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As new calendars are posted on the walls of garden center offices across the country there is a common thought process in the minds of green industry professionals… what are the current trends that will affect my customers buying habits this season. I have always regarded this portion of my work stimulating, most often inexact, frequently frustrating and quite often costly. Never the less, here again I find myself preparing a list of perceived trends that will, in large part, guide my business decision making process throughout the upcoming season. Considering that these ideas are based on my anticipation of what you, the gardening public at large, will be thinking, doing and (hopefully) buying I figured I might run my thoughts up the preverbal flagpole to see just how frustrated I am going to be making myself this year. (Note here that it is only the degree of frustration that is in question… the absence of frustration never enters my thought process)
As with any industry there are groups of informed persons engaged in offering insights into trends and the nursery industry is no different. These forecasters are typically exposed to a wide audience offering a large cross-section of information with which to base more accurate predictions however they cannot account for local conditions that may exist.
Following is a list of gardening trends that I have identified through a combination of national industry forecasters as well as my experience with local customers.
Gardening is a 4-letter word: There are fewer folks who want to spend quantities of time with their hands in the dirt yet there are a growing number wanting to be surrounded by color and beauty. For many this means that a greater portion of the more difficult or time-consuming gardening tasks are hired out allowing for more time to be spent with family, friends and/or on more desirable activities. Growing plants in pots will continue to grow in popularity as an easy and more productive alternative to dealing with difficult soil conditions. The use of colorful and interesting containers will increase as we look to enhance our outdoor living spaces and grow tired of plain and uninspired pottery.
Gardening for the greater good: The notion of greening urban communities has taken hold in a way that “Save the Rainforest” could not. The combination of a shrinking urban population, climate concerns and a desire for locally grown produce is creating the perfect storm for urban gardening initiatives. Look for more city gardening projects turning once blighted neighborhoods into productive gardening plots. On a local level, gardening dollars will be more focused on purposeful plantings that provide more than just a hobby… edibles, cut flowers, wildlife habitat, privacy and event décor are examples of what will drive consumers to purchase green goods this year.
Gardening with edibles: The popularity of growing of vegetables and fruits has always spiked with an economic downturn and I expect this trend to continue. Consumers of this trend, going on a 3rd season, will become more creative in their plantings and plant selections. I expect to see more vegetables and herbs in a wider array of container plantings as well as the integration of edible plants into less traditional landscape locations. Who says I can’t have parsley growing along my front walkway! Unusual fruits and vegetables will also be more sought after as consumers become tired of the same old selections. Improved varieties will grow in popularity as folks realize the limitations of some heirloom selections.
Indoor gardening: The sales of tropical houseplants has seen a resurgence as we have learned more about the positive affect plants can have on our household environments. Not only do plants add beauty to our home décor they also clean the air we breathe by filtering many harmful toxins commonly found in our new, efficient, air-tight homes. Toxic vapors from carpet, paint and building materials as well as carbon dioxide are removed from indoor air by houseplants, which, in turn, produce oxygen.
Food quality awareness: Do you know where your salad comes from? More and more consumers are concerned with food quality and are seeking locally grown produce. Many will choose to grow their own but a growing number of consumers will frequent local farmers markets and participate in Community Supported Agriculture programs. (C.S.A.’s) The use and availability of community garden plots will also continue to grow in popularity.
Trends that won’t trend: The 2011 color of the year is Honeysuckle (reddish-pink), the perennial of the year is Amsonia Blue Star and the 2011 herb of the year is horseradish. I predict few will really care but we will still plant pink and blue flowers and there is nothing better that a real, fresh horseradish sauce on prime rib.
So will these trends hold true? Will my predictions be correct or will I need to order hundreds of Honeysuckle Pink garden aprons come June? Only time will tell but there is something I do know for sure… there is a connection between man and earth that is deeper and more complex than we can readily comprehend. The satisfaction of growing something, of nurturing plants, the feeling of accomplishment from a successful harvest are things that need to be experienced to be completely understood. Those of you that have taken the time to read this are far more likely to understand the benefits derived from time in the garden but there are others out there who have not yet had the benefit of this experience.
With New Year’s trends come New Year’s resolutions… what do you say we resolve to get a few more folks to learn just how much fun it is to play in the dirt this year!