As I was planning to visit nine exemplary hone gardens in the Santa Cruz area, in a tour organized by the UCSC Arboretum and Botanic Garden, I happened upon a popular garden magazine’s summary of ten current trends in residential garden design.
Most of these trends related to indoor gardening and flower arranging, while eight relate to outdoor gardening. I became interested in how those eight trends related to the Arboretum’s garden tour. Two question came to mind:
- Do these trends actually appear in these community gardens?
- Do these community gardens actually reflect the trends?
I managed to visit six gardens during the day. I won’t identify the gardens because they are not now on tour, but each garden was unique, nicely designed and developed, and very well presented for this special event.
Here are my observations, with reference to eight reported trends for outdoor gardens.
The Keeping It Low Maintenance
Everyone, it seems, wants a low-maintenance garden, and some strategies certainly can lower the workload, but gardens that shine for visitors show the result of ongoing maintenance plus “sprucing up” for tour day. All the gardens on this tour were neatly maintained: there were no weeds, diseased or neglected plants, or unsightly debris. Congratulations to the garden owners! My findings don’t negate the published interest in low maintenance, but it suggests that low maintenance doesn’t align with garden tours.
Creating a Staycation Spot
This trend focuses on recreational resources in the garden, e.g., outdoor kitchen, furniture, fire features, decorative lighting, etc. All of the gardens I visited included a table and chairs, and some had a basic barbeque set-up, but none appeared to have been planned for a “staycation.” People who invest significant money and effort in their gardens apparently prefer to explore new environments on occasion, rather than to switch from gardener to vacationer in the same place.
Structures as Focal Points
This trend relates to the development of garden structures, e.g., sheds, walls, and swimming pools. One of the six gardens had a small greenhouse and a hot tub, and another had an impressive collection containerized plants mounted on a fence, but there were no other structures serving as focal points. Some gardens include well-designed paths and retaining walls, but these were more functional than architectural focal points.
Private, Secluded Places
This trend envisions a smallish space dedicated to seating for two people, with perhaps a water feature, a wall or plant screen to separate it from the garden, or an arbor or pergola to create an enclosure. I saw one seating area that provided such seclusion; the others were positioned to support viewing and enjoying the garden. Avid gardeners enjoy being in their gardens, rather than relaxing in seclusion.
Notable First Impressions
This was a toss-up. Of the six gardens, three had front yards that were very nicely designed and presented fine streetside impressions. The other three had well-done front yards, but more impressive back yards. Clearly, the private, backyard garden area had the higher priority. Such differences could result by chance, differences in the available gardening space, or particular interest in impressing neighbors and passers-by. Good arguments could be made for both front yard and backyard priorities.
Food in Landscapes of All Sizes
This magazine article envisioned a trend for including edibles in a primarily ornamental garden, whether in containers or raised beds, or mingled with perennial plants. There are interesting ideas for combining edibles and ornamentals, and good books on the creative design of vegetable gardens. Still, I saw vegetable gardening in only two of these six tour gardens, and in both cases, veggies were separated from ornamentals. To be fair, three of the gardens I did not visit reportedly included vegetables and fruit trees, so this tour evidently demonstrated this trend rather well.
Investing in Quality Furniture
Is this a trend? I saw attractive and serviceable garden furniture in good condition, but not the artisan-created teak items or classic showpieces like a Lutyens bench. It has been said that no garden can have too much seating, but gardeners with tour-worthy gardens might have more interest in the selection, placement and cultivation of plants than in the display of sophisticated furnishings.
Giving Back with Gardens
This trend emphasizes gardening that is friendly to wildlife and the environment. The forms of such friendliness include providing wildlife habitats, supporting pollinators, using organic methods to control weeds and pests and not poisoning wildlife or the environment. This trend might be understood also to include using water wisely, in keeping with water conservation priorities. These tour gardens were highly compatible with this trend, with multiple sites featuring drought tolerant plants, e.g., Mediterranean climate specimens and succulents, and avoiding synthetic chemicals. I did not, however, see wildlife habitats, e.g., bird houses, brush heaps, bird baths or bird feeders. Perhaps I just didn’t notice.
My conclusion is that the gardens on the Arboretum’s garden tour exemplify most of the design trends featured in this one magazine’s overview of 2019’s garden trends. These gardens are quite trendy!
We are now in garden tour season, so include at least one tour in your schedule, and enjoy the opportunity to discover unfamiliar plants and new approaches to garden design. An exceptional opportunity is St. Philips’ annual Garden Tour and English Tea Luncheon on May 11, 2019. For information: http://www.stphilip-sv.net.
When you embark upon a garden tour, you might find it interesting to review each garden with reference someone’s perspective on current design trends.
You also could expand this strategy by adding your own thoughts about garden design trends. For example, my design priorities include thematic design for sections of the garden, and landscaping with swaths of selected plants, in contrast to collections of single specimens.