9 Trends Influencing the Gardening World in 2017

Fuss-free new plants that make it even easier to be successful at gardening, creative approaches to issues of food waste and adaptation to climate change, design styles that mix glamour with easy-care landscapes, the influence of gardening and gardens on interior design, food, and fashion, and a fresh interest in the natural world are contributing to what is shaping up to be a yin-yang sort of year for gardening in 2017, according to the plant experts at Monrovia. “On the one hand, humble backyard edible gardens have never been so popular, but at the same time, there’s an increased level of sophistication in landscape design and plant selection with an emphasis on rich, saturated color, function over form, and a sense of luxury. Gardeners, continuing their love affair with easy care, “always-on” plants, seem equally unable to resist the seduction of the ephemeral beauty of plants like peonies and camellias, “ says Jonathan Pedersen, Plant Development Director at Monrovia. “Globally, floratourism is at an all-time high as travelers seek a respite in a stressful world. Closer to home, issues of food security and climate change are impacting what and how home gardeners garden.” Here’s what’s on our radar for 2017.

1. Color Chameleons

Last year saw a marked interest in conifers (as evidenced by articles in leading publications, websites, and blogs). In particular, gardeners flocked to those varieties that not only hold their own in the garden as backbone shrubs year round, but add a bit of magic in winter when they morph from shades of summery green to a rainbow of otherworldly hues in winter. People love seasonal color shifts in the garden—especially in winter. That’s one reason why conifers that change color when it turns cold are selling out. Junipers that take on a purple cast, pines that glow in shades of gold or plum, arborvitae that morph into coppery-bronze foliage with orangey tips are proving to be immensely popular. Expect to see a revival in the use of fuss-free conifers in general, and a boost in those that color-up for unexpected winter interest.  Here are six to watch.  


2. Extreme Naturalism

A new kind of landscape aesthetic is having a moment. Meadow-filled, slightly wilder gardens are losing popularity, as are landscapes dominated by hard textures, right angles, Cor-Ten steel edging, and sheared-to-a-knife-point formal garden borders and hedges. In their place, use of natural elements such as rocks, boulders, and beautifully untouched hedges that impose a more integrated sense of structure are on the rise.


                    As reported in Horticulture Week and other publications, the return of traditional rockeries—often featuring crevice-planted alpines and succulents— exploded in popularity in 2016, most notably seen  at the Chelsea Flower Show  as a wonderland of naturalistic plantings interspersed with large rocks. This trend can be traced to the increasing awareness and appeal of natural-looking, sustainable, locally sourced materials, which gardeners are choosing over mass-produced or imported hardscaping staples. And it’s not just hardscaping: hedges, sadly tortured into submission in the past, are Facebook stars, too. Joanna Kossak / GAP PHotos; Designer: Cleve West MSGD, Sponser: M&G Chelsea Flower Show  


3.  “No Waste” Food Movement Spurs More Backyard Edible Gardening

Home gardeners have embraced backyard agriculture for lots of reasons—flavor, cost, bragging rights—but expect to see the “no waste” food movement added to that list. Why? Because you’re likely to eat what you grow rather than throw, whether picture-perfect or not (and maybe Instagram it). Food waste has been on the radar, but shocking new research indicates that 50% of U.S. commercially-grown produce is discarded including more than six billion pounds of fruits and vegetables, rejected by grocery stores due to appearance. This as 1 in 6 Americans face hunger. With about 1 in 3 households now growing food, led by a 63% increase in edible gardening by millennials, home gardeners are poised to be a critical part of the solution to the social and environmental issues of food waste and the associated impacts on food security, food transport miles, wasted water, and depletion of arable land. On a global scale, look for increased interest in and facilitation of consuming, even glorifying, so-called “ugly food,” whether homegrown or purchased.  


4. Tough and  Tender Mixes

It seems that having a garden of established “easy care” plants is giving gardeners the time and peace of mind to try more delicate plants that imbue the space with old-school romance, color, and fragrance.


                    After a decade of loading up on bulletproof, always-on Knock Out roses, succulents, and new varieties of hydrangeas with thicker, more heat-and-sun-tolerant leaves and flop-resistant stems, gardeners are adding glamorous plants to the mix such as Itoh peonies (which sold out in 2016) and wisteria even though they take work to maintain, have a short period of bloom, and can be expensive. Even in places like California where natives and xeriscaping are buzzy, people are finding ways to slip in a few of these beauties, if only in a pot or two. Always a bellwether, wedding floral trends exemplify this yin-yang idea.  


gerbercropped400x4005. Bright, bold colors

Even as more consumers look to their gardens for a respite from a stressful world, they’re turning to celebratory color for the sense of vitality it brings. We’re not saying that soothing hues such as whites, greens, and mineral tones such as creams, taupe, silvers, and greys are going anywhere, but bright colors—really bright colors—led by bullish sales of annuals are about to flood the market. While serene blues and peachy pinks dominated the market for a few years, we’re now seeing a pivot toward more saturated colors as evidenced by offerings at the 2016 California spring plant trials. Brave-not-beige hues—brilliant oranges, feverish reds, neon yellows, vivid purples, deep, dark reds and black-purples and lots of bi-colored versions —provided strong proof of where garden color is headed in the new year. Think gerbera daisy colors on steroids and you have the palette.  


onepotwonder400x4006. One Pot Wonders

Whether it’s due to limited time for fussing, a commitment to quality over quantity (trending from home to fashion to food), or a desire for an “instant” garden, consumers are filling large pots with a single impressive statement plant. (Booming sales of plants in larger gallon sizes backs up the trend.) Breeders have made this aesthetic easier to achieve with boxwoods that don’t require as much shearing, reblooming, compact hydrangeas that only need spent flowers nipped off, and pomegranates, lavenders, roses, and berries that do exceptionally well in containers. Pots? Look for lots of bronze, forecast as 2017's the “it” metal.  


7. Floratourism

Blame technology: too many of us spend our days shuttered indoors in front of a computer screen, whether at work or for leisure. That alienation from outdoors (known as “nature deficit disorder”), is leading to record-breaking interest in visiting green spaces to rejuvenate and reconnect with nature.

EYKPGD Visitors taking selfie photo at Vallarta Botanical Garden, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.. Image shot 2015. Exact date unknown.

                    Millennials, in particular, may have grown up connected with technology, but as a generation, they’re reversing a decade-long trend, living up to their “biophilic generation” designation. They’re filling national parks and camping grounds, turning an urban treehouse (and treehouses in general) into the top Airbnb wish list destination, and adding nature-inspired activity to routine travel. This trend extends on a multi-generational level to botanical gardens and arboretums from Portland, ME to San Diego, CA where attendance records were shattered in 2016 (as were global records, with more than 300 million individuals visiting botanical gardens). Add to this the growth of municipal outdoor spaces from New York’s High Line to pop up gardens in vacant city lots, and the announcement of the U.S.’s biggest urban nature park to be built in Dallas, TX. While millennials have yet to translate this love of nature into gardening beyond growing food crops, data suggests it’s just a matter of time.  


8. Smaller-sized Luxury

Once upon a time, it was not unusual to see large properties defined by imposing stands of impressive shrubs and towering trees. As lot sizes shrink but the desire for this luxurious look grows, this classic estate style is being replicated for a smaller outdoor footprint, thanks to more scaled-down versions of beloved plants hitting the market in 2017. Like the elegance of a Hamptons-style hydrangea hedge but live in a condo? There’s a look-a-like for that. Just have a few pots but want the romance of a Pacific Northwest rose garden? There’s a mini-me version of that too. Love clematis covering a wall but not getting on a ladder to care for them? New ones top out at human-height. This trend began a few years ago, but as breeders catch up to the market, expect to see many more of these super-useful compact and dwarf plants at local garden centers. (Think it’s big in 2017? Wait till 2018!)  


9. Climate Adaptation

Interest in the possible effects of climate change on our landscapes has accelerated rapidly. The ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) reports increased demand for rainwater and graywater harvesting systems, permeable paving, and more efficient irrigation systems—all of which reflects a growing consumer demand for beautiful residential landscapes that also save water. This is beyond installing native and drought-tolerant plants, and reflects a national, rather than regional trend.                     And predicting plants for your region is also becoming more difficult. Not so long ago, simply staying within your recommended USDA plant zone spelled success. However, over the last three winters alone gardening has become less predictable, thanks to wildly varying winter weather conditions. Fluctuations in rain and snow levels, as well as historically high temperatures, have made it evident that our climate is changing in a more dramatic way, impacting the plants that people have success within their region. While it takes at least five years before you really know if a plant is hardy, some that would likely not survive in colder zones are beginning to adapt as those regions warm up. It’s too soon to make any conclusions about whether plant genetic composition may change in response to the selection pressure of climate change, but for sure, something’s up.  


About Monrovia:

Monrovia, founded in 1926 and headquartered in Azusa, California, is the nation’s leading grower of premium container-grown ornamental and edible plants, with more than 3,800 varieties, including more than 300 exclusive to the brand. Focused on the mission to help every plant Grow Beautifully®, Monrovia’s four environmentally-responsible nurseries are located in Visalia, CA, Dayton, OR, Cairo, GA, and Granby, CT. Monrovia plants can be purchased in-store or online with delivery to independent garden centers, at Lowe's locations nationwide, and through re-wholesalers nationwide. The company remains a family owned entity.