Follow these 2018 garden trends

Winter weather allows us to take a much-needed break from the garden. Sure, you can organize or cull out-of-date garden fertilizers, weed or pest products. You can wash and sterilize your empty pots. Or, you can blow leaves every day (though it eliminates pollinator habitat).

Not me. I’ve been cozy inside, drinking tea and dog-earing multiple plant catalogs — sketching out new plant placement and hardscaping ideas for the spring. And I’m eagerly following gardening trends for creative inspiration. Here are some trends to consider:

Focus on foliage

Blooms often dominate garden planning. While the most visible element in many gardens, flowers eventually fade, ceding the garden to foliage. Left sitting on the sidelines, foliage is too often an afterthought, pushed aside by the yearning for blooms.

Plants and shrubs with variegated foliage have captured the attention of gardeners. They add dimension to the garden, enhancing and brightening shady spaces and adding a pop of interest anywhere in the garden. Sprinkle a broad palette of these plants in your garden with variegated varieties of Aztec grass, sparkler sedge, shell ginger, cannas, yuccas, agaves and even lantana. Variegated shrubs that provide year-round interest include abelias, eleagnus, myrtles and acuba. Annuals with variegated leaves include bougainvillea, Swedish ivy, Cuban oregano, caladiums and coleus.

Creative color palette

The Pantone Color of the Year always influences the grower and nursery sales industries. Experts at the Pantone Color Institute analyze design, fashion, art, and entertainment to arrive at their color of the year. Each year, this announcement drives gardening trends. The color for 2018 is ultra violet. This year you’ll find an array of edibles, annuals, perennials and outdoor décor available in this color. Look for new varieties and promotion of beets, eggplant, purple cauliflower, cabbages, grapes and blueberries. Purple foods have anthocyanins, naturally occurring red, blue and purple pigments. They are powerful antioxidants that support the immune system, maintain health and prevent disease.

You’ll also find more annuals and perennials with violet or purple blooms or leaves at local nurseries.

Pollinator paradise

News of the sharp decline in U.S. pollinator populations is disturbing. Pollinators are integral to the food chain and production of fruits, nuts and vegetables. This pollinator loss includes bees, butterflies, bats and birds. Public awareness has given rise to a widespread movement to protect these critical populations. Gardeners are specifically seeking out plants that provide pollinators with habitat and food for all phases of their life cycles. Nurseries continue to offer and promote increasing numbers of pollinator-friendly plants. In my garden, pollinators always can count on milkweed, catmint, chives, parsley, dill, sage, rosemary and lamb’s ears.

Mounting millennial interest

Growing numbers of millennials are becoming gardeners, and the progress of the-farm to-table movement is inspiring millennials to grow their own food. In addition to the focus on sustainability and locally sourced food, millennials also are embracing organic gardening practices and shunning chemical herbicides and pesticides.

Publishers are also targeting younger gardeners, with an uptick in articles and books designed to capture the interest of millennials. Books like “The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff,” by Dee Nash, provide basic gardening hacks specifically designed to help younger gardeners get started.

Relieving stress

Mounting evidence shows that working and relaxing in the garden can actually improve our overall well-being – both physically and mentally.

According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, spending time in nature reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and relieves muscle tension. Gardening also can help people who are recovering from physical illness by strengthening muscles and improving balance and coordination.

As a result, more people see gardening as a necessary component of their well-being.

Gardening chores can provide any level of activity from serious cardio — hauling bags of mulch and soil, digging and shoveling — to simple reaching and stretching while pruning or raking. Raking leaves for just 30 minutes can burn 225 calories — and this exercise provides weight training and tones all the major muscles groups in your body. Just make sure you stretch properly before your power gardening.

Whether you choose to check out these trends or others, now’s the time to find some inspiration for your spring gardening.

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