Last year, millions of us headed outdoors to garden so we could get out of the house, de-stress, and focus on something uplifting (hello, green grass and blue skies!). In fact, nature does makes us feel better, and one of the silver linings of this very, very long year and a half has been a collective renewed love for nature and the outdoors. “Most people who were new to gardening last year are growing things again this year on an even larger scale,” says Kat Aul Cervoni, landscape designer and founder of Staghorn NYC and The Cultivation by Kat. “It’s because gardening brings joy. You can engage with a garden and get something back. You’re caring for the garden, but it also cares for you.” A garden also evolves over time, so you can indulge your own creativity and create a space that’s uniquely you.
Here are a few of the top garden trends for 2021:
1. Growing Your Own Food
Much like the Victory Gardens our great grandparents grew during World War II, many people started growing their own food last year. “This year, many people are going beyond a few pots of herbs or a single tomato plant on the deck and committing to entire vegetable gardens,” says Cervoni. Easy-to-grow veggies, such as peas and beans, are container-friendly if you’re tight on space, and tons of fast-sprouting veggies, such as lettuce and radishes, are kid-friendly, so the whole family can get gardening together.
Cervoni says many people also are branching out from growing “typical” edibles, such as tomatoes and peppers, to try fun plants, like watermelons and berry shrubs.
2. Making Garden Areas More Functional
After substantial time at home, most people have figured out what works and what doesn’t on their patios, decks and balconies. “One of the biggest requests I receive is to create shade, shade and more shade,” says Cervoni. “People want to make their spaces usable for classrooms or work-from-home offices.” Secondly, homeowners want spaces to be functional and fun. Fire pits are huge now, as are hot tubs. “I’ve had more requests than ever for saunas and hot tubs and even Scandinavian plunge baths. It makes sense because people want their backyards to feel more spa-like,” says Cervoni.
3. Shopping Online for Seeds and Plants
This year, many nurseries and growers are reporting that their consumer demand is up 200 percent. That means it’s sometimes challenging to find plants because, after all, they take time to mature— you can’t just “make more” overnight. “There’s definitely a shortage in some markets,” says Cervoni. But buying online has made it easier to track down what you want. Local nurseries are great (yay for small businesses!), but if you’re coming up short on a specific plant, online shopping is the way to go.
4. Cutting and Fragrant Flower Gardens
“People are learning there are multiple layers to a garden,” says Cervoni. “It’s not just about what you see, but also about the other senses. So, there’s interest in cutting and fragrant gardens.” In fact, scent often connects us to a happy memory, such as being a kid in Grandma’s rose garden; it’s natural we’d seek that kind of comfort during unsettling times.
For cutting gardens, Cervoni recommends old standards, such as irises and peonies. “They’re fleeting but beautiful,” says Cervoni. “And most of us are still spending plenty of time at home to enjoy them.” Lilacs are another favorite, and they’re available now in reblooming and dwarf varieties that grow well in pots.
5. Pollinator and Bird-friendly Gardens
Another trend is to create a pollinator or bird-friendly garden to attract butterflies, bees and birds. Planting annuals, perennials and trees that attract pollinators not only beautifies your garden, it supports the threatened pollinator habitat. Plant annuals such as cuphea, lantana, torenia and fuchsia; perennials such as agastache, salvia and columbine; and shrubs and trees such as serviceberry, weigela and flowering quince. Add a birdbath or fountain, too, to make your garden a pollinator oasis.
6. Cottage-style Gardens
There’s an emphasis on more “wild” gardens or gardens that evoke the countryside, rather than formal, manicured settings. Think wildflowers that spill over fences, a trellis with climbing roses, and borders with tall perennials to create a sort of ethereal, romantic feel. “One of the hottest flowers now is Queen Anne’s Lace, which has been considered a roadside weed for so long,” says Cervoni. Other cottage flowers to include for a more relaxed aesthetic include bishop’s flower, delphinium, verbena bonariensis and phlox. Herbs, such as dill and sage, also are amazing when left to flower. (Bonus: butterflies and hummingbirds love them, too.)
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