This Year's Garden Trends: It's About Eco-Chic

It's officially mud season, which can only mean that lawn-and-garden planning time has arrived. This year, gardening experts say, environmental concerns about everything from rising gasoline prices to global warming will shape Americans' garden purchases.

"The strongest trend is environmentally friendly gardening," says Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Association (NGA). "With the concerns about climate change, consumers are trying to do things that are better for the environment, whether that means having less lawn to mow, composting or using organic fertilizers."

Philadelphia-based Garden Media Group agrees that these eco-chic gardens are going to be hot in the year ahead, as are smaller gardens rather than colossal (and chemically needy) landscapes. In addition to earth-friendly ways to repel deer and insects, it expects disease-resistant plants to be big-sellers.

And while gardening enthusiasts love the exotic - this year's "Flora Exotica" flower show at Macy's, which kicks off April 1, features flowers from six continents - Butterfield predicts native plants will continue to get plenty of attention.



A second trend, he says, is that the line between indoor and outdoor living will continue to blur. "That means more container-gardening, up close and on your patio," he says, adding that an increasing number of retailers are selling pre-planted containers. "You don't even need to buy the pots, the plants and the soil - it's already done for you," he says.

And, as ever, the strong trend will be toward flowers, not vegetables - even with concern about food safety and a growing interest in organic. "About twice as many people grow flowers as vegetables," Butterfield says. "And most would rather buy their organic produce than invest all that time to raise it themselves."

The NGA says that more Americans are gardening than ever. In 2005, 91 million households (about 83%) did some kind of lawn or garden project, an 11% increase from the prior year. But spending actually declined, to $35.2 billion, in 2005, 4% below year-earlier sales.

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