Gardening trends for 2020

Published 6:00 am Friday, March 13, 2020

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Like just about everything else, gardening is influenced by trends.

For nearly 10 years, our obsession with native plants has increased. Some gardeners have been ripping up lawns and replacing all nonnative plants with natives.

There are numerous experts on the lecture circuit, and even consultants who will visit your patch of dirt and explain what really should be growing there. All for a fee. Needless to say, there are scores of books available on what to grow and how to grow it.

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There are other gardening trends, however, that aren’t generally as long lasting and that don’t provoke as much self-righteousness. This year, there is more interest than ever in the use of smartphone apps to identify typical garden plants, research information on how to grow specific plants, and offer guidelines on how to design a new garden.

There is an app for just about everything. They’re like having a series of mini experts in your pocket. Just know that when the apps are wrong, they can be spectacularly wrong.

There is also increasing interest in gardening smarter rather than harder. This is another ongoing trend that is probably fueled by aging baby boomers and by busy millennials who want to garden, but don’t have enough time. So gardeners are looking for plants that are low maintenance or that can serve more than one purpose in the garden.

Plants, for example, that offer year-round interest – pretty foliage, architectural form, fragrance, and flowers. Low maintenance today means a plant doesn’t require the regular use of pesticides or fertilizer, can be pruned easily or just ignored, and can withstand considerable benign neglect. It’s asking a lot.

What’s on the list of ideal plants? Rhododendrons and Heuchera, great plants that have very specific growing conditions.

No dig gardening is no longer something that eccentric old ladies do. It’s going mainstream. It saves time, doesn’t destroy the structure of the soil or hurt the mycorrhiza.

I tried to explain all of this to a friend last week, but he wouldn’t even listen. Even his 91-year-old mother tried to explain the new way to him, but, no. Of course, you have to turn the soil and amend it, etc. If he had listened, he could have saved himself hours of work.

Along the same lines, this is the year we’re supposed to take more interest in repurposing found materials. I know garden designers are thinking along the lines of bird baths turned into planters, but I have this image of petunias planted in tires I just can’t overcome. There can be a fine line between tasteful repurposing and tacky.

Whether you’re on trend or just doing your own thing, enjoy gardening. It’s a great way to relax and get some exercise too.

DR. CYNTHIA WOOD is a master gardener, who writes two columns for The Herald. She can be reached at