Top gardening trends for 2012

It's time to dig in! Find out what trends are shaping this year's garden landscape.

There’s no use denying it: there’s something satisfying about helping things grow and seeing our labours transform into lush greenery, beautiful blooms and tasty produce. Gardens make it a pleasure to add beauty and value to our homes.

Looking for some inspiration and updates this year? Here are some popular trends topping the lists of garden experts.

Vivid colours

Say so long to demur pastels! This year, bold colours aren’t just for fashion runways and home décor: expect to see colourful blooms everywhere you look. One of the hottest hues this year will be orange in its all its fiery variations. (After all, Tangerine Tango is Pantone’s Colour of the Year for 2012.)

Orange isn’t just for summer flowers — expect to see it in foliage as well, especially shrubs and plants that don new colours for fall.

Not a fan of orange? Don’t worry — experts also say vivid jewel tones will also be popular picks this year. Think deep purples, hot pinks, vivid reds and rich greens. Blues are also sneaking into more flower varieties thanks to some careful cultivation — including a new rose cultivar, Applause. If you know your colour theory, you know complementary blues and oranges will “pop” in the other’s presence.

The home herb garden

Growing your own grub has been a popular garden trend in recent years, but now it’s all about the herbs. There’s nothing like picking a few fresh sprigs for your culinary creations — like fresh basil with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar or crushed mint in your favourite summer sipper.

Better yet, you don’t need a garden to take advantage of this trend. Herbs are ideal for container gardening and “gardening by the foot” — especially ones that spread quickly and can take over areas of the garden. You’ll also find them in wall mounted plant towers (near the barbeque, perhaps?) or pots in a sunny kitchen window.

Herb gardening also doesn’t require a major investment. You can buy preassembled mini-herb gardens or herb growing kits almost anywhere you find garden supplies.

Starting from seedlings

True, it’s easy to pop over to your nearest home and garden centre and buy some plants, but experts say more gardeners are forgoing this convenience in favour of starting their plants from seeds. There are a few factors fuelling this trend: once you’ve got the equipment, growing seedlings can be a big money saver for avid gardeners. It’s also an opportunity to grow flower and vegetable varieties you can’t find in stores like organic and heritage seeds. For some people, it’s simply a love of watching things grow.

Regardless, garden stores are stocked with supplies to get you started with your seedling crop, but you’ll want to act fast! Some seedlings need to be started early in the spring. Doing some research before diving in can help save you some cash and effort.

Organic gardening

Gardeners continue to go eco-friendly this year with an interest in making their plants and produce as healthy as possible. Organic gardening isn’t just about using healthier alternatives to chemical pesticides. It also involves techniques that are good for the soil and for plants — like rotating plants, choosing resistant species, spacing to ensure good circulation and using organic plants or seeds.

Organic gardening isn’t something you do for a single season: it’s a long-term plan. It’s no surprise that the trend is still popular with new adherents joining well-established eco-gardeners. (For some tips, see the University of Missouri Extension’s Organic Gardening Techniques.)

Low maintenance plants and shrubs

There will always be a place for carefully cultured blooms and perfectly planned plots — but people who aren’t master gardeners may be relieved to hear gardens will be a little easier to tend this year. We’re not talking overgrown chaos — rather, lower-maintenance wild flowers, shrubs and perennials are becoming increasingly popular.

While a boon for people who don’t have the time or ability to tend high maintenance gardens, going low maintenance is also a multi-season strategy. You don’t need to do it everywhere or all at once — but you’ll enjoy the benefits for years to come.

Roof and vertical space gardening

Don’t have a spacious yard — or any yard at all? No worries: gardening trends continue to cater to people with small spaces. Even more options are available for container gardening, including hanging planters and vertical plant towers than can stand alone or be mounted on a wall. Take advantage of a roof top or balcony for a little green — or any available space you can find.

If you live in the city, experts say to keep an eye out for urban gardening projects like community garden plots and roof top gardens. Urban gardens not only create a natural oasis, they can also capture rain water and prevent run-off.

Making the most of water

Perhaps they’re not the most stylish garden accessory, but rain barrels certainly haven’t gone out of vogue. Today, there are even more options to capture and distribute rain water — including more discrete liner kits and pumps that let you turn any container into barrel or a collapsible rain barrel that stows away for the winter.

What about water features like ponds and fountains that were popular last year? Experts say they’re becoming more modest in order to use less of this precious resource.

Another popular option: materials you can add to the soil to help retain moisture in your garden and potted plants, from mulch to soil additives like SumiSoil and soil builders like biochair. (You’ll want to do a little research to find out what’s suitable for your needs.)

Gardening with the kids and grandkids

Another top trend this year isn’t about how or what you plant — it’s who you plant it with. According to Garden Media Group, getting youngsters involved in the garden will be a popular activity this year. It’s an important opportunity for parents and grandparents to pass along their knowledge, not to mention spend some quality time together. Grow flowers or food — and make it a seedling-to-tabletop experience.

Of course, there are products on the market to help — like child-sized tools and seed kits. Many schools have their own gardening projects, so this trend is a great way to reinforce learning.


True, preserving happens in the kitchen rather than the garden — but an increasing number of people are planning their gardens with the harvest in mind. It’s the natural extension of growing your own food: finding a way to enjoy it long after the growing season is done.

Of course, this trend extends behind basic canning or freezing — it’s all about the recipes. There are countless recipes for salsas, chutneys, sauces and jams with which to experiment, and doing it yourself means you control the sugar and additives. If you’re not into the canning process, watch for freezer-friendly varieties of jams or salsas you simply pour into freezer-safe containers, label and freeze.

Finding expertise online

While, you might not take your laptop or tablet out into our garden, experts say the Internet is becoming the go-to source for gardening tips, best practices and inspiration. (Not to mention a little comparison shopping!)  In addition to digital gardening magazines, websites like Seeds of Diversity’s on-line Heritage Plants Database and The North American Native Plant Society offer specialty advice you might not find in stores or books. Some retail chains have their own gardening initiatives to dispense advice, like Home Depot’s Gardening Club.

In addition to finding ideas and inspiration from sites like Pinterest, you can also troubleshoot any issues like pests and weeds. Online forums let you ask questions and offer advice. Make sure, however, that you’re looking local — and that the websites or guides you consult are right for your climate zone. There’s a lot of good information out there, but it might not apply to where you live.

Year after year, our love of gardening doesn’t change even if the trends and opportunities do. There are other fashionable trends making the rounds this year, but ultimately it’s what suits your lifestyle and your space that matters most.

Sources:, Better Homes and Gardens, Garden Media Group 2012 Garden Trends Report, The Ottawa Citizen,, The Vancouver Sun

Photo © Christian Musat

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