Easy-to-love new plants, accessible technology, a flirt with romance, the sharing economy, a cleaner, simpler color palette, and crisp geometric design all add up to a fresh take on gardening in 2016, according to the plant experts at Monrovia.
“Gardeners will wow the neighbors with plants that have supersized returns such as larger blooms, number of blooms, a tendency to bloom two or three times each year, intense fragrance or flavors, or bi or tri-color flowers. They’ll continue to adapt to wild weather, smaller lots, changing lifestyles, and less free time by planting landscapes that are easier to care for,” says Jonathan Pedersen, spokesman at Monrovia. “Mobile apps, the power of social media, and the sharing economy will continue to change the landscape of gardening, making everything from getting the scoop on the must-have plants to watering, lighting, and giving away excess bounty that much easier.”
Here’s what’s on our radar in 2016.
1. Grow to Give: New Technology and a desire for connection inspire sharing the bounty
Record numbers of homeowners and renters growing edibles combined with interest in health and food security and readily available technology has led to a surge in groups helping to facilitate sharing excess backyard-grown crops. Apps such as ripenear.me allow gardeners to interact one-on-one to giveaway extras. Dozens of organizations such as Nextdoor.com, AmpleHarvest.org and Sharing the Bounty connect home gardeners with extra produce directly to their local neighborhood food banks. Friends with Flowers is leading the movement to transform flowers gleaned from neighborhood gardens into arrangements for local hospices. Seeds are also a hot trend for sharing with Seed Swaps and Seed Libraries showing up across the country.
The clearest color trend is a more toned-down palette with a focus on calm and harmony, particularly shades of white from crisp to snowy, ivory to “dirty whites.” With the here-to-stay emphasis on inside/outside lifestyle, colors in the garden continue to mirror those that are hot in the home sphere. At least four major consumer paint companies selected shades of white as their top 2016 colors. Clean, fresh, optimistic—this color should be on everyone’s watch list. (But keep an eye on blue, too! We saw huge demand in 2015 for all things blue—which might have something to do with Pantone choosing “Serenity” as one of its 2016 color picks—from Blue Enchantress Hydrangea and Baby Pete Agapanthus, to Bountiful Blue Blueberries and Icee Blue Junipers. All of which, by the way, are ideal with white.)
Nostalgia plants in delicate blush tones and pale shades that conjure up earlier garden eras—foxgloves, begonias, peonies, gardenias, camellias, hostas, sweet peas, alliums, heavily-fragranced rambling roses, Japanese anemonies, even Pachysandra is cool again—are flying off nursery shelves even as interest in the polar-opposite plant group of succulents continues to zoom. Fueling this trend is Part Two of the edible gardening wave of the last decade, adding old-fashioned flowers to food crops and lush locally-grown bouquets of romantic florals that are popping up from Pinterest posts to TV weddings.
4. Lighting Innovations: Cool new stuff has an illuminating effect
Reports from Houzz and the American Association of Landscape Architects (ASLA) confirm the surge of interest in upgrading outdoor lighting to enhance the garden experience. New innovations such as brighter and more efficient LED bulbs, the convenience of lighting systems controlled by mobile apps, and the trend toward larger and more individualized outdoor spaces are spurring sales of outdoor lighting. Homeowners are using solar LEDs to uplight important trees, specimen plants and architectural features, using wall-washers to emphasize the effect of climbing vines, casting a hedge or foundation planting with pin-point laser lights, or adding drama to porchscaping with café lights. And, the new fire pits coming out of Europe are not your daddy’s DIY. Trust us, you’ll want one.
5. Mini-Me: Compact without compromise
Gardeners, mindful of using space wisely and once and forever in love with containers, are turning to compact and dwarf versions of beloved plants which have been bred to have the same winning characteristics—flower size, bloom cycle, culture and habit—but in a more manageable form. Shrubs such as Petite Pillar Dwarf Boxwood, Little Ragu Bay, Petite Plum Ninebark, and Coco Krunch® Weigela have been reimagined to fit smaller garden spaces. Climbers such as Boulevard® Parisienne™ Clematis or spillers such as Oo-La-La® Bougainvillea are ideal for containers. Look for new and more compact hydrangeas and shrub roses going forward.
6. Scalene, rhombus, prism: Shapes are in
The geometric shape trend has been holding steady for a while now and doesn’t appear to be slowing. What has changed is the expansion beyond sculpted plants such as sheared topiaries to garden beds in geometric forms with plenty of right angles. We saw them—a series of asymmetric geo-shapes and orbs—at Sunset magazine’s demonstration garden where they were tricked out with grasses and succulents, and last year at London’s Chelsea Flower Show where naturalistic plantings were in contrast to sharp shapes. With so many gardeners, particularly in the drought-ravaged West, moving from turf to gravel, novelty-shaped beds add much needed visual oomph.
7. “FOMO Flora”: Plants are having a fashion moment
While the classics—Annabelle hydrangea, Debutante camellia, Iceberg rose—continue to be well, classics, the rise of Pinterest and Instagram has created deep demand for name-in-lights, cover-story worthy, 10K “likes” plants notable for their supersized assets: bigger and bolder blooms, blooms that come on two or three times in one year, flowers that are multi-colored, shrubs with colorful stems or foliage such as Vestito Rosso® camellia with its chocolate brown new leaves, etc. Also hot are super-fragrant offerings like Summer Soul Arabian Jasmine, rare selections such as Itoh peonies and climbing vines from plant explorer Dan Hinkley, or just plain showstoppers like cascading Japanese maples. Add that to innovations by breeders and the discovery of new specimens in Eastern Europe which will come to market over the next decade, and there’s a whole new category emerging.
Double Shot® Grape Azalea: One of the great new compact versions of beloved plants.This reblooming azalea displays single, red-purple flowers twice a year with better cold hardiness than other varieties.
Mountain Pepper (Drimys lanceolata): A true aristocrat of the garden, this refined, evergreen shrub is a great specimen for mild climate gardens.
Golden Duchess® Eastern Hemlock: Colorful conifers are in. This superb new dwarf conifer nearly glows with golden-yellow foliage on graceful, arching branches.
Emerald Colonnade® Holly: We’ve seen increased interest in hollies and this new variety is especially versatile, ideal as a single specimen, small group planting, sheared into topiary, or in containers.
Starburst® Red Evergreen Daylily: Everything gardeners love about daylilies with the bonus of evergreen foliage and spectacular blooms recurring throughout the season; hardy to zone 7.