Q: Looking ahead, what do you see as garden trends for 2005? A: There is nothing new under the sun. Gardeners will continue to be passionate about plants and outdoor spaces. We will want to...

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Looking ahead, what do you see as garden trends for 2005?

There is nothing new under the sun. Gardeners will continue to be passionate about plants and outdoor spaces. We will want to learn more, to grow new plants and old favorites well, and to re-create our piece of the earth.

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I would like to see gardeners gathering different species of plants from the same genus. If you have a plant that you love, and it is doing well in your garden, why not add another plant related to it? You will have an opportunity to learn more about plants and see how they perform variations on a theme.

You could select from hundreds of genera. A gardener I know has a bed of plants built around a collection of different species of the genus Acanthus. The effect is visually and intellectually stimulating.

In Britain, gardeners who have a good collection of plants in a genus can have it declared a national collection. The program is administered by the National Council for the Preservation of Plants and Gardens, whose mission includes preserving and making available the amazing resource of garden plants that exists in the United Kingdom. We can do the same here without a national program.

A continuing trend is low-water-use gardens, which are becoming more important each year as our water bills go up. Using plants that do well in our dry summers with little additional water makes ecological sense and nudges in the direction of creating gardens that look at home in the Northwest.

Just as we acknowledge a Mediterranean style or an Asian style, we are developing a regional style here. We may not have a long enough garden history to have built a strong tradition, but choosing plants that thrive here will certainly move us toward a distinctive style.

Another trend is to grow azaleas and rhododendrons, both part of the genus Rhododendron. Over the years, breeders have produced an enormous number of hybrids, mostly created for large flower size and color.

Their real glory is their foliage and structure. Rhododendron species can vary in size from groundcover to trees and have leaves smaller than your fingernail up to several feet long. Flowers are fleeting; leaves are always with us, and in the case of rhododendrons, the leaves can be stunning. Visit the Rhododendron Species Foundation and Botanical Garden in Federal Way to see a good collection of species rhododendrons.

Another continuing trend is the use of native plants. They are always important when gardening on large suburban properties and are good additions to small gardens, too. Given time, if nothing is done to a piece of ground, the natives will return. The time frame for self-renewal may not be within the gardener’s lifetime, so encouragement and management is the key. Learning about and planting appropriate native plants will nurture wildlife and create a satisfying low-care plant community.

One design trend is to make a place in the garden, away from the house, for outdoor dining. Tables in the garden are inviting. But they demand certain things: a flat space provided by a paved terrace and privacy created by plants, a trellis, or a fence. A pavilion in the garden can add even more of a sense of shelter and provide shade on a hot summer day or protect from a rain shower.

Phil Wood has a degree in landscape architecture and designs and builds gardens. Call 206-464-8533 or e-mail thegardendesigner@seattletimes.com with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.