University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science
TRENDS FOR 2016
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Syncing gardening with technology, engaging hands-on with the local
environment and nature, night lighting, garden whimsy, and layered
landscapes incorporating various types of plants, are some of the garden
trends for this year. Each year, the Garden Media Group
(www.gardenmediagroup.com)-- a marketing firm for the home and garden
industry—identifies key gardening trends for the coming season. For 2016
they’ve pegged eight of these, which you’ll no doubt see reflected in
products, plants, and advertisements.
Just as consumers are syncing their electronic devices, they’re looking to
sync more with nature. This bodes well for the environment, but has a
flip side that may be hard for true gardeners to understand. As the
report states, “Our connection with nature is hardwired. So much so,
that going on a strenuous hike is considered fun, whereas weeding a garden
for the same amount of time is seen as a work or chore.”
It’s interesting that one of the trends—shifting from “doing” to “making”
doesn’t seem to translate into the art of making (including weeding) a
garden. Yet this group the report calls “yuccies”—a cross between a yuppie
and hipster—like to grow for purposes and experiences, such as hops for
brewing and herbs for dyes.
Another trend shows people using their handheld technology to sync with
garden habits, and with other garden hobbyists. They’re hoping
technology will help them be successful with gardening, “without a lot of
work or information”. Technology is being used increasingly to
monitor, even control, what happens in the home and outside in the
garden. Purchasing is shifting for many to browsing in stores to get
inspired, but shopping online.
This technology trend, perhaps surprisingly, is huge with the 46- to 64-year
old baby boomers who spend more on technology than any other age
group. One out of each five of them now use social media daily,
whether for work or even keeping connected with other gardeners.
Another technology trend the report identifies is the use of technology to
engage kids with nature, gardening, health, and fitness. This is seen
by many as essential, with Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2009)
being the most sedentary ever. Creating outdoor adventures, running,
storytelling, or geocaching are some examples the report states are
necessary to get people outside playing, “off the couch, outside and digging
in the dirt again.”
As most gardeners already know, “horticulture is intrinsically tied to
health and wellness”—the trend the report terms “welltality”. People
are more aware of and placing a higher priority on their health. The
hospitality industry has tapped this trend with indoor forests, living
walls, and locally-grown food. Berries are popular, particularly the
newer compact varieties for container culture, and blueberries with their
high levels of healthy antioxidants.
Whimsy and lighting have been around gardening for some time, but are a
trend highlighted as popular for this year, with a twist. Plain
containers are being replaced with ones containing speakers and LED
lighting, for instance. Night lighting is moving from the plain simple
lights on walks and up trees, to LED cord wraps around structures like
swings, whimsical shapes, bright bold colors, and lighted patterns on walls.
These are used to make the outdoors more of a destination, get children
outside, bring back memories, or create experiences.
Going along with the book “The Living Landscape” by authors Rick
Darke and Doug Tallamy, is the trend of the layered landscape. This
involves replacing the “green desert” of lawns and non-native plantings with
a layered effect, similar to what one finds in a forest. Understory
perennials and shrubs, up to canopy trees, help support pollinators and
wildlife, creating a more natural ecosystem. Increasingly,
property owners want sustainable landscapes that will function and last for
many years, and plants “for their function as well as their beauty”.
Many have pets, and increasingly the trend is for these people to be more
aware of their plants and to make sure they are not toxic or harmful.
One in 3 dogs a year gets cancer. Many dog owners believe that having
a safe organic, chemical-free landscape will help avoid this, along with a
Such “petscaping” also involves designing landscapes pets can use, yet
“protecting precious plants from pets”. Studies have shown a direct
correlation between pet owners and gardeners. “Pet owners spend about
$60 billion dollars on their pets each year, second only to Christmas
spending.” In a recent survey, 65% of U.S. households were found to
own a pet.
Resources in many areas are becoming limited, particularly water, or
impacted by land-care practices. More are realizing this under this
trend of protecting resources, particularly those in areas such as parts of
California where water usage has been reduced by 25 percent.
Increasingly in gardening one is seeing new products such as raised beds
with built-in composters, or new plants such as drought-tolerant sedum
combinations. “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.”
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