Top 10 2009 gardening trends
Turn your backyard into a sanctuary
Revitalize your home for spring
Top 10 2009 gardening trends
Americans craving authenticity and fretting over a bleak economy have reinvigorated the trend to grow-it-yourself (GIY). From blueberries to houseplants, GIY is the new mantra as folks turn “back to the future” to simplify their lives while gardening for the greener good.
“It’s a resurgence of gardening for the greater good – for the earth and our wallets,” says Susan McCoy, trend spotter and president of the Garden Media Group (GMG). “The most exciting movement seems to be that gardening is popular again, particularly among younger homeowners,” she adds.
GMG’s gardening trends for 2009 reveal a resurgence in perennials, growing native plants, creating “blended” gardens using vegetables and herbs in flower beds, cultivating with best practices, planting to attract wildlife and going local.
“The urgent commitment to environmental sustainability and the basic desire to make our homes our havens is reflected in all gardening trends for 2009,” predicts McCoy.
What’s in: Eco-boosting
What’s out: Conspicuous consumption
One simple way to be an eco-booster is to create natural habitats for wildlife with native plants that attract birds, bees and butterflies. Look for eco-friendly plants like the line of native plants from American Beauties (www.ABNativeplants.com) or the Knock Out family of roses (www.TheKnockoutRose.com), which are drought- and disease-resistant, and require little care or chemicals. Go organic with peat-free soil from The Organic Mechanics Soil Company (www.OrganicMechanicSoil.com) that supports sustainable practices and feeds plants from the soil up.
What’s in: Grow-it-Yourself (GIY)
What’s out: Having someone do it all for you
Tranquil moments may be few, but the recent rise in gardening reconnects us with nature, family and friends as we share our bounty. With the increase in demand for year-round fresh fruits and vegetables, local farmers markets are seeing an upsurge in business, community gardens have waiting lists, and plant swaps are on the rise.
What’s in: Blended gardens
What’s out: Segregated gardens
Plant mint and fragrant thyme varietals in between cracks of stone pathways and grow strawberries for a delightful edible groundcover around trees. Fruit-bearing shrubs and trees provide color, privacy and fruitful bounty mingling among veggies and perennials. Garden centers are reporting an increase in demand for fruit-bearing shrubs like blueberries and raspberries as ornamentals. Briggs Nursery (www.BriggsNursery.com) is introducing the first-ever pink blueberry, “Pink Lemonade.”
What’s in: Locavore
What’s out: Big carbon footprint
Buying local is all the rage. Gardeners are aware of their role as naturalists and conservationists, and are looking for native plants that thrive in their own backyards. “Native plant cultivars are selected to perform better in specific areas under local conditions,” says Steve Castorani, from American Beauties Native Plants. “When you select a plant that is native to the local area, it will thrive with little to no water, fertilizer or effort.”
What’s in: Water
What’s out: Water
For the first time, water is in and out. Whether bringing in fountains, endless waterfalls, or fish ponds, the soothing sounds of water can turn any backyard into a private oasis. Costa Farms (www.CostaFarms.com) offers plants that drink responsibly like succulents, cactus, yucca and ferns, which are easy, conserve water, and add sizzle to your landscape. The Knock Out family of roses, from bright red to sunny yellow, is drought-resistant.
“Water features such as fountains are showing up not only in the garden but on tabletops, and sometimes more than one in the garden,” says Jon Carloftis, a renowned garden designer. He likes the classic and contemporary options from Campania International (www.CampaniaInternational.com) to bring the sight and sound of water into gardens without a lot of fuss or maintenance.
What’s in: Outside inside
What’s out: Outside only
From bean sprouts on kitchen countertops to green walls laden with herbs and micro-greens, plants are decorating spaces as “art-in-motion.” Tropical plants like bromeliads and orchids create instant beauty and give a boost of oxygen and clean the air.
“It’s easy to expand your home’s boundaries and add indoor charm to your patio, deck and garden using great indoor plants like ferns and palms. And ornamentals continue to be fashionistas beautifying containers, landscapes, mixed or mass planted,” McCoy adds.
What’s in: Info lust
What’s out: Lack of knowledge
Lack of time and knowledge have been primary reasons people hesitate to garden. Not anymore. Novices and experienced gardeners hungry for inspiration, information and instruction are packing master garden classes for instruction and gardening “how-to” tips. Gardeners are gobbling up information from friends, classes and workshops, local garden media, magazines, and the Internet and sharing their success stories with bloggers and friends.
What’s in: Quick and simple
What’s out: Over-the-top and complicated
As time-starved consumers try to juggle busy schedules most seek quick and simple solutions to meet their gardening needs. Containers are no longer a trend but a garden staple in large and small spaces.
Select natural materials like cast stone and terra cotta containers and accessories that are perfect eco-friendly accents. “Big and bold is ‘in’ and square is the new round,” says Peter Cilio, creative director for Campania International.
What’s in: Global colors
What’s out: Safe colors
The 2009 color forecasters predict a funky mix of colors that reflect a jambalaya of world cultures. Today’s main color influencers are our global connectivity, cultural unity and environmental responsibility.
“Colors are bold, crazy, exaggerated, and in-your-face, almost like pop-art, and reflect a playful spirit in the face of world events,” says Donna Dorian, former style editor of Garden Design Magazine.
Be uber-trendy with anything red this spring from the Carefree Spirit shrub rose and true red rhododendron “Trocadero” to tropical red Sun Parasol Crimson mandevilla.
What’s in: Worldly
What’s out: Cookie-cutter
Americans have embraced the world bazaar of vibrant colors, textures, sights and sounds. Asian, African, Indian and Mid-Eastern influences are showing up in patterns, textures and colors.
“As we travel more, we tend to bring more of our memories home — creating escapist retreats,” says John Kinsella, brand director for terrain (www.terrainathome.com).
For a complete look at the GMG 2009 Garden Trends, visit www.GardenMediaGroup.com or subscribe to www.GardenPlot.Blogspot.com.
Courtesy of ARA content
Turn your backyard into a sanctuary
Your backyard is your sanctuary. But you want to make it even better – perhaps with a patio where your family can congregate, enjoy outdoor barbeques and entertain guests.
Here are some design tips to help turn your backyard into the oasis of your dreams:
Install a patio.
You yearn for a lovely patio area for picnic lunches or to relax and read a book as you enjoy the sun. The cost of using natural stone, however, is a negative, and so is the lack of creative colors and design allowed by pre-cast pavers. Another option is to use stamped concrete for your patio base, which has unlimited patterns and colors and can be used in all climates.
“Homeowners are interested in concrete patios because they blend the connection between house and patio – indoors and outdoors,” says Jim Peterson of ConcreteNetwork.com, which offers a wide variety of patio designs, provides many useful concrete tips and comparisons and lists local contractors for your area. “Decorative concrete can create the look of authentic stone, slate or cobblestone, is more economical to install and adds value to the home.”
Gather around the fire.
Bring your family together with a fire pit. Whether you’re building a fire for cooking dinner, roasting marshmallows or to keep warm on a chilly evening, it will become a gathering place for your family, friends and neighbors. Depending on your creativity and building skills, you can make your fire pit an elaborate congregational area with permanent benches and a decorative wood rack, or a simpler ring for cozy family cookouts.
Set up seats for relaxation.
Don’t forget the tables, chairs and decorative planters to encourage people to relax in your backyard and enjoy your sanctuary. You will need to decide if you want permanent, built-in tables and chairs or benches on your patio or along strolling paths through your backyard landscape, or if you want furniture you can rearrange and store during inclement weather.
Keep the hunger pains at bay.
Perhaps you are looking for more than just relaxation; you want to fill your tummy as well. Outdoor barbeques are becoming increasingly popular, complete with drink coolers and sinks. For an outdoor countertop, look for a material that can withstand weather, yet still have a warm, natural look that will work with the other materials you’re using on your porch. Concrete countertops can be mixed with stains, pigments, aggregates and epoxy coatings to give them the look, texture and feel of more expensive quarried stones like marble, granite and limestone. Visit www.ConcreteNetwork.com to learn more about how this material can work in your backyard.
Soothe the senses
Water features are popping up in backyards across the country. Families enjoy them by relaxing near the sound of trickling water and watching birds and other wildlife looking for a drink. Some homeowners install small fountains surrounded by landscaping to provide the water ambiance, while others take the route of building a full water garden.
Self-contained water features are easy to install in less than a day, while kit ponds might take a weekend to set up. But the larger water features give you more opportunities to be creative – for example installing a bridge, water wheel, water falls or tiny streams.
Once you have your backyard sanctuary complete, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy your investment while relaxing. For additional tips in learning how to install a functional and appealing patio in your backyard, visit www.concretepatio.org.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Revitalize your home for spring
Winter can be dark and cold, but spring is a time for warmth and light. Few things will brighten your mood as much as transforming your home to greet the season. Even inexpensive touches can have a big impact. Some simple spring redecorating will lift your spirits as much as spotting the first returning robin.
Your secret weapon is color. The vibrant colors of spring will brighten otherwise ordinary home decor. Let nature lead you to your color palette: delicate pink cherry blossoms, lavender blue hyacinths, sunny yellow forsythia and the pale green of new leaves. Do you smile when you see a basket of tulips? Why not take your cue from nature and be surrounded by those beautiful colors? For inspiration, take an early spring walk in the park. Breathe the softer air and study the scenery. When a color makes you happy, that’s the one to choose for your home.
You can easily and inexpensively change a room by buying a couple of gallons of paint and doing the job yourself. For years, white or ecru were the standard wall colors, but no longer. Be daring and choose a color that makes you feel good, and a little “out there.” If you don’t like it, you can always paint over it.
Take down heavy drapes. They may have made you feel cozy in the cold months, but for now, get them cleaned and put them away for next year. For spring, the word to keep in mind is light, as in airy fabrics and sheer curtains that let natural light into your home.
Slipcovers are an age-old way of changing the look of a room from winter to summer. You might be able to find them ready-made and inexpensive. At least, buy new pastel throw pillows which will quickly upgrade a room and give it a new look.
Don’t forget to arrange fresh flowers in bright vases from the craft store or in your own pretty crystal. Spring flowers growing in your garden are free and, for city dwellers, choose the least expensive bouquets at the corner market. These flowers don’t know they’re not prize orchids, and will give their all to lift your spirits.
“In any room, hanging botanical drawings, framed or unframed, is another way of bringing nature into your home,” says Elizabeth Polish, interior designer and instructor at The Art Institute of New York City. “If you don’t want to buy original drawings, cut images from magazines, and mat and frame them yourself.”
Freshening the bathroom is also easy. Change the shower curtain and towels and you have an instant new look. Look for sales on bathroom accessories to complete the picture.
About the kitchen, Polish says, “Even if you can’t redecorate, start an herb garden on your windowsill. Grow fresh dill, chervil, and mint. Watching things grow brings you in tune with the season of rebirth. And be sure to use the herbs to spark up your meals.”
Bring on the spring. You will be ready with a home that has been refreshed, revived and renewed.
Courtesy of ARA content
Top spring projects for your lawn and garden
With the weather beginning to warm across the country, many people are venturing out into their yards to begin the process of turning what was once a winter wonderland into a lush green escape. The task might look overwhelming at first, but with a little help from the experts, you can have a fresh-looking lawn and garden in no time.
According to Lou Manfredini, Ace’s “Helpful Hardware Man”, there are three projects that every homeowner should do to spruce up your lawn and garden: Prune your shrubs and trees, grow new grass and plant brightly colored flowers. “The best part about these projects is that anyone can do them, and once they are finished they make a big difference,” he said.
Pruning works by cutting away the excess growth and dead weight that keeps your shrubs and trees from filling out. By trimming this away, more buds will be able to show, allowing you to cultivate a stronger, more vibrant plant.
“One thing to remember is not to over-prune,” says Manfredini. “Too much pruning will shock your plant and could inhibit growth.” To avoid this, hold out your first two fingers; if these were stems on a plant you would never want to cut below your first knuckle.
As with most home improvement projects, it’s very important to have the right tools on hand. Certain pruners, such as rose pruners, are made specifically for roses, while head shears can be used on most heavy-duty pruning projects. Make sure you purchase pruners that are sturdy enough to do the job and feel comfortable and manageable in your hand. If you already have pruners, consider having them sharpened at your local hardware store before you begin working. You’ll notice the difference immediately.
Grow new grass
After lying dormant for a few months, your grass might need a little coaxing to get it to its pre-winter state. To prepare your lawn, thatch it by lightly running a rake across the top to pick up any sticks, leaves, debris or dead grass.
Next you will need to purchase grass seed that is indigenous to your area and that will grow with the amount of shade your lawn has. You’ll need to purchase between 2 to 4 pounds of seed for every 1,000 feet you are planting. Spread the seed either by hand or with a mechanical spreader that you can rent at your local hardware store, but be sure to keep it even.
Once your seed is down, it’s a good idea to lay fertilizer and water the entire lawn. In the weeks and months to come, be sure your lawn gets at least 1 or 2 inches of water a week, either naturally or from a sprinkler.
Flowers can spruce up any landscape design. Consider adding them around the base of a tree or on either side of your walkway.
“Consider purchasing established plants rather than seeds as they are easier to grow,” explains Manfredini. “And look for bright colored plants like impatiens or black-eyed Susans.”
Before planting, you’ll need to make sure your soil is prepared. Loosen the soil in the area where you plan on planting and add an organic matter like peat moss to help give the plant more nutrients.
Next, dig a small hole, just deep enough to fit the roots of your plant and place the plant inside. Once the plant is in the hole, fill it in with dirt and lightly pack it down. Don’t forget to water and fertilize the plant regularly and you’ll have gorgeous flowers for months to come.
For more lawn and garden tips and advice, visit www.acehardware.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Having trouble figuring out which seeds to plant this year?
Here are a few of the easiest seeds to start
By Brittany Cosman
This is the time of year when gardeners can at last begin what they have waited months to do: get out their gardening tools and visit the nurseries to plan their colorful flower gardens.
Many gardeners choose seeds over seedlings because they are less expensive and are perfect choices for those on a tight budget, which many of us seem to be on these days.
Picking the seeds we want can be a daunting task because of the endless varieties there are to choose from. Don’t worry; below, we give you advice on how to narrow down your choices.
But before you start planting there are a few things you need to know:
Fresh seeds are the best to use, but if you have leftover seeds from the year before, it’s okay to use them.
If you are starting seeds indoors place the seeds under a window for sunlight or under fluorescent bulbs.
Flat containers are best for planting seeds. You can either buy pots or flat containers or, for those looking to save money, use egg cartons or yogurt cups. Be sure to poke holes in the bottom for drainage.
It is important to remember that seeds need to be in direct contact with the soil to begin germination. Make sure you press the seeds firmly into the soil.
Watering is very important when starting seeds. Do not over-water or under-water them. You should place plastic wrap over the pots so that the moisture level stays the same.
Now that you know how to start the seeds; you have to choose the flowers you want to plant.
There are two choices: annuals or perennials. Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season, although they can reseed and grow the next season. Perennials are plants that continue seeding, blooming and growing for years and can last through the winter.
The easiest seeds to start directly in the ground are sunflowers and nasturtiums, they will grow anywhere in the ground once frost has passed. Many know sunflowers as the big, bright yellow flowers that have the brown centers. But they also bloom in orange, red-brown or they can be bi-colored. Sprouting usually begins a week after planting them.
Nasturtiums produce great foliage and their blooms can be yellow, orange, red or crimson. These seeds need to be soaked in water for at least 12-24 hours before planting and they also begin to sprout a week after planting.
A warm-season annual that is an easy seed to start are zinnias. These flowers come in all different colors and heights. Sprouting usually begins within a week.
If you are looking to add a pop of color to your garden, marigolds are a perfect choice. They come in bright yellow, orange or red.
If you are looking for a vine, morning glories are a nice addition to any garden. They bloom in blue, pink, white or red. They are called “morning” glories because their flowers usually close by noon because of hot weather. These seeds need to be soaked in water for 12 to 24 hours before planting.
If you are looking for a ground cover for hot and dry spots in your yard you could choose a moss rose. They grow across at least two feet and come in bright colors including yellow, orange, pink and white.
If you are a low-maintenance gardener and want seeds that can bloom in hot or dry spots then plant cosmos. These seeds create foliage and bloom in pink, magenta, white, yellow or orange.
A great spring flower is larkspur. This flower blooms in blue, lavender, pink or white. Each year this plant self-seeds and grows back on its own.
The easiest perennials to grow from seed are Black-eyed Susans or catmint. Black-eyed Susans are a great choice for those who like low-maintenance flowers. These flowers love the sun and don’t need as much attention as other flowers might.
Catmint creates foliage that has spikes of flowers throughout the season. Cats love these plants, living or dried. They come in lavender-blue varieties and often are used instead of lavender plants.
Now that you have a list of some of the easiest seeds to plant, pick and choose some that sound right for your garden. Make sure you read the seed packets and follow the instructions to ensure that your seeds will bloom into beautiful flowers making your garden one that everyone will envy!
Don’t treat your soil like dirt
By Larry Sombke
If you want to have a beautiful garden that is easy to maintain you must stop treating your soil like dirt. A good garden must have more than dirt; it must have soil, a wonderful living mixture of dirt, plus organic matter, moisture and air.
Now that the season is turning towards spring and the snow is gone, your garden plot will begin to warm up and ready itself for another year of growing. But before you open one packet of seeds or walk to the garden with plant and trowel in hand, STOP. Stop ignoring the importance of early spring soil preparation.
Instead, start building a soil teeming with microorganisms, bacteria, worms, fungi, beneficial insects and all sorts of living things. A good garden soil works with nature, not against it, allowing plants a chance to be healthy and productive all by themselves. Here’s a step-by-step approach to getting your garden off to a good start this spring:
Soil test. Begin by having your soil tested for simple pH. You can buy a basic soil test kit at your favorite garden center or catalogue or contact Cornell Cooperative Extension in your county. Soil pH is determined on a scale of 1 to 14 with 1 being extremely acidic and 14 extremely alkaline. For most flower and vegetable gardens, you want a garden soil that is neutral, in the range of 6.0-6.5 pH so that your plants can utilize nutrients in the soil and grow to their healthiest potential.
Organic matter. Organic matter is the secret ingredient to creating good garden soil. Homemade or store-bought compost is the best organic matter, but composted livestock manure and shredded leaves are also good sources. Compost looks and feels a lot like dark, rich garden soil and is available in bags or bulk at most garden centers. I shovel my compost for free at the Bethlehem town compost facility.
For your vegetable or annual flower garden adding organic matter is easy. Just spread a two-to- four-inch thick layer on the ground and till or dig it in to a depth of four-to-six inches. If you have a perennial bed, an herb garden, a rose garden or shrubbery, you simply spread a two-to- four-inch thick layer on top of the ground like a blanket. The compost will become incorporated into the soil over a period of weeks.
Fertilizer. Fertilizer is plant food and plants do need it. Vegetables and fruits need it the most, flowers need it less and herbs need it least. But they all need it. Nitrogen (N) phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) are the three main ingredients in fertilizer. Nitrogen helps develop the leaves, flower and fruit of a plant. Phosphorous develops the root system of the plant. Potassium helps develop the overall health of the plant. Look for a balanced fertilizer that has all three of these elements.
As an organic gardener I prefer to use natural organic fertilizer. It is clean, dry and granular and comes in a bag just like chemical fertilizer. Naturals are made from soy meal, blood and bone meal, wheat germ and other agricultural by-products. Both natural organic and chemical fertilizer can be found in your favorite garden center. Apply the fertilizer at the manufacturer’s recommended rate stated on the bag.
By following these steps, you have a cycle going and are always in the process of building your soil. The organic matter attracts beneficial microorganisms which release the nutrients in the fertilizer which feeds the plants and produces the flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables. Pretty soon your neighbors will wonder why you have such a great looking garden. Your answer is simple: “I’ve stopped treating my soil like dirt.”
Larry Sombke is a landscape consultant, speaker, author of the book Beautiful Easy Flower Gardens and a frequent guest on Northeast Public Radio. Contact him with questions at www.beautifuleasygardens.blogspot.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.