company called Parrot that connects to your phone via Bluetooth. You place it in an indoor container garden or outdoors in the soil. It measures soil moisture, ambient temperature, fertility and light intensity and reports it to an app on your phone. You can view the data in real time and record data for the long term. While something like this may not be necessary for every gardener, I could see it as something of interest for the avid garden geek. I have to say that it has piqued the interest of this garden guru (for research purposes). I’m also intrigued by the appearance of weather stations that link directly to your phone.

Trend: Health and wellness from the garden

Gardening and plants have a big impact on health, and not only from growing and consuming fruits and vegetables. More and more, people are seeing the benefit of plants on human mood and mental wellbeing. Companies and hospitals are seeing this and incorporating more planters, green walls and even indoor trees and forests to alter the mood of customers and patients. Home owners are incorporating more plants than ever, especially ones like succulents and air plants, into their décor as well.

Of course, the plants we eat have a big impact on health as well. Consumption of locally grown produce, whether home grown or purchased locally, continues to grow in popularity. It seems that more and more gardeners are focusing on the health benefits of berries. From the old stand-by berries like strawberries, raspberries and blackberries to the less common cranberry, gogi, and honeyberry, gardeners are growing more of these tasty treats. Another selling point to incorporating more berries in the garden is the fact that they are perennial plants that will last for years. Plus, they do look attractive in the landscape.

Trend: DIYers in the garden — from doers to makers

Do you know what a “maker” is? You wouldn’t be alone if you didn’t. A maker is simply someone who enjoys DIY projects. But it goes beyond just “doing” something and focuses on “making” something. Believe it or not, it is a cultural shift, or a subculture, of people who enjoy making things — working with their hands for enjoyment. While the term started out describing folks who tinkered with technology, it has come to represent a broad collection of people who enjoy making things.

We’ve definitely seen this trend develop over the last few years — interest for home canning, brewing, preserving and more for pleasure (rather than necessity) is at an all-time high. At our annual Urban Ag Conference, the most popular workshops are those where people learn to make something — cheese, canned food, pickles, wine, beer, liquors, rain barrels and more.

Technology does usually play a part — just take a look at the popular social networking platform Pinterest to see how people are cataloging the things they make … or more commonly, cataloging the things they would make if they “only had more time.”

Incorporating gardening into this culture means that people are growing things to make with — hops for homebrew, berries to die yarns and cloth, and much more. I have to say that I fall into this category, aside from some of the things that I “make,” like origami and stained glass, I have also made my own homemade root beer, ginger ale and vinegar. Plus, I’ve always been an avid home canner.

Trend: Bold landscape designs

More and more, gardeners are eschewing simple, minimalist designs and the traditional designs of our mothers and grandmothers. From bold water features, fountains and statues to the newest in LED lighting, gardens are taking on a whole new look. You’ll also note bolder color choices in planters, pots and plants themselves, from brightly colored tropical plants, to red, orange and yellow colors in traditional garden plants.

Trend: The layered look

Rather than focusing on beds of annuals and perennials, more gardeners than ever are incorporating trees and shrubs into their landscapes to provide layers. The trend is two-fold: it provides a tranquil forest-like landscape and is also beneficial for wildlife such as birds and small mammals.

Trend: Gardening for man’s best friend

It seems that our four-legged friends are in the back of our minds when we plan our gardens. Many times I get questions on how to treat lawn and garden pests in ways that are pet safe — and that is a definite aspect of this trend. However, it goes beyond pet safety to include design aspects friendly to our pets — grassy areas for play (and potty) needs most commonly. I know I keep a patch of lawn for the needs of my pooch. Otherwise, it would be fence-to-fence garden.

Trend: Earthwise gardening

It turns out that gardeners are in-tune with nature. From drought tolerant plants in dry areas of the country to low input plants in the landscape, gardeners are often considering the ecological impact of plants before they make their selections.

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