Beautify – January 2017

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Gardening for Winter Interest

Hosta Book Review


Gardening for Winter Interest

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM

Winter is a very good time to view a perennial garden for structure.  There are many flower gardens which lose all interest after the fall and display a flat barren plain until awakening in late spring.  Plan ahead now to add winter interest to a flower garden.

Landscape design uses plant layers that include canopy, understory, shrub, perennials, grasses, and ground covers.  However when flower gardening, a canopy layer reduces the sunlight available which alters the perennial choices.  Small trees and shrubs are available and recommended to help add a design element and interest to a perennial garden.  In winter, early spring and late fall the garden will have something to see when the garden is asleep.

Small trees suitable for inclusion in a flower garden include Allegheny Serviceberry, Speckled Alder, and Redbud.  These can be categorized as small trees or large shrubs depending upon pruning.   

-A Serviceberry, Amelanchier laevis, is a high-value small tree.  It can be single or multiple stemmed.  It blooms early in the spring with an abundance of white flowers, which ripen into berries in early summer and are a favorite food of birds.  Stems are slightly arched and can be pruned.  It tolerates sun to partial shade in dry to semi-moist conditions. 

-Speckled Alder, Alnus rugosa, a fast-growing small tree with multiple thin trunks.  Leaves turn yellow in the fall.  Tiny cone-like seeds develop on mature trees.

-Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is a small tree that can be covered with small deep pink flowers in early spring.  The blooms last for two to three weeks and are followed by large, heart shaped leaves.  It has arching branches and a rounded crown.

These trees provide an important vertical structure in a perennial garden.  They can be used as a single specimen, or used as multiples to create a flow.  Both the Serviceberry and Redbud bloom quite early, giving the garden a needed splash of color, while some perennials are just beginning to sprout.

Shrubs play an important role in perennial flower gardening.  Their shapes, whether arched or rounded, stay upright through the year providing shape in the garden under the snow.  In fall and early spring their structure provides assurance that there really is a garden!

There are many shrubs from which to choose depending upon the gardener’s tolerance for suckering.  All can be pruned to maintain the shape and scale desired.  Consider Winterberry, Spicebush, Shrubby St. John’s Wort, Shrubby Cinquefoil, or Highbush Cranberry.

-Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, is a deciduous holly.  It blooms all along the stems in small, white flowers in summer and sets bright red berries.  It is a stunning plant in the snow. Note:  plants are sexed.  Only females produce berries and a male must be present.  These are well-behaved plants.

-Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, produces color and interest throughout the season.  In spring, yellow flowers grace the stems before the leaves appear and the leaves are golden in fall.  Female plants will produce red berries.

-Shrubby St. John’s Wort, Hypericum prolificum, Kalm’s, is a fabulous shrub for pollinators.  Its mid-to-late summer bloom lasts for weeks and attracts bees of all sizes and types.  The bluish-green leaves add summer interest and a natural globe shape.  The blossoms leave a multitude of seed heads which create interest.  Should the plant need taming, cutting the seed heads can keep a compact size.

-Shrubby Cinquefoil, Potentilla fouticosa, is a tough, hardy plant that has a long golden yellow flower bloom time.  It’s branches arch and can be pruned in spring to keep it looking good. 

-Highbush Cranberry, Viburnum trilobum, is a larger shrub that has clusters of white flowers in May and June.  Red fruits follow.  The berries are edible to wildlife after freezing and thawing which provides important early nutrition to migrating birds.  It can be pruned after flowering to maintain size and shape.  Or, give it space and use as a specimen in the garden.

Adding shrubs to a perennial garden creates structure and adds habitat and food for birds and wildlife.  Sitting inside enjoying the warmth and rest from the busy growing season, evaluate the winter interest in the perennial garden.  Adding small trees and shrubs for vertical interest and dynamic design can keep a flower garden interesting all year long.


Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan, Lynn M. Steiner

Photo by jks Lola,

Photo by jks Lola,

Hosta Book Review

by Nancy Denison, Advanced Master Gardener

The Color Encyclopedia of Hostas by Diana Grenfell and Michael Shadrack, Timber Press, 2004

The encyclopedia is a four hundred page compilation of hosta history, photos and classification has been residing in my bookcase for many years. I have referred to it a few times and always promised myself I would spend a little more time with it, so if you enjoy the diversity and beauty of the simple hosta, read on!

I knew little of the background of the wild and cultivated hosta family, so reading the first two chapters was enlightening.  Hostas are native of the far east and are thought to have evolved from lily-like ancestors who drifted from east central China by two different routes, meeting later to produce the hostas known today.

Most wild hostas had been interbred for centuries although those more geographically isolated have now been brought together by human interaction.  Wild hosta species, those clump forming perennials grown in clearings and woodlands, have given us most of our garden varieties.

The first known Westerner to see, draw and describe a hosta was Englebert Kaempfer (1651-1751), a medical doctor with The Dutch East India Company stationed on an artificial island in Nagasaki Harbor. Between 1784 and 1789 the first hosta (H. Plantaginea) was planted, from which grew others in France and then spread through Europe. Forty years later, hostas from Japan began reaching the west. The first major shipment came to America directly from Japan by the son of London nurseryman, Thomas Hogg.

Hostas begin growing as spring warms the ground and end their seasonal growth to wither away as fall and then winter arrive.  The shape of hosta is mostly determined by the root type; compact roots produce mounded foliage and running rootstock produce spreading groups of foliage.  The frost hardy leaves are stalked, vary in size and rise directly from the roots.  The flowers are tubular, spider, flared or funnel shaped and vary in color from white to deep purple.  The leaves are classified by size, shape, leaf blade, venation, substance, finish and color. Amazingly, leaves are categorized from #1 Giant (144sq in) to #6 Dwarf (2sq in). Leaf shape, blade veins and color are also exacting methods of identifying species.

Hostas need fertile, moist, well-drained soil with protection from heat of the sun and strong winds. However, individual hosta needs can vary greatly.  Most are frost tolerant to 28oF and require winter chilling of at least 40oF for several weeks. Hostas are drought tolerant but can need additional moisture in the growing season. They are able to grow in a wide range of soil conditions but grow best in rich loam. Prep soil, if necessary, with organic materials and continue to mulch in future years. Hostas are shade tolerant but more sun than expected is needed to produce quality flowers. Light dappled shade from a tall tree canopy is ideal.

Chapter 4 discusses gardening with hostas, contrasting colors, size, texture and leaf shape. If you have hostas, you already know snails, slugs and deer are damaging pests, attracted often by fragrant flowers.

The remaining chapters concentrate on describing hostas by leaf color, margin or medial variegation with information on origin, clump size, description, special comments, or distinguishing features. A clear photo accompanies each description.

This spring when my hostas begin popping up, I will attempt to label them again while I enjoy the show of leaves and flowers.  They add depth and dimension to my shade gardens, are easy to split and share… and hopefully won’t be consumed by visiting deer.

Beautify – November 2016

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Gardens of Imperfection

Houseplants: Must have!

Garden Remodel Update

Gardens of Imperfection

by Whitney Miller, Advanced Master Gardener, MGANM “Techie Chick”

Many gardeners have a misconception of perfection for their gardens. They think that perfection has to mean clean, debris free, and full of perfect specimen plants. This brings to mind images of gardens like Versailles and Butchart. While these gardens inspire awe and serenity, they are by no means the only way to keep a garden. In fact, gardens like these require a multitude of staff and a lot of chemicals to keep them looking this way.

Any homeowner can have a beautiful and perfect looking garden if they follow simple rules of imperfection.

  • Leave your leaves. Leaf debris allows natural decay to occur and can replenish micronutrients in your soil. The debris also provides cover and concealment for a multitude of living creatures.
  • Leave fallen branches and trees. According to the Xerces Society, “Most bees nest in small warrens of tunnels and cells they construct underground. Others nest in narrow tunnels often left behind by beetle larvae in dead trees, and a few use the soft pith in some plants.” (
  • Leave seed heads and stalks on plants. This can provide a nesting place and food source for small birds or mammals through the winter. The more food sources that mice have available out in the garden, the less likely they are to try to find their way into your home!
  • Let there be imperfections in your plants. Just as with humans, no plant is perfect. A stunted branch or leaf full of aphids is okay! Those aphids create honeydew, which feeds sugar ants, which feed birds. If we control the aphids we stunt the food web by stopping it in its tracks. Allowing nature to take its course can be a beautiful thing to observe and share.

A few more garden tips

  • Diversify your plantings. While a vast swath of coneflower looks beautiful, it provides food for a limited number of insects and birds. When you add just two additional plant species you open your garden up to three to four times the number of birds and insects. Our native bee populations need all the help they can get, and diversifying your garden can make a major impact.
  • Go native. Native plants have had hundreds of years to adapt to their specific climate while continuing to thrive. They require less ‘fuss’ over the age of your garden versus non-natives, and have a symbiotic relationship with native birds, bees, and insects. Of all the choices you can make in your garden, this could possibly be the decision with the biggest impact.
  • When in doubt, ask your local Master Gardeners for help. In Michigan, we have our local Extension offices, Smart Gardening websites, and Ask an Expert (1-888-678-3464). If you are outside the state of Michigan, a simple Google search for your local Extension will begin your journey toward a perfectly imperfect and healthy garden.

Houseplants by Sonia Clem

Houseplants: Must have!

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM, President Plant It Wild

Even before the research was completed on gardening benefits to our body, mind and spirit, gardeners already knew that spending time in and around plants made us feel better, happier.  Now we know that plants emit gasses and scents and soil contains bacteria and fungi which contribute to our overall wellbeing.  In northern Michigan, gardeners are a happy bunch between May and October.  However, our long, chilly winter can dampen our spirits.  We are in withdrawal…unless we include indoor gardening with houseplants!

The benefits of houseplants on indoor environmental quality and human health have now been well researched.  NASA has spent considerable research time on the benefits of houseplants in an enclosed environment.  Some chemical companies have researched the effect on plants in the home and workplace to reduce human exposure to chemicals in building materials, carpeting and paints.  Plants clean the air, emit oxygen, lift moods, inspire better memory and creativity, and more.  There is a recommendation to have one indoor plant for every 100 square feet of living space.  That would be 14 plants for a 1,400 square foot house for adequate benefit.

One plant for every 100 square feet is a lot of plants!  Fortunately, there are a wide variety of plants from which to choose.  There are plants suited to dry air, moist air, bright light, limited light, flowering and limited flowering, high maintenance and low maintenance.  Following are some of the top plants in some of these categories.  It is a very limited list.  Check out the referenced websites to discover more.  As we move into the colder months, and spend more time indoors, add houseplants to ramp-up your wellbeing.

Best for Air Quality:

Peace lily, Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’

Florist’s chrysanthemum,  Chrysanthemum morifolium

English ivy,  Hedera helix

Variegated snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue,  Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’

Red-edged dracaena, Dracaena marginata

Unfortunately, each of these is toxic to animals.  If you have an animal who eats plants, you can find non-toxic plants that improve air quality, but are not as effective as the above.

Best for Low Light:

Cast iron plant, Aspidistra elatior (non-toxic)

Dracaena corn plant, Dracaena fragrans massangeana (toxic)

Mother in law’s tongue or snake plant, Sansevieria trifasciata  (toxic)

Dragon tree, Dracaena marginata (toxic)

ZZ plant,  Zamioculcas zamiifolia  (toxic)

Parlor palm, Chamaedorea elegans (non-toxic)

Best for Sunny Windows:

Jasmine star, Jasminum polyanthum

Cactus, a wide variety

Croton, Codiaeum variegatum, a variety of colors

Bird of paradise, Stelitzia reginae

Umbrella plant, Schefflera or Heptapleurum

Most flowering indoor plants need full daylight in a south or west window.

Many websites suggest that African violets and orchids are easier to grow than some believe.  Shop for indoor plants from credible sources.  Check with local flower shops and independent nurseries for quality plants.

Add indoor plants this fall to enjoy till May!  Let them improve your air quality and lift your spirits.


NASA Clean Air Study

img_20160416_132015101 img_20160505_135341714 img_20160616_184507562 img_20160702_140712526

Garden Remodel Update

by Nancy Denison, Master Gardener

In the May issue of The Real Dirt I wrote about remodeling my backyard garden area with some large garden beds. And as I explained, (or complained?), the project grew to include a retaining wall, covered cement patio, flagstone path and interior garage drywall and insulation.

The first phase involved removing all the plant material and deciding what I would keep and what would be donated elsewhere. For weeks I had dozens of potted plants on the back and front deck. Friends came over and left with as many plants as they could carry.   I transported a Suburban full of pots down to the Detroit area to my sister and daughter. And then donated what I could to the Children’s Garden Plant sale in May. The rest waited patiently for their new home in my yard.

Next came the retaining wall to level out the area for the raised beds.  John Thomas of Northwoods Landscaping had it (mostly) done in a matter of days, which then allowed friend and contractor Mark Hartman to do his magic on the bed building. We had toyed with using galvanized sheets but in the end decided to go with cedar planks to create three 10’x4’x3’ beds. I don’t believe it was any less expensive to use wood, but it was certainly easier to obtain the materials.  And I’m really glad we did since once they were stained, they also matched the house.  The beds were built in the garage and after stapling in landscaping fabric (in an attempt to lengthen the life of the wood), Mark moved them with his front end loader, directed by his son, down the driveway and around to the back.  That was a sight to see as there was maybe a foot of clearance between the garage and studio walls. Once in place, small grid wire fencing was stapled to the bottom to thwart small critters from making their home underneath. We then threw scrap wood, granite pieces, and whatever else we thought appropriate into the bottom, followed by two buckets full of top soil in each bed.  I then added compost and peat. I knew the soil would sink as the summer progressed and have since added many more bags of soil to bring the level up.

Planting would come a few weeks later after adding pathways and returning many plants to the perennial planting beds which surrounds the raised beds.

Following the main garden work, the flagstone path which connected the studio, garage door, new cement patio and back deck was done. Of course the weather was very hot and sunny during installation of the stone.  But no one had a heart attack and it looks just perfect.

I was able to use all my transplants as well as the many 6×6 timbers which were removed from the original garden. We also designed new raspberry supports which ended up rather large, not to mention expensive, but add a wonderful artistic detail to the garden.

All that was planted into the raised beds, those from seed or small plants, grew very well. Beans, tomatoes, beets, lettuce, kale, zucchini and more eggplant than I could ever really want. I now have a better idea where to place certain things next year, for spacing and sunlight. But overall, I am extremely pleased with how much we could eat out of the garden. The pleasure of watching my granddaughter learn about how plants grow and eating cherry tomatoes and green beans right off the plant is priceless. The three months of hard labor resulted in a beautiful flow of outdoor living space that not only adds to the value of our home but to the pleasure of our lifestyle. And time will only tell if the pinkie swear vow of NO MORE PROJECTS my husband and I made will hold firm.

Beautify – Sep ’16

The Art and Gardening of Bonsai

Lillian Mahaney, Advanced Master Gardener

My first introduction to the art of bonsai was in Hong Kong.  The hotel where I stayed had a small oak tree on its huge table in the lobby.  The staff explained that the tree was over 150 years old and had been passed down for generations.  Every time I would see the tree I would marvel at its beauty.

In Traverse City we are fortunate to have the Sakura Bonsai Society of Northern Michigan.  They are a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and enjoyment of bonsai.  The club was founded 25 years ago by Eunice Corp and Sakura means cherry blossom in Japanese.

Bonsai is a living art form.  The word bonsai (pronounced bone-sigh) literally means tree in a pot.  However, merely having a tree in a pot does not make it a bonsai.  A bonsai is an artistic presentation of a tree which reflects and amplifies natural forms.  Like any of the other visual arts such as painting or sculpture, it has all the essential aesthetic elements of composition, balance, depth, perspective, texture, color, contrast, etc.

Most bonsai are created from native species.  They must be grown outdoors as they require their natural environment, including a dormant period.  Some examples of local varieties are white cedar, pine, juniper, larch, maple, azalea, hawthorn and cotoneaster.  These trees can only be displayed indoors for a few days at a time.

Tropical and semi-tropical trees such as ficus, black olive, boxwood, schefflera and bougainvillea do well indoors as long as they have good light and humidity, although they prefer to be outdoors in the summer.

Bonsai grow continually, but each aspect of their growth is carefully planned.  They are kept small by pruning the roots and branches and planting in shallow pots.  Special techniques can be used to reduce leaf size.  They are fertilized on a regular basis, but at half-strength.  Most trees need daily watering and consistent care.

Formal upright, informal upright, cascade, windswept, forest and root-over-rock are just a few of the many styles possible.  Styling and shaping are accomplished by pruning, trimming, pinching and wiring.

It doesn’t take a lifetime to create a good bonsai tree.  Depending on many factors such as species, size, style and sometimes just plain luck, satisfying bonsai can be displayed after only two or three years.  You may find that working with the trees is more important than having a “finished tree.  Gradually the process becomes the goal.

The work of art becomes evidence of the process.  The tree is ever-changing and so is the artist.  They grow together.  The years are going to pass regardless of whether we have bonsai trees or not.  So, why not have some?

The above information was taken from a brochure of the Sakura Bonsai Society of Northwest Michigan. 

For further information contact Linda Schubert, President, at 231-946-8516 .  Also see the Facebook page 

Additional information is available on bonsai from American Bonsai Society   and National Bonsai Foundation

Beautify – July 2016

What’s new at the Botanic Garden

Volunteers in the walled garden. Photo by The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park

Volunteers in the walled garden. Photo by The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park

by Terry Harding

-Traffic at the garden has picked up considerably.  It is heartwarming to see so many people pop into the visitor center and decide to go on a personalized tour.  For those who haven’t been there recently, the Sugar Maple allee of trees are now in place.  

-Irrigation is now in place for the front white garden and lawn area by the Visitor Center. The walled garden has been planted with perennials and should be quite showy in a few years.  The green roof on the tack house at the walled garden looks like it is thriving.  

-The Community Gardeners are busy caring for their crops as well as the donor garden following the teachings in Ellen Ecker Ogden’s seminar on building a veggie garden.  SEEDs is working on their area cleaning and refining beds.  The solar panels for the watering system for Community Gardens and SEEDS area are providing the water needed for growing the veggies and flowers.  

-The mowed Labyrinth is available for those who want to include a little exercise/meditation to their day.  All in all, the Historic Barns Park is the place to check out.

-Marina Deering orchestrated the Colantha Festival celebrating the famed cow’s 100th birthday with the release of a children’s book about her.  

-Of course weddings, receptions and parties have taken place and will continue thru the year.  

-Of special note is an event titled “Celebrating Garden Clubs at the Garden” will take place July 31st. from 10 to 4pm.  All club members are invited to come and see what is happening at the Garden.  There will be a special Blue Star Memorial dedication that day at 2 pm presented by The Friendly Garden Club of TC.  Also, a Bonsai exhibit will be on display on the upper level of the Visitor Center presented by the Bonsai Society.  The Master Gardeners will have a display with information regarding the fall MG course and general information about the program.  Special discounts at the Visitor Center Gift Shop will be available for those who join the Garden.  There will be wagon tours and last but not least there will be refreshments.  It should be a great way to spend a Sunday at the Garden.  

Beautify – Nov ’16

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Wildflower Association of Michigan (WAM) Conference

Garden Trends 2016

Wildflower Association of Michigan (WAM) Conference

by Cheryl Gross, Advanced Master Gardener, Vice President MGANM

Each spring, the first weekend in March, the Wildflower Association of Michigan (WAM) Conference assembles at the Kellogg Center on MSU’s campus in East Lansing.  In 2016 I attended the entire two-day event.  As there were several concurrent sessions, I missed almost half of the presentation offerings.  I encourage any gardener interested in Michigan native plants, plant communities, beautification, pollinators or soil science plan to attend in 2017.

Larry Weaner, of Larry Weaner Landscape Associates in Philadelphia, was one of the keynote speakers.  His focus is large landscape designs using native plants.  An idea he discussed is the difference in thinking between conventional and native plant communities landscaping.  In conventional landscaping, a homeowner wants a fully established setting in a few days.  This is accomplished by planting larger plants and filling-in all of the spaces.  In native plant communities landscaping, a designer is encouraged to examine the space carefully, over time.  To ask, “What’s going on here?” Only when the environment is understood will planting begin.  A native plant landscape will definitely evolve over time and will not look mature or filled-in the first season.  He has methods to allow for plant maturation while filling the space with annual or biannual plants.  Another landscaper/nurseryman said that conventional landscaping design is all about human control.  Native plant communities landscaping is about working in tandem with the environment.  A native plant environment is intended to be more sustainable and less labor intensive.

Scientists were well represented at this year’s WAM Conference.  An MSU PhD candidate, Amanda Meier, spoke on “The Far Reaching Effects of Soil Fungi on Plant-Insect Interactions.”  Soil science is a hot topic from no dig gardening to the benefits to human mental health after being in the garden.  Students from Detroit Catholic Central High School presented their study of transpiration rates and stomate density on Michigan native plants given different environmental conditions including light levels and wind.  Doug Landis of MSU spoke on a study underway in three Michigan locations, one in Leelanau County at the MSU Horticulture Research Station, on the value of insects (approximately $7.6 billion in the U.S.) to agriculture.  Specifically, which Michigan native plants support the largest insect population for crop pollination.

Heather Holm, the author of Pollinators of Native Plants, spoke on “Attracting Beneficial Insects and Bees.”  Most of Michigan’s 500 bee species are solitary.  Flower form matters to these bees.  The bees differ in size and foraging needs.  Our gardens need something blooming all through the season as well as provide a variety of flower types including simple, semi closed and complex.  Some bees nest in the ground.  These bees need bare soil and sandy loam.  Ground bees do not sting.  Ground nesting yellow jackets do.  We have a lot to learn about bee and wasp identification and behavior for co-existence.  Many of our Michigan bees are cavity nesters.  Leaving a bit of stubble in the garden for winter provides nesting spots.  Holm reported that four bumble bee species have declined 96 percent in 20 years and 50 percent of Midwestern bees have disappeared in the last 100 years.  She says that “every pollinator patch makes a difference.”

There is much we do not know or understand of the native world around us.  As gardeners, we must become wise to know more and utilize the latest practices to protect and save our environment.  Attending WAM helped me to know more and I look forward to being smarter and wiser in my garden.

Suggested Reading:

Garden Revolution: How our Landscapes Can Be a Source of Environmental Change, Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher.  May 2016

Bringing Nature Home, Douglas Tallamy

Bees of the Great Lakes Region and Wildflowers to Support Them: A Guide for Farmers, Gardeners and Landscapers, MSU Extension

Pollinators of Native Plants, Heather Holm 

Photo by MG M. Worden

Photo by Advanced MG M. Worden

Garden Trends 2016

by Bethany Thies, Master Gardener in Training

Curious about “what’s hot and what’s not” in the world of gardening?  Well, we’ve combed the internet and here is a list of garden trends for 2016 from two respected sources – Garden Media Group and Garden Design Magazine.

Garden Media Group (, a garden-focused public relations and marketing company, has been publishing an annual market trends report since 2001.  Its 2016 Garden Trends Report highlights the following hot topics:

  • Connected greenery. People today rely on their phones, the internet and social media for just about everything…and gardening is no exception.  2016 will see continued growth in online shopping for plants and garden gear, turning to technology for gathering information on gardening and social media for support and sharing of our gardening triumphs and disasters.  Also, look for new products that help us garden remotely, like apps that will let us turn on our sprinklers or garden lighting from anywhere.
  • “NaTECHure.”  This is where two of the hottest trends in education, technology and nature, intersect.  As the Garden Media Group describes it, this trend “combines virtual and augmented reality to engage kids with gardening, health and fitness in fun, new ways.”  This trend has the potential to mobilize a new generation of nature lovers.
  • “Welltality.” More and more, people are putting their health first.  And gardening is at the front of this movement.  Whether it’s growing your own foods so you control what goes in them or using gardening as a calming and regenerative activity, horticulture and health is a hot topic.
  • The makers lifestyle. According to the Garden Media Group, the DIY movement is shifting from doing to making.  And people not only want to make things but also experiences.  Hot projects for 2016 include things like growing hops for backyard brewing and testing out natural dyes made from fruits and vegetables from your own garden.
  • Backyard boldness.  Think of your garden as a stage to live out your dreams, whether it is the nostalgia of your childhood or the drama of a custom lit tree.  Anything that heightens sensory appeal is trending and customization, lighting and movement are the key to achieving it. 
  • Layered landscapes.  As the public’s passion for preserving the earth increases, landscaping trends are shifting from “green deserts to living landscapes,” with each plant serving a purpose in supporting local, natural ecosystems, pollinators and other wildlife.  This translates into yards full of combinations of trees, conifers, shrubs and perennials, rather than an endless meadow of perennials or grass.
  • Dogscaping.  According to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 65% of U.S. households own a pet. Homeowners are thinking more and more about how to make their gardens pet-friendly and pet-safe.
  • Precious resources.  More and more people are realizing that the resources needed to garden, particularly water, are limited and need protection. How to garden with less water continues to be a top priority.  Brownscaping, keyhole gardening and drought-tolerant plants will all be on trend for 2016.

While the Garden Design Group deals with more macro movements in gardening, Garden Design Magazine ( offers up a nuts and bolts trend guide for 2016.  It predicts:

  • Garden structures will go dark.  Instead of the usual natural or white, we’ll see more fences and arbors painted dark green or dark blue.
  • More subtlety.  A garden doesn’t have to be a constant kaleidoscope of color to be pleasing.  This year, look for more subtle colors or all white or all one color gardens.  Interest is added through different plant textures and details like edging or stone walls.
  • Mini gardens for the patio or indoors.  Instead of a single houseplant or pot of tomatoes on the patio, Garden Design Magazine sees people moving toward treating even a lone pot or windowsill garden as a mini landscape. Layered plantings for multiple interest and/or harvest are hot.  Why should a small space or winter weather slow down the garden fun?
  • Natives don’t equal overgrown or messy landscapes.  Native plants are great for the environment, but many people equate them with “wild” landscapes.  That’s simply not the case.  Natives can be used in any good design, from cottage to contemporary.
  • Living outside is still going strong.  And fire pits and heated spaces are leading the way.
  • We want to spend time in our garden, not on our garden.  Garden Design Magazine calls it “manageable maintenance.”  Thoughtful garden design and plant selection are key in making this possible.
  • Sustainable features integrated with design.  While sustainable landscapes have been big for the past few years, Garden Design Magazine predicts a move toward integrating those elements aesthetically into the garden.  So, for example, instead of a rain barrel, look for more rain collection water features like catchment ponds to play a feature role in landscapes in 2016. 
  • Grandma’s garden.  2016 will see a continuation of the homesteaders movement with more yards and gardens being planted for purpose rather than just beauty.  This includes planting to attract pollinators and grow food, as well as designing gardens that make room for chickens, clotheslines and composting.
  • LEDs are changing how we think about backyard lighting.  With better and better LED systems coming on the market, people are moving toward a lighting landscape that changes with our moods or the seasons.  Programmable, color-changing, these new LEDs can be set for just about any occasion.


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