The Garden Of The Future

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Patio containers, patio gardening

The more I look at the direction landscaping, gardening and consumerism is taking, the more I know I am right. For years we have heard that gardens are getting smaller, young people are too busy and distracted to garden and annual and perennial gardens are just too much work.

As someone firmly entrenched in the commercial side of our business and rooted in the gardening side of our industry, I believe all these statements to be true. In fact, I will take this one step further: tomorrow’s garden will be on the deck — or the porch or the veranda or the balcony.

The Rise Of Small-Space Gardening

This statement makes a few assumptions that may or may not be so. The first is that everyone who has a garden has a deck, which is to say an outdoor living area. It may be tiny or enormous. It may be wood or cement. It may be balcony off the living room in a 17th floor apartment, but wherever that space is, it will be the outdoor living area.

That is not to say that future homeowners will not have plants in the ground, but we will see more “landscapes” than “gardens” in the future. We will see more plants used simply for decoration or curb appeal than to satisfy any desire to get one’s hands dirty. One of the words that people used to cite when asked why they gardened was therapy; people viewed dirty hands, hard work and planting by flashlight as therapeutic endeavors. There are fewer of those people all the time.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I give lectures all over the country to rabid gardeners, hundreds of them at a crack. They are wonderfully addicted to our plants and fill every square inch of their gardens. They even remove every blade of grass to cram in one more phlox or another new hellebore. However, I don’t see these crowds getting any younger, and boy, do I see more “mowers, blowers and goers” in neighborhoods than ever.

Is this a gloomy picture? Absolutely not. Just as Ikea has made a business of showing how people can live comfortably in small spaces, so do our retailers have to display plants that fit in tomorrow’s garden — the deck.

Growing Plants To Fit The Trend

What can we provide? We are not doing a half bad job now. We just need to repackage. Mixed containers, hanging baskets and patio vegetables are already here, and I am trialing dozens of them. Let’s get them on decks where they belong. And let’s bring affordable containers, decent quality bagged soils and irrigation ideas to the new garden area.

I love the concepts forwarded by the likes of Confetti, Kwik and Trixi; these mixed baskets have already proven their value to growers and retailers. Now let’s get them on decks where they belong.

Mixed containers with patio vegetables and colorful flowers are admired, even eaten, by people sitting in their garden furniture surrounded by the aroma of their barbeque. The deck will be populated with bird feeders, furniture and umbrellas. We must make the case that hanging baskets of roses and lobelia and colorful, elegant containers of perennials, shrubs and annuals are also part of the new garden.

We have it all. We just need to bring relevance to the gardener of tomorrow. Changes are occurring rapidly all around us. The 30 and 40 year-olds are too busy with work and kids to be digging holes, and the older folks are just getting tired. Repackaging is kind of a murky word, so let’s just call it realignment of products and rethinking the garden space.

As for me, I am also a little tired, but I am going to my deck to watch the birds, drink a little wine and enjoy my containers of color.

Allan Armitage (allan@greenhouse grower.com) is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

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    2 comments on “The Garden Of The Future

    1. Jeff River Law

      I don't see that trend myself. I see folks getting rid of grass lawns that they are tired of mowing. THat needs to be part of a landscaper's client education. The lawns are chemical dump sites. I see clients who want the flowering beauty of perennial xeriscaped plants that they don't have to tend as much as they do annuals or "deck gardens" that require constant watering in our climate in Texas. If a landscaper knows natural gardening for natural beds , infilled with hybrid xeriscaped plants, shrubs, flowers, vines, trees that DON"T require much care, they are MORE inclined to add more garden and less grass. Add flagstone, brick, gravels , boulders, CHARM by building handmade garden items, not manufactured in China ……..voila…..far more attractive, nurturing, healthy environments that provide what most clients want, but had no clue how to get. I'd like to see the end of Blandscaping myself.

    2. Mary Alice

      I suspect Mr. Armitage's insight is trending true. Many retirees downsize to condos to become 'balcony gardeners' as I have. I appreciate new varieties designed for such a garden. Younger condo members, harried workers with children, have no time for a garden, alas, not even one potted plant. My 40-something kids, nieces, nephews, etc. allow for a potted plant or two but have no time for a larger garden. They seem to prefer no-brainer yards freeing up time to spend with the family.