From the victory gardens of World War II to the manicured, mid-century modern gardens of the 1950s, the biggest gardening trends often reflect our hopes, dreams, and lifestyles – and the 2020 trends are no different.
After generations of heavy pesticide use, finicky exotics, and sprawling lawns requiring significant water use, Americans are embracing environmentalism, conservation, and healthy lifestyles.
As a result, today’s gardens are often mixed-use beds featuring a blend of hardy natives that can withstand drought and flooding, pollinator host plants, and ornamental edibles. Read more below to learn more about some of this year’s top gardening trends.
Trends come and go, but themed gardens will never go out of style. With warmer weather on the way, moon gardens are making a comeback. Dating back centuries, moon gardens include groupings of night-blooming and reflective plants to create spaces that glow in the moonlight.
“People are looking to extend their time outdoors by making the garden more inviting after dark,” said Mercer Greenhouse Manager Jacob Martin. “Others prefer the clean, formal look of all white flowers.”
To bring the trend to your landscape, look for plants with white blooms, variegated foliage, and silver or white leaves. Add soft, warm lighting to spotlight unique plants in the landscape paired with smaller pathway lights to outline the shape of your garden. You can also get ideas for your moon garden by visiting Mercer’s Formal Garden.
With the rise of lifestyle blogs, farmers markets, and Pinterest, Americans are finding creative and attractive ways to incorporate vegetables and edibles into their homes and gardens. Today’s trendiest gardens are both beautiful and edible, featuring ornamental vegetables and flowers.
From window sills to the backyard, edible plants are popping up in more locations than ever, and the trend shows no signs of slowing. In fact, one in three households grow some of their own food, according to a 2014 report by the National Gardening Association. https://garden.org/special/pdf/2014-NGA-Garden-to-Table.pdf
“Anyone with a yard can bring ornamental plants and edible flowers into the landscape,” said Martin. “These plants look good in flower beds and don’t need protection from critters like many vegetable gardens.”
Winter veggies like cabbage, kale, and Swiss chard add vibrant hues of green, purple, and pink to winter landscapes. Best of all, these leafy greens can be harvested at the end of the season and replaced with spring color.
“Edible flowers are also a good option for gardeners interested in growing their own food while maintaining the traditional look of a landscaped bed,” said Martin. “Flowers like violas, marigolds, and dianthus are beautiful, tough, and healthy.
“Winter is a good time to grow edible flowers,” he said. “They look great in the landscape and can be used in a variety of dishes.”
Martin advises anyone interested in growing edible flowers to harvest the blossoms early in the morning or by midday for the best flavor. More than just a whimsical garnish, flower petals feature unique flavors that can enhance desserts, salads, and main courses. They can be candied, pressed into cheeses, frozen and served in drinks, or served fresh in salads, he said.
According to Suzzanne Chapman, the Mercer botanical collections curator, modern gardeners are learning that blended gardens are often just as beneficial as they are pretty. Multi-use gardens save space and attract pollinators, which are essential for food production.
Smart plant pairings may even make gardens healthier by repelling pests and eliminating the need for pesticides, especially around edibles. For example, chives and coriander repel aphids, one of the most common garden pests, and marigolds feature sunny blooms that repel many destructive insects.
Visitors to Mercer can view pairings of ornamental vegetables and perennial flowers in the vegetable display garden. Once the veggies mature, the plants are harvested and used for children’s outdoor cooking programs.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to show visitors what you can grow and blend in with garden perennials,” said Chapman. “Mixing veggies with perennials gives you a great chance to add pretty plants and healthy food to your diet.”
Native Plant Gardens
There’s no shortage of reasons why people love gardening with native plants and flowers. They’re attractive, drought tolerant, low maintenance, and beneficial to wildlife. Most importantly, they’re perfect for the lazy gardener.
“We’re seeing more Mercer visitors interested in planting native plants,” said Chapman. “Homeowners want to grow plants for pollinators and wildlife that can adapt to our crazy weather.”
As people become more environmentally conscious, they look for plants that don’t require supplemental watering and expensive pesticides to stay healthy. “Natives are the most forgiving plants,” said Chapman. “They are tough as nails, and many tolerate floods. They look great no matter what.”
Natives have even become popular among commercial growers, popping up in medians and neighborhood gardens across the county.
“Landscaping companies are planting more natives in medians and neighborhood common areas because they can stand the Houston heat and flooding,” said Martin. “Homeowners are seeing the beauty of these native plants, and they want them at home.”
Popular Texas natives include lantanas, muhly grass, live oaks, and Texas sage. For gardeners interested in something a little more exciting than the standard live oak, Martin recommends the Texas ebony tree. “It’s one of our most underrated native trees,” said Martin. “It’s super easy to grow, and it produces lots of blooms for bees each spring.”
Wildscapes and Pollinator Gardens
The declining population of key pollinators like bees and butterflies has many gardeners fighting back by planting pollinator gardens and wildscapes. These low-maintenance gardens often include pollinator host plants that bees, butterflies, and other beneficial wildlife need to survive.
“Pollinator gardens are easier to grow than vegetable gardens, and they attract more wildlife,” said Martin. “It’s a big trend to attract more bees and butterflies. Everyone wants a monarch waystation and backyard wildlife habitat.”
It’s a trend people can feel good about following. As of September 2019, Monarch Watch had 26,573 registered monarch waystation habitats. And with the United States consuming 2.2 million acres a year of monarch and wildlife habitats, establishing a pollinator garden is a trend worth following.
To get started, gardeners should choose a sunny area to plant milkweed and other flowering native plants. Some gardeners even create wildscapes in their backyards, which are landscaped areas that remain untouched most of the year to provide year-round habitat.
Click here to learn how to plant your own pollinator garden.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is the trend toward multi-use gardens. Gardeners want beauty, but they also want gardens that benefit themselves, pollinators, and wildlife. For more information about gardening, visit Mercer or stop by one of The Mercer Society’s upcoming plant sales to discuss questions with onsite experts.