Want to be on the leading edge of your gardening community? We have spent a lot of time forecasting the next big thing for the year in the garden. Here is what we see in our crystal ball.
“Man Caves” and “She Sheds” are replacing rickety prefab garden sheds in backyards everywhere. As a construction project, the zoning limitations are the only limit. That hasn’t stopped creative minds from raising the stakes in outdoor structures. A well-built shed can compliment the architecture of your home and create a focal point in your yard. As “eating out” becomes more of a focus, look for more structures around outdoor cooking areas, a trend in recent years.
The Food Creep
Speaking of cooking spaces, food crops are creeping into traditional garden beds. New gardeners do not sequester a veggie garden from the rest of the yard. Food crops integrate well with regular garden beds, as well as in containers placed around the yard. Consider edible ornamental varieties such as coloured lettuces, Swiss chard and kale for your planters, strawberries as a ground cover, or a dwarf apple tree where you might have pictured a Japanese maple.
The Indoor Plant Creep
Indoor plants continue to dominate indoor spaces. Some of this may be a reflection on the recently passed legislation that legalizes not just the use but the growth of marijuana. Limit four plants per person. As newer “plant parents” have gained experience, expect to see more exotic and colourful indoor plant types such as tropical hibiscus and colourful dracaena varieties.
Consumer research tells us that “local” has surpassed “organic” as a priority for many shoppers, and there are plenty of reasons why that matters for gardeners. For one, locally grown nursery stock is better adapted to perform in your yard. Make sure to ask where your plants were grown when shopping at the nursery. We have seen a continued upswing in the number of “farmer-florists” who are marketing field-grown fresh cut flowers in season. Keep an eye out for fresh, locally grown bouquets at farmers markets.
There are few things in life which are certain, but cottage country traffic on the holiday weekend is one. That’s why more people are opting to build a “staycation space” in their backyards, which is more than just a backyard makeover.
Consider creating a space where you can’t even see the house, to make it feel more like a getaway, and incorporate a water feature that is visible. A well-built backyard pond can offer many of the same benefits as sitting by a lake, without the stress of getting there.
“The native plant question”
There are numerous benefits to planting native species, from drought tolerance to supporting pollinator populations. This is probably why we continue to hear “how can I incorporate natives into my garden”? The answer is, it’s simple. Buy them, plant them. But always match the plant to the appropriate light and soil conditions. There are ‘perennial’ classics such as echinacea and black eyed Susan, and more interesting types such as Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) with its showy snapdragon-like flowers or Salal (Gaultheria shallon), a useful groundcover shrub with small pink flowers and edible summer berries. A great book for discovering native plant species is 100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants for Canadian Garden by Lorraine Johnson, Canada’s native plant expert. http://www.douglas-mcintyre.com/book/100-easy-to-grow-native-plants-for-canadian-gardens
More wild weather
Remember the 40-degree temperature swings of this winter’s “polar vortex”? Expect to see higher than usual winterkill early spring, and plan for a dry summer with occasional downpours. This is a trend that has been increasing for a few years – more rain, less often. The best way to plan for this is by adapting water-wise gardening principals. Plant resilient native species, incorporate rain garden features such as dry river beds for storm runoff and rain barrels to collect softer water for when you need it.
Local, resilient, tasty, and colourful – yes, the year ahead looks bright.
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, on Facebook and bi-weekly on Global TV’s National Morning Show.