In Colorado the new year arrives in the cold, in the no-gardening season. Gardeners are indoors, tending their houseplants and thinking of the growing season ahead. Here at City Floral we are following the announcements of new plants and garden trends too. Here are six of the hot topics in gardening for 2016.
Container vegetables and fruits
Eat local, eat fresh and organic, and better yet, eat from your own garden. It’s easier than ever with improved varieties of vegetables, fruits and berries for growing in small spaces and containers. Seed compact lettuces and flowers together for a dual purpose spring container. After you harvest the lettuce let the flowers take over for the summer. Small root vegetables like radishes, baby beets and dwarf carrots are easy container crops. Tomatoes and peppers have long been grown in pots and there are more colors and flavors every year. Sprawling vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini, squash and watermelons – even bush beans and sweet corn – can now be container plants when you select seed for the new compact versions. So no matter if you have a dirt garden or a balcony garden, you can grow fresh food.
It can’t get much easier than air plants. They need no soil and minimal water. And talk about variety! There are more than 700 species of Tillandsia, the most common air plant, and thousands of varieties. These little tufted plants are vacation friendly, able to survive extended periods of benign neglect. They need bright light and good air circulation, and here in dry Colorado, they appreciate a weekly dunking in water before being returned to their perches. The plants have so many forms from fuzzy to smooth, in spikes or whimsical curls, with leaves of frosted grey or tipped with red or purple. Take a look at some of the varieties and some artful ways to display them on our Pinterest boards.
Plants for Pollinators
Pollinators – bees and a host of other insects – are essential for the production of 2/3 of the food crops of the world. The seeds and fruits we love to eat – apples, zucchini, berries, almonds, chocolate and more – are the products of pollination. As habitat destruction and insecticides have threatened pollinator populations, interest in supporting honey bees and native pollinators in the garden has increased. Provide a beautiful resource for pollinators by minimizing lawns and planting a generous range of flowering plants. Extend the flowering season with early bloomers and fall selections, and lots of variation in size and color. Choose more native plants and allow a little natural disorder. A patch of bare soil, a bit of leaf litter, a few weeds can all provide homes for pollinators. They will benefit your vegetable garden, your neighbor’s garden and the greater environment.
For more information about creating a pollinator garden visit Colorado State Extension for articles and plant lists. You can register your garden with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort supported by regional conservation and gardening groups across the country.
Do butterflies make you smile? There are more than 400 species of butterflies along the Front Range. Make a garden for them! If you want them to stay, build a habitat to provide food and shelter for every life stage. Like other pollinators, butterflies are threatened by loss of their natural plant resources. A great variety of flowers are nectar sources for the adult butterflies including lots of our annual and perennial garden favorites like asters, hollyhocks, zinnias and pansies. Plants are also needed for egg laying and to feed the caterpillars. Many caterpillars are very particular about their host plants. Native plants are a great attraction. Monarchs need certain types of milkweed; fritillaries like pansies. A mix of flowers, trees and shrubs, and some grasses in a sunny location protected from strong wind will make a nurturing garden for you and the butterflies.
It’s all about being at home in the habitat. Western gardeners are increasingly aware that water is a precious resource. In our semi-arid climate it makes sense to learn how to garden more with less water. That means using smart irrigation practices and informed landscape planning. It doesn’t mean we are limited to dry rocks and a few cactus. Low-water gardens can have style and color and lots of plants that are tailored for the conditions. Plant selections for dry gardens continue to expand and improve, with flowers and succulents, perennials and shrubs, grasses and trees that will thrive in our climate. A well planned low-water garden can mean a 30-50% reduction in water use compared to a conventional suburban garden. If you decide to reduce the size of your lawn you may find you are eligible for a rebate from your city. For inspiration and practical ideas visit the demonstration gardens at Kendrick Lake Park in Lakewood or the Stapleton Xeriscape Garden. When it’s time to plant, we have everything you’ll need including Plant Select varieties that are tested and developed for Colorado.
Garden Spaces for Pets
We love our pets! And pets love to be outdoors, which can be hard on the garden and risky for our cats and dogs. It’s no surprise that one of the 2016 trends is gardening for our pets. Landscaping for dogs may include perimeter paths for easy patrol rounds, a new dog-proof lawn, or a stylish dog run. Cats can relax outdoors in the safety of their own patio – a “Catio” – with plants and perches. Chickens are not forgotten: they are running through chicken tunnels, and roosting in some pretty amazing chicken houses. There are so many ways to create imaginative gardens to include the animals we love.