Gardening Trends for 2011

Discover how Americans will be looking to use their outdoor spaces this spring and summer.

Gardening with a purpose” is taking root, trend-watchers report. Whether the purpose is to grow one’s own food or to create urban “green” sanctuaries, planting for a greener good is changing neighborhoods and communities—as well as the way Americans view their outdoor spaces.
Big-city mayors like New York City’s Michael Bloomberg are promoting gardening programs in schools, connecting students with nature, growing food and greening their urban communities. Garden and outdoor living expert Susan McCoy, president of Garden Media Group (GMG), a public relations and marketing communications firm specializing in the lawn-and-garden industry, comments, “We had trouble wrapping our heads around saving the rain forests, but we clearly can wrap our arms around saving our own backyards. Digging and planting gardens brings awareness that we’re all Earth’s caretakers.”
Here’s a look at top emerging gardening trends that Ms. McCoy and the GMG team are seeing for 2011. Use this information as you plan your garden-sales strategy this spring.

1. gardening with a purpose

Americans have started taking even more measures to protect and conserve valuable natural resources. According to a recent National Gardening Association survey, nine in 10 households want to manage their lawns and gardens in an environmentally friendly way. For example, they are choosing eco-friendly products over those with toxic chemicals, such as all-natural repellents and organic soils.

Many consumers today are looking for sustainable and organic gardening products, like Organic Mechanics® Soil Company’s compost-based Premium Blend Potting Soil, which is OMRI Listed®, a certification issued by the Organic Materials Review Institute.
Photo: Organic Mechanics Soil Company, LLC

2. eco-scaping

Terms like “sustainable” and “biodiversity” were seldom heard a decade ago, but today they are part of our lexicon. More Americans are transforming their lawns into sustainable landscapes by using the right plants for their areas, thus requiring less water and pesticide.

Low-maintenance Solidago shortii 'Solar Cascade' (Short's goldenrod) is indigenous to Indiana and Kentucky and is part of the American Beauties™ Native Plants® collection. Proceeds from sales of these plants benefit the National Wildlife Federation's Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program.
Photo:Garden Media Group

3. edible ornamentals

Berries next to tomatoes and azaleas under grapevines may sound odd to you but not to professional landscape designers. “We’re seeing rising consumer interest in edibles: small fruit-bearing shrubs, like berries, and smaller trees,” reports landscape designer and garden writer Doug Jimerson.

According to a recent survey by the Garden Writers Association (GWA), about 16 percent more American households plan to add vegetable gardens this year, and an additional 12 percent plan to add herb gardens. More than three-fourths of respondents to the GWA survey said vegetables they grow themselves are less expensive and have better taste, are higher quality and have more nutritional value.

Container gardens, like these planted with a wide assortment of edible plants, including berries, herbs and vegetables, are just one method by which Americans are growing their own food these days. Photo: Grace Design Associates
4. sustainable containers

In these frugal times, more gardeners are turning to perennials and ever-blooming shrubs that deliver all-season color without high maintenance. Containers with abundant reblooming daylilies, roses and ornamental grasses are perceived as both beautiful and beneficial to the environment.

For small-space gardens, growing food in containers makes sense. Containers brimming with fragrant herbs like basil, rosemary or thyme are attractive and aromatic additions for indoors and outdoors. Consumers see blended containers with herbs and vegetables as a one-two combination that can’t be beat for freshness and convenience.

5. growing up

From vertical containers blooming with perennials, vines and vegetables to walls of edibles for restaurants and home use, plants are growing upward. “Vertical gardens are becoming increasingly popular and will grow far beyond anything we can envision,” says Joe Zazzera, president and CEO of Plant Solutions, Inc. and member of Green Plants for Green Buildings.

“Climbing plants are a largely untapped resource for today’s gardeners,” agrees Dr. Allan Armitage, horticulturist and professor at the University of Georgia, Athens. “They can be used to provide privacy, screen eyesores and draw eyes upward to create the illusion of space.”

Contemporary and dramatic plant walls, like this one created by Plant Solutions, Inc. in Phoenix, Ariz., are probably the hottest trend in interior landscapes for home and business environments.
Photo: Plant Solutions, Inc.

6. succulents

Reducing water usage for gardens and landscapes is a trend that is flowing across the nation. From college students to master gardeners, succulents are a must-have. These easy-to-grow, sustainable plants produce flowers along with thick, fleshy foliage that stores water like a camel’s hump. Drought-tolerant and able to thrive in a variety of conditions, there are succulents perfect for small gardens to large landscapes.

Remind your customers that succulents will add style to their homes without a lot of effort on their part. These examples were styled by renowned container-garden designer and author Pamela Crawford.
Photo: Garden Media Group

7. urban farming

In step with the movement to reinvigorate communities with gardens, urban farming and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) are springing up. Urban farming’s “microfarms” convert small spaces in blighted areas into thriving farms that generate fresh produce for inner-city communities. Even garden centers are getting into the act and offering community gardens to teach consumers about varieties and plant care.

Like-minded adult millennials/Gen Y’ers (today’s “20-somethings”) are joining together to plant herbs, exotic spices, small fruits and unusual vegetables and are sharing their edibles with the “tribe”—a modern version of the “potluck” dinner. The chance to connect over the food they grow and eat creates a bonding experience that in today’s techno world feeds the soul as well as the body.

8. new urbanism

Creating sustainable communities that offer convenient and pleasant places to enjoy an urban lifestyle also is an emerging trend. Rest-stop “parklets” that replicate traditional European plazas for sunning and socializing are popping up throughout cities and small towns. These new parklets convert concrete parking stalls with flowering shrubs, trees and paths for relaxation, eating and enjoying green spaces.

Central to New Urbanism is a commitment to the environment and connecting neighborhoods. It involves growing water-wise plants; collecting rainwater; creating walkable streets; offering a diversity of shops, homes and apartments with less turf and more plants; and encouraging a better stewardship of the Earth.


To learn more about Garden Media Group’s “2011 Garden Trends Report,” visit, call (610) 444-3040 or subscribe to


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