Garden Trends 2011

What will be the trends that dominate the landscape and garden this year?  In 2011, the garden matters more than ever.  Americans are turning to their under-utilized yards and realizing their potential.  The era of the lawn is waning as homeowners create spaces for living, for ecology, and for food.  Take a look at my top seven trends for the garden in 2011:
1.  Intentional Gardens:   By far the biggest trend of the year is that yards will have a purpose.  Yards are no longer viewed as pretty filler space between the street and the house; more than ever, home-owners are viewing their gardens as places where they can make a difference.  This year, expect more home-owners to embrace their roles as conservationists and stewards of the earth.  Lawns will be dug up and replaced with vegetables, meadows, pollinator gardens, and places for prayer and meditation.  Pretty is out, purpose is in. 
2.  Landscapes Go Wild:  Landscapes and gardens designed to look wild will increase in popularity this year.   Take a quick look at the 2010 ASLA award winning landscapes.  The vast majority of them used highly naturalistic, if not downright wild-looking planting.  Or look at last year’s winners of the Chelsea Flower Show, a trend-setter for garden design.  The carefully choreographed meadow-look dominates. 
The wild look is being fed by a nostalgia for wilderness and wild places.  Children spend an average of 6 hours a day in front of computers and televisions.  At no time in human history have Americans spent less time in wild and natural places.  Expect to see more landscape architects introduce constructed wild places in highly urban areas.  Projects like the Highline in lower Manhattan and Shanghai Houtan Park  juxtapose hyper-naturalistic plantings into intensely urban areas.  The contrast is delightful. 
The wild look at the Highline in lower Manhattan
3.  The Farm-Yard: It’s the new domesticity.  Urban and suburban home dwellers will continue to convert their yards into places of urban agriculture.  Consider these statistics from 2010: seed sales were up 30%, canning was up 45%, and vegetable gardening was up 19%.  Neighbors beware: the urban farm movement is not just about veggies.  Expect to see more henhouses, bee boxes, and even ducks in your neighborhoods.  Citizens across the country are lobbying  to change zoning codes to allow for more livestock use in neighborhoods.
4.  Go Native, Go American:  Last year, Americans preferred domestic cars over foreign cars for the first time in 13 years.  The local food movement is reaching a fevered pitch.  Even during the recession, Americans were willing to spend as much as 18% more for food labeled “local” than for non-local food.  That same impulse will continue to influence plant selection in gardens. 
I predict that hyper-native plants—plants grown from regional seed sources—will be increasingly in demand.  Nurseries such as Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota are leading the way by providing  “source-identified ecotypes,” telling you exactly what ecosystem and region the seed was harvested from.  
5.  Propagation Nation:  Last year, Americans embraced canning as the new self-reliance.  This year, I predict that propagating one’s own plants will be more popular than ever.  People will not only grow plants from seed, but also harvest seeds from the wild in order to bring nature into their yards.  Expect a reaction against laboratory-cloned nursery plants as gardeners embrace the genetic diversity and beauty of straight species plants. 
6.  Edible Ornamentals:  This year, homeowners will maximize every square inch of the yard by selecting plants that are both edible and beautiful.  Since 2006, the average American home has shrunk by 9%.  These smaller abodes mean that plants must perform double duty.  Expect to see more demand for small fruiting shrubs and trees, highly-colored greens, and compact veggies as Americans begin to mix these edible plants into their ornamental flower beds.  Hot plants may include rhubarb, cardoons, banana trees, lavender, swiss chards, ornamental melons and peppers .
7.  Mandated Sustainability:  Uncle Sam wants you . . . to be green.  In fact, they are downright demanding it.  More than ever before, governments are mandating that new construction meet the highest sustainability standards than ever before.  The LEED Green Building Rating system is only the first step.  The newly released Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) is an interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the United States Botanic Garden to create national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction, and maintenance.  Right now these guidelines are voluntary, but not for long.  After the SITES program finishes its pilot projects, the standards will soon be adopted by municipalities across the country. 
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