Get It Growing: New Trends Affect Way We Live Garden

Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  10/24/2006 12:40:01 AM

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Get It Growing News For 12/26/03

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

The basic techniques of gardening today are not that much different from those our great-grandparents used. Still, technology and the age of communication are definitely changing the way we live, work and garden.

Gardeners will, with greater ease and frequency than ever before, exchange ideas and be exposed to new concepts about how and why we garden. How will the new trends affect the plants we use, and how we design with them and care for them?

I think more gardeners will become increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable, and they will move beyond some of the traditional ideas about landscape design and maintenance. Outdoor living is becoming a primary focus. Our gardens are more often being looked at as an extension of our homes, an area to live in and use, rather than just a pretty planting to look at.

Designing private, intimate spaces into the average American landscape is becoming more important as our fast-paced world creates an even greater need for places to relax and enjoy a little quiet time. Private outdoor living areas can be fashioned out of hedges and screens. Those plants and screens can be used to form "outdoor garden rooms" that also give a sense of enclosure and separation from the world.

In addition, accessories that help to personalize and enhance landscapes are becoming more popular – and will continue to do so. Examples include wind chimes, sculptures, other art suitable for outdoor display, gazing globes, topiary, gazebos, arbors and other accents to individualize our outdoor spaces.

New garden designs are increasingly interactive. We are craving gardens that appeal to all of our senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and even taste – with an emphasis on personal enjoyment and the therapeutic values of gardening. An example would be creating a garden that includes a variety of fragrant plants you remember from your childhood.

Water provides sparkling light, beautiful reflections and a most relaxing sound in the garden. Regardless of the garden’s size, we are more and more frequently enhancing the composition by adding a water feature, such as a fountain, reflection pool, waterfall or water garden, that can range in size from a half barrel to a large pond.

The "flower power" generation has brought a deeper understanding and appreciation of ecology and a respect for natural environments to gardening. An increased interest in the use of native plant materials is a reflection of this.

Please do not become a "native plant snob," however, and go so far as to consider the use of any introduced plants as somehow inappropriate. On the other hand, increasing concerns for the tiny percentage of introduced plants that become invasive weeds will influence what we choose to plant.

Realizing the amount of water and energy our landscapes can use, gardeners are switching from plants that need frequent watering and maintenance to those that require less irrigation and maintenance once the plants have become established. Smaller turf areas, low volume irrigation systems, mulching and low-input plant care are important components of these energy-efficient landscapes. An example might be replacing a traditional high maintenance lawn area with ground covers and easily maintained decks, terraces and patios of wood, brick, paving or stone.

Gardeners are composting and recycling more, using less fertilizer and choosing environmentally friendly products for dealing with pests. Pest control now tends toward the concepts of integrated pest management, known as IPM, for short, where many strategies are employed (especially using plants that are less prone to problems) to manage pests and, where pesticides – whether organic or chemical – are applied only when absolutely necessary.

Many of us have decided it is OK to share our gardens with other creatures and that it’s all right to create habitats to provide for their needs. Landscapes designed to attract and provide food, water and shelter for wildlife such as butterflies, birds, beneficial insects and natural predators have, and likely will continue to, become more commonplace.

It is remarkable that gardeners "on the cutting edge" are not only looking for new and interesting plants and cultivars but also continue to focus much of their attention on rediscovering or preserving our garden heritage. Antique roses; heirloom annuals, perennials, vegetables and bulbs; and other tried-and-true, old-fashioned garden plants have gained new interest and use.

On the other hand, plant exploration is back, and explorers are finding new species of common garden plants to expand and revitalize our plant palette.

Overall, our concept of gardens and landscapes is becoming more personal, interactive and relaxed. Landscapes may still include formal elements, but large turf areas, monotonous pruned shrubs, clipped hedges, foundation plantings and precise annual beds are likely to become less common. A more diverse palette of plants, both native and introduced, will be used in a way that is more resource efficient and lower in maintenance to create beautiful, functional landscapes that nurture both nature and people.

Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.

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Contact: Dan Gill at (225) 578-2222 or dgill@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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