Garden trends in 2018

Each year, the Garden Media Group (gardenmediagroup.com) — a marketing firm for the home and garden industry — identifies key gardening trends for the coming season. For 2018 they’ve pegged seven of these, based around the overall theme of nature’s prescription for mental wellness. 
An interesting and rather surprising fact this report begins with is from the World Health Organization, which predicts by 2030 the number one health issue will be anxiety, not obesity.  Already, the “wellness” industries (wellness tourism including spas, for instance) have generated over $3.7 trillion in revenue, and are predicted to grow over 17 percent during the next five years. The most stressed demographic is Gen-Y (Millennials) with 81 percent of 13 to 34 year olds looking to balance mental and physical wellness.  A recommendation: take time away from phones to stop and smell the roses.
This wellness trend is not just about a healthy body, but also a healthy mind — one focused on positivity, relaxation and self-care. Having plants around inside and out, especially those that help purify air indoors, finding a quiet place to meditate, and eating a plant-based diet are becoming priorities for many.  This is nothing new, relaxation gardens dating back to Cyrus the Great of Persia over 2,500 years ago.  What is new is the research supporting these, such as studies showing that being around water and in nature “shifts our brain towards hope and compassion and away from stress and anger.”
Here are the specific trends this report highlights:
The first trend is Climate Controlled, or gardening in a changing climate.  Ways to do this they highlight are wind-resistant gardens, desert gardens to withstand drought, rain gardens to withstand flooding events, and freeze-proof gardens with hardy plants.
Social Networks is the next trend, but doesn’t mean for humans but rather thinking of our gardens as interconnected social networks.  Well-known author and landscape architect Thomas Rainer says there will be a big shift in horticulture from “thinking about plants as individuals to communities of interrelated species.” This will change our gardening to “focus on management, not maintenance.”  One example of this is using green, living plants to cover bare soil rather than mulch.
Imperfect Gardening is the third gardening trend for 2018.  Such gardens embrace Wabi-Sabi — “the ancient Japanese practice that appreciates imperfections in life and the ability to age gracefully.  Wabi-sabi gardens imitate nature in a way that allows you to relax and appreciate their humble and imperfect forms — yes, even the weeds.”  Now that is my kind of garden.
Also included in this trend is repurposing old or antique objects into the garden, and using natural materials such as ceramic over synthetic such as plastics. Using ground covers instead of lawns in some spaces, and allowing “natural” lawns to develop with clover and dandelions is another part of this trend.  Imperfect gardening allows native plants, even some that are considered “weeds,” to remain for pollinators and their larvae.
The Breathing Room trend means privacy, quiet, “turning off the noise.” It also means incorporating more “clean air” plants into interior environments to promote better well-being, as well as removing some indoor volatile organic compounds such as benzene, formaldehyde and xylene.  These harmful compounds can come from such as paints, air fresheners and furnishings. Some of the air-cleansing plants that you might consider are spider plants, Boston fern, golden pothos, aloe vera, snake plants and peace lilies.
The fifth trend, Make a Splash, refers both to incorporating more soothing water features into gardens, as well as the functional use of rainscapes to capture and cleanse stormwater.   “Wonders of Water” is the theme in 2018 of the Philadelphia Flower Show— the largest such indoor show in the world.
Grow Your Own Protein is the trend of “concerned citizens, particularly millennials, turning to meat-free eating for better health — both for ourselves and our planet.”  Plant-based proteins “require less land, water, fuel, and other resources to grow, making them more eco-friendly than their animal-based counterparts.”   “Flexitarian” is the new term for those 23 million Americans who are eating more plants, 38 percent going meatless at least once per week. Top protein-rich foods you can grow include edamame, peas, quinoa, broccoli, corn, asparagus, spinach, kale, millet and sunflower seeds.
Purple Reign is the last trend, which mirrors the shade of purple — ultra violet — which is the Pantone Color of the Year for 2018.  “Purple food promotes mental strength.  Purple antioxidants, or anthocyanins, help fight cancer, have anti-aging benefits, reduce obesity, and protect the heart.” Top purple foods you can grow include beets, blueberries, goji berries, eggplant, plums, purple cabbage, purple carrots, and purple sweet potatoes.  Or, look for these and other purple produce at stores and farm stands.  Don’t overlook purple foliage in the garden, such as from purple basil, or from the many purple flowers such as annual purple petunias or perennial salvia.
Watch for signs and products of these trends this gardening season.  Consider which you can incorporate into your own gardens, landscapes, and even interior living and work spaces.
Leonard Perry is a Horticulture Professor Emeritus at the University of Vermont.

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