Gardening trends: purple, stress relief & low maintenance

What should we expect when it comes to gardening trends in Ottawa for 2018? Each year a company called Garden Media Group researches global consumer trends to get a sense of the direction we’re headed. It has predicted the growing popularity of things like outdoor living, vegetable gardening and vertical gardening.

The company recently released its trends for 2018, which had an overall theme of “nature’s prescription for mental health” and how gardening has several benefits. This goes beyond the therapeutic effect of letting your mind wander while you pull weeds.

The report cites a forecast by the World Health Organization that predicts mental health issues, and specifically depression, will be the No. 1 global disease burden by 2030. Perhaps that’s a reflection of our 24/7 society, in which everyone is plugged in all the time, with no down time to clear our heads. What Garden Media is seeing is an effort to shift away from this a bit and give us time to stop and, literally, smell the roses.

So, here’s what some of this natural prescription that is manifesting in trends includes.

Climate control

We’re increasingly being forced to garden in a changing climate, where we can no longer predict what conditions will be, which can be stressful.

“We are in the unfortunate situation of being the first generation of gardeners, ever, who cannot rely on historical weather records to tell us what our climate is, or what to expect in the future,” says David Wolfe of Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture.

As a way to combat this, gardeners are looking for resilient weather-hardy plants that can stand up to extreme conditions. At the same time, indoor gardening is gaining in popularity, whether it’s a simple herb garden in your window, a garden cultivator (a high-tech cabinet-like appliance), or your own greenhouse to control growing conditions and even grow year-round.

Along with indoor gardening, we’re also keen to expand on the inside/outside connection that’s become popular in recent years.

The National Association of Landscape Professionals, a U.S. group whose findings are applicable here, is seeing a growing interest in what it calls “interiorscapes” – or indoor landscapes.

Things like living walls made entirely of greenery and other plants create dramatic focal points in interior rooms and courtyards, while tropical container gardens, such as arrangements of edible citrus trees, bring a taste of the island life to our cooler climates.

GAR gardening trends living wall

Interest is growing in indoor landscapes.

Needs of the many

A big shift in horticulture is expected to be away from thinking about plants individually and instead thinking of them as an interrelated group or community, Garden Media says. We see this happening in nature all the time: When you walk through a forest, every square inch of soil is covered with a mosaic of interlocking plants.

Extending that idea to formal gardens changes the focus to management rather than maintenance as planting in combinations tends to solve the issues of gardens that don’t work visually or don’t function without a lot of maintenance and intervention. This is also sometimes referred to as companion planting, such as planting carrots with tomatoes because they complement each other when it comes to what they give and take from the soil, resulting in better harvests with less pest issues.

GAR gardening trends carrots

There are advantages to companion planting.

There’s also a rise in plant-based diets, fuelled in large part by millennials who are flexitarians, which means they are mostly vegetarian but will occasionally eat meet. And they increasingly want to grow their food themselves, with an emphasis on plants that provide protein, such as peas, broccoli, kale, and sunflower seeds. Clean, sustainably sourced food from our own backyard was recently identified as a trend at the Global Wellness Summit.

Purple reign

There’s a bit of a purple theme trending for next year.

The Perennial Plant Association, a trade group that many horticultural societies use as a guide, has chosen Allium ‘Millenium’, an ornamental onion with lilac-purple blooms, as its perennial of 2018.

And one of the biggest plant brands, Proven Winners, has chosen Black Pearl Heuchera, more commonly known as Coral Bells, as its perennial of the year. Like allium, this is a low grower. It has white and pink flowers and leaves that are purplish on the underside.

Proven Winners has also named its annual of 2018: the purple petunia Supertunia Bordeaux.

Other trends

Low maintenance is a recurring theme, whether it’s in the garden, outdoor living spaces or our home exteriors. Low-maintenance gardens, drought-tolerant plants and less grass are becoming the norm in landscape design.

There’s an assumption that sustainable design will be a major part of the plan, partly due to cost, but also largely due to more frequent weather extremes like what Ottawa experienced in 2017.

In our outdoor spaces, we are looking for materials that will give us the natural look without the associated work – so things like wood-look decks that aren’t wood and weather-resistant furniture fabrics.

And it’s becoming the norm to either mix our vegetables in with our ornamental gardens, or even put our veggies front and centre. Forget banishing them to the back forty.


Tips for growing your food indoors

Other homes & gardens trends