By Teresa Woodard
Hello 2019! It’s an exciting time for the plant world as the horticulture industry experiences a renaissance. According to the 2019 Garden Trends Report by the Garden Media Group, American gardeners set a record $47.8 billion in lawn on garden retail sales (from bulbs to outdoor furniture), and the average household set a spending record of $503 up nearly $100 over the previous year. And 18-34 year-olds are spending more than ever.
Houseplants Craze: In Nov. 2018, the New York Times reported plant influencers in their twenties and thirties are fueling a new generation’s obsession with houseplants that’s growing faster and more tenaciously than English ivy. Horticulture stars of Instagram, like Houseplantclub, now have book deals, sponsors and hundreds of thousands of followers. In addition, a host of highly curated houseplant stores including Midwestern ones like Stump, Fern, Darling Botanical, Art Terrarium and Mod Gen are cleverly promoting plants such as pilea, fiddleleaf fig, succulents and Monstera (#MonsteraMonday).
New Plant Performers: Today’s newest annuals and perennials are more than pretty. To make it past tough trial garden managers, these new introductions also must appeal to pollinators and stand up to the Midwest’s weather extremes. This year’s standouts include Allium ‘Millenium,’ Agastache rugosa ‘Little Adder,’ Vinca Tattoo series, Celosia argentea ‘Asian Garden,’ Mangave ‘Inkblot,’ Portulaca ColorBlast Double Magenta, and Gomphrena ‘Truffula Pink.’ Check out the complete list of trial managers’ favorites.
‘Stem to Root’ Edibles: While plant-based diets remain hot, it’s no surprise the trend spills over into vegetable gardening and support for local growers. One theme that is gaining momentum is the stem to root concept. Advocated by Ohio chefs like Jamie Simpson of the Culinary Vegetable Institute and Cara Mangini, author of The Vegetable Butcher, they teach ways to use all parts of a vegetable. For example, Jamie showed me how to make an asparagus salad sautéing the tips, shaving ribbons of the stalks and pressing the stem ends into a juice for a dressing.
Plants As Social Change Agents: More and more communities are recognizing the power of plants as catalysts for social change. Downtowns are carving out more green spaces for public parks. Urban neighborhoods are planting community gardens to bring nutritious produce to food deserts. Streetscapes are being redesigned with more plants to attract consumers and create an environment for increased spending. All over the country, gardens are being planted to engage veterans, convicts, at-risk teens, recovering addicts, women’s shelter residents, cancer patients, college students, immigrant families and more.
“Living Coral” Color of the Year: Pantone’s color of 2019 is “Living Coral,” and the plant industry has plenty of offerings in this hue and some even in the coral shape and name. Check out ‘Firestorm’ sedum adolphii, ‘Coral Fountain’ amaranthus, ‘Kudos Coral’ agastache, ‘Queeny Lime Orange’ zinnia, ‘Orange Peach’ cockscomb and ‘Peachberry Ice’ coral bells.
Insect Apocalypse: The plight of pollinators and Monarchs has been in the news for several years, but a German study on insect decline is drawing attention to threats on the broader insect population. Personally, I’ve been tracking dragonfly counts as a part of the Ohio Odonoata Survey, and the experience is giving me a new appreciation for the role habitat plays in supporting healthy insect populations. In the gardening world, gardeners can help curb insect decline by creating healthy habitats and by learning responsible pest control practices such as IPM (Integrated Pest Management). Joe Lamp’l of Growing A Greener World does a great job of explaining IPM for home gardeners.
Plastic Waste in Gardening: Last year, plastic straws were on the hot seat as communities began to ban them and food service companies like Starbucks and McDonalds announced plans to phase them out. National Geographic coverage of floating plastic masses in the Pacific Ocean spurred further conservations about plastic pollution and the need to reduce single-use plastics. The gardening world is taking positive steps by organizing plastic pot recycling events and developing compostable containers.
Plant Spotlights: Each year, several garden groups select a plant to promote. For 2019, the National Garden Bureau selected one annual (snapdragon), one perennial (salvia remosa), one bulb (dahlia) and one edible (pumpkin). The Perennial Plant Association named Stachys ‘Hummelo’ as the perennial plant of the year. The American Hosta Growers Association named ‘Lakeside Paisley Print’ as the hosta of the year. And Hampton Court Palace Flower Show named ‘Starlight Symphony’ as the rose of the year.
Wishing you a happy new year of gardening!