While we've been out digging in the dirt, gardening has become fashionable. Did you ever expect that by donning mud boots and hoisting a hori hori you'd become a trendsetter? You're probably...

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While we’ve been out digging in the dirt, gardening has become fashionable. Did you ever expect that by donning mud boots and hoisting a hori hori you’d become a trendsetter? You’re probably thinking “Who cares?” But while you’re thinking, new plants, ideas and products are proliferating as a result of the media focus.

Taking our cue from Fremont, we flatter ourselves that the Northwest is the center of the gardening universe. We have the climate, the expertise and the nurseries — right? Our self-congratulatory suspicions will no doubt be confirmed by the ’05 trends called out at the 56th Annual Garden Writers Symposium on Long Island this past September.

While it’s fun to smirk at these trends, they do seem to reflect genuine changes in how and where we live, work and garden.

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The Media Group that sent out this list believes that the trend toward individualistic gardens results from reality garden shows and Martha Stewart magazine. My guess is that the wide variety of garden styles here is a reflection of our increasingly diverse city. I suspect most gardeners are influenced by the richness of plant choices as well as the plethora of gardening magazines available. And, the Internet has made finding things easy.

Here’s what the gaggle of garden writers came up with:

Whatever the inspiration, uniform sweeps of front lawn and overgrown rockeries are interspersed with quirky, personal gardens. A walk through Seattle reveals an exciting array of drought-tolerant parking strips, courtyard gardens and edibles growing amid ornamentals.

Several of the trends mirror our increasing age and the hectic pace of our society. We’re simplifying wherever we can and seeking help in many aspects of our lives, including gardening. The respite and solace to be found in a simpler, close-to-nature garden is often lacking in a more complex, cluttered one. The search for simplicity explains why bedding plants are out. In fact, haven’t they been passé for decades?

Many of the trends seem to be a result of gardens growing smaller. More and more gardeners work P-patches, plant on balconies and create beauty on tiny city lots. Vertical gardening, container gardening, uncluttering and making tough choices between plants are all necessities of gardening in limited space.

At the end of a less-than-tranquil year, despite their silliness, maybe these trends hold out hope. Sales of environmentally safe products are up 200 percent in the past five years. “Empowered plants are in” means that people are seeking healthy, durable plants that flourish without chemical intervention.

I remain confused about a couple of items on the list. What do luxury brands have to do with gardening? I can’t even conceive of what the “Lexus of the garden” might be. And I’m confused by “Tropical gardens are in and cottage gardens are out.” Haven’t we already pioneered tropicals, tired of the look and moved on to our own regional style of cottage gardens?

I warned you up front that the ’05 trend list supports our conviction that Northwest gardeners are out front of the curve. I wish you great fun as you blaze the garden trail for the rest of the country in ’05.

Valerie Easton is a Seattle free-lance writer and contributing editor for Horticulture magazine. Her e-mail address is valeaston@comcast.net.


IN AND OUT

Reality gardens Ideal gardens

Signature gardens Cookie cutters

Simple Clutter

Do some of it for me Do it all yourself

Mega blooms Seedlings

Specialty annuals Bedding plants

Luxury brands Bargain brands

Vertical gardening One-dimensional gardening

Romantic Pedestrian

New classics Trendy

Curated consumption Avalanche of choices

Environmentally sensitive gardening Chemically dependent gardening

Container gardening is still in and not going out

Empowered plants Needy plants

Tropical gardens Cottage gardens

Houseplants Greenless houses


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Rough mats of winter heath bloom brightly even during January’s coldest spells. Their fine, short, evergreen leaves come in tones from deep green to gold, sparkling with flowers in shades from white through rosy purple. Erica carnea ‘Springwood White,’ above, has snowy flowers set off by rusty brown anthers; the carmine-red flowers of ‘Vivellii’ are showcased against purple-tinged leaves, and ‘Westwood Yellow’ is a compact grower with gold foliage and pink flowers.