Published in the Toronto Star – March 17, 2018
Gardening trends are constantly changing. Never faster than now.
Some things don’t change (thankfully), like the sound of the wind in the trees, bird song and the daffodils that arrive each spring, while others do. Here is our list of the top six current trends that deserve your attention:
- Unique and heirloom plant varieties will gain traction as beginner gardeners build confidence and discover a world of wonders beyond the front page of the seed catalogue or the homepage of a seed company’s website.
Our friend Niki Jabbour has published a great new book that provides a thorough overview of many new vegetable varieties, including some not-so-new but newly rediscovered, “Veggie Garden Remix: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun”. Niki opens our eyes to the weird and wonderful world of obscure veggies that are suitable for Canadian gardens.
Seed exchanges (sometimes referred to as “Seedy Saturdays”) are growing in popularity. These are social events where open-pollinated and heirloom seeds are exchanged between amateur and professional gardeners. Check out the seed exchange next weekend March 24 and 25 in Scarborough. Keep an eye out for more in your community. Your local library may have news about seedy Saturdays in your area. (https://www.facebook.com/SSSGFair).
- Continuing education. Millennials especially, the most “educated generation in history” (note use of quotation marks), just can’t get enough information. Classes and workshops for everything from woodworking to bread making are more popular than ever, and that applies to gardening, too. Toronto Botanical Gardens (https://torontobotanicalgarden.ca/category/learn/adult/) and Toronto Public Libraries (https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/search.jsp?Ntt=gardening&N=37867&view=grid&Erp=20) offer a stimulating roster for the curious mind, often presented by local Master Gardener chapters. If you prefer to go online, check out craftsy.com. They are providing quality instruction on garden projects from the convenience of your computer screen.
- Indoor plants continue their takeover of apartments, condos and homes across Canada. This trend has been growing for a couple years now, so expect to see newbie-growers moving from bullet-proof spider plants and pathos into more exotic specimens, such as orchids, tropical hibiscus, or carnivorous plants such as Nepenthes ‘Rebecca Soper’. Where indoor plants are concerned, it seems like the ‘70’s all over again, minus the macramé. Ha!
- Biodiversity will be important as ever as we learn more about threats to the earth’s rain forests and green spaces closer to home. You can mark Mark’s words on this: in 20 years there will be as many insect hotels as there are birdhouses in Canadian yards.
For that to happen, expect a continued shift in mindset for gardeners who are open to the ‘naturalization’ of backyard gardens. Insect hotels support biodiversity by providing habitat for bees, beetles, insects and critters which all play a crucial role in the food web, often as pollinators. There are countless designs, but the best ones embrace rot and decay – just how the guests like it.
You can also foster biodiversity by planting native varieties, which are proven to support more wildlife than non-natives. Seed and berry producing plants also provide fodder for birds, which are an important part of this picture.
- Garden tourism will continue to gain popularity. In 2017, Toronto experienced a record year for tourism, and there are many reasons why people are travelling. A strong global economy is one thing, as well as boomers who are retiring and younger people who continue to seek Instagram-worthy destinations which will wow them.
Travellers are discovering botanical gardens when they visit cities. Here in Toronto, our own Music Garden, Allan Gardens and the Toronto Botanical Gardens are all popular spots with out-of-towners.
Take a moment to look up gardens in cities that you travel to and you will be surprised what you find – botanical gardens and public parks around the world have quietly developed over recent years. We guarantee that your Instagram will be more interesting for it.
- ‘Photogenic’ plants: Speaking of Instagram, there is an ongoing trend towards gardeners wanting to share their successes through social media. We expect that this will drive a boom in ‘photogenic’ plant varieties. That is, plants which make for a great photo. This could mean colourful vegetable varieties, such as a “Rainbow Mix” of tomatoes, carrots and Swiss chard or purple potatoes. Expect a come-back for some classic ornamentals such as roses and peonies. “Rose collecting” is a thing of the past; however there are many new varieties which are disease-resistant while producing impressive colour and fragrance which will win over Canadian gardeners.
The wind will continue to blow and frogs will croak through mating season. Indeed. However, change is a necessary constant to retain our interest – and this year’s trends have us as captivated as ever.