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Grow a Trendy Garden

With the end of the school year and the return of tropical temperatures comes the return of the garden, from roses and radishes to succulents and squash. As green thumbs dig into soil, garden experts are finding that people are increasingly taking small steps to try to do their part and plant for a greener planet.

“We had trouble wrapping our heads around saving the rain forests,” says Susan McCoy, president of the Garden Media Group, “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.”

In the same vein, more gardeners are becoming aware of sustainability and planting their own vegetable gardens or trying native plants this year. Here’s a look at the ten top gardening trends emerging in 2011:

1. Gardening with a purpose. According to the recent National Gardening Association’s Lawn & Garden Survey, 9 out of 10 households want to manage their lawns and gardens in an environmentally friendly way. “Gardens continue to reflect awareness of how our landscapes enhance and improve the environment around us,” says Patricia St. John, president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.

2. Eat what you grow. Nearly two-thirds of respondents to a recent Garden Writers Association survey plan to grow their own vegetables this year. Homegrown produce not only tastes better, but can help save money, too. According to the National Gardening Association, a well-maintained food garden yields on average a $500 return.

3. A perennial favorite. Not only do they grow back every year, but perennials seem to be just as popular with garden buffs season after season. Perennials never go out of style, and they provide a return on investment because of the fact that they return each spring.

4. Flowers among veggies. There’s no rule that says flower and vegetable gardens must be separate. In fact, blending the two can be visually stunning, according to an association of landscape contractors. The benefits reach beyond looks. Certain flowers will also help protect vegetables from bad insects, attract good ones and promote plant health. Mixing plants can also help save space and reduce maintenance. Good flowers to mix in with vegetables include zinnia, marigold, nasturtium, dahlia and lavender.

5. Keeping container gardens simple. Creating a splash in entryways, balconies, patios or even gardens is easy with containers. Simple combinations of one- to three-plant varieties offer clean lines, a simple style and are an elegant alternative to a mishmash of blooms, according to lawn and landscape contractors. Try monochromatic combinations such as light green splashed with white for a cooling effect.

6. Vertical gardening. “Vertical gardens are becoming increasingly popular and will grow far beyond anything we can envision,” says Joe Zazzera, with Plant Solutions and Green Plants for Green Buildings. “Businesses are seeing the productivity, environmental quality and return on investment that indoor plantings and vertical living walls are bringing to their projects.” These stacked pockets can support everything from vines to veggies, and they can pull double-duty by hiding eyesores or creating privacy.

7. Go green. Eco-Scaping Terms like “sustainable” and “biodiversity” are increasingly becoming commonplace in the garden grower’s vocabulary. They’re experimenting with native plants, which are ideal for transforming plots of turf into gardens because they’re low-maintenance and attract wildlife and beneficial pollinators like butterflies, bees and birds, says the Garden Media Group. 

8. Sustainable containers. Increasingly, gardeners view annuals as “luxuries” they can replace with long-blooming
perennials and ever-blooming shrubs, the GMG survey finds. For small space gardens, growing food in containers makes sense. Containers planted with fragrant herbs like basil, rosemary or thyme are attractive and aromatic additions for indoors and outdoors. Perennials that are ideal for containers include day lilies, roses and ornamental grasses.

9. Succulents. Dry gardening with less water has many fans across the nation, according to the Garden Media Group’s research. These sustainable plants produce showy flowers along with thick, fleshy foliage that stores water. Drought- tolerant and able to thrive in a variety of conditions, succulents are ideal for small gardens and large landscapes.

10. Gardening for pleasure. The physical activity of gardening and the eye-pleasing results of your hard work benefit both your physical and mental health. Spending the time among the blooms can be calming. It also doesn’t hurt that, according to landscape contractors, the average female burns about 250 calories per hour gardening.
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