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Top 2011 gardening trends: gardening with a purpose takes root

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P
ut on your garden gloves and join in the fun because "gardening with a purpose" is taking root.

The purpose may be to grow your own food or create urban sanctuaries, but planting for a greener good is changing neighborhoods and communities - one garden at a time.

According to the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, homeowners are growing more of their own food - more herbs, vegetables and fruit trees - both in dedicated vegetable gardens and mixed in the garden among flowers and shrubs.

But it's not just food production that's driving today's gardener. As backyard conservationists, gardeners are transforming yards, gardens, rooftops and even urban alleys into green and productive spaces.

Here's a glimpse of what Susan McCoy, garden trend spotter, sees for 2011.

* Gardening with a purpose
Nine out of 10 households want to manage their lawns and gardens in an environmentally friendly way, according to the National Gardening Association.

"Gardens continue to reflect awareness of how our landscapes enhance and improve the environment around us," Patricia St. John, president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, says of this trend.


Since healthy plants start with healthy soil, people are looking for sustainable and organic soils like OMRI-listed, compost-based, premium-blend potting soil from Organic Mechanics Soil Company. This all-purpose premier blend is good for all your plants and good for the earth.

* Eco-scaping
The move to de-lawn large tracks of turf and transform lawns into sustainable landscapes is achievable with the right plants that use less water and pesticides.

Beautiful native plants like Solidago "Solar Cascade,"

exclusively available from North Creek Nurseries, part of The American Beauties Native Plant collection, are low-maintenance plants that attract wildlife and beneficial pollinators like butterflies, bees and birds. Proceeds benefit the National Wildlife Federation's Certified Wildlife Habitat Program.

* Sustainable containers
For small space gardens, growing food in containers makes sense. Blended containers with herbs and veggies provide a one-two combo for freshness and convenience. And, containers blooming with natives, re-bloomers and ornamental grasses beautify spaces and benefit the environment.

* Succulents
Dry gardening using less water is bubbling across the nation. Attractive and low-maintenance succulents have showy flowers and thick, fleshy foliage that stores water like a camel's hump.

Drought-tolerant and able to thrive in a variety of conditions, succulents look great in small gardens and large landscapes. Get ideas from Costa Farms on varieties that you can mix with perennials, containers and standalone or in roof gardens.

* Indoor gardening
From "steampunk" Victorian hipster decor rocking among young urbanites to upscale suburban homes, decorating with houseplants like orchids, ferns and palms is hot.

Chic and easy to grow, orchids add a lavish touch to any room. Plus these hard-working beauties clean indoor air of volatile organic compounds and provide oxygen.

Phalaenopsis (moth) orchids as well as other varieties are perfect choices for affordable, colorful plants that look as comfortable in 21st century homes as they did in Victorian days. To learn more about the health benefits of indoor houseplants, check out www.O2forYou.org.


* Growing up with vertical gardening
"Vertical gardens are becoming increasingly popular and will grow far beyond anything we can envision," says Joe Zazzera, with Plant Solutions, Inc. and Green Plants for Green Buildings (GPGB.org). "Businesses are seeing the productivity, environmental quality and return on investment that indoor plantings and vertical living walls are bringing to their projects."

From containers with climbing vines, flowers and veggies to vertical walls blooming with edibles, plants are growing up.

* Urban farming and CSAs
In step with the move to reinvigorate communities, urban farming and Community Supported Agriculture farms (CSAs) are springing up nationwide. Urban farming "micro-farms" are converting small spaces in blighted areas into thriving farms that grow fresh produce for inner city communities.

CSAs offer fresh produce and provide the chance to learn about varieties, maintaining plants and sharing experiences.

* New Urbanism
Sustainable urban communities that offer spots to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle are on the rise.

Planting water-wise plants, collecting rainwater, building walkable streets, and fostering diversity of shops, homes and apartments with less turf and more plants encourages better stewardship of the earth, and reconnects everyone as fellow stewards of resources and communities.

"We had trouble wrapping our heads around saving the rain forests," says McCoy, "But we clearly can wrap our arms around saving our own backyards. Digging and planting gardens brings awareness that we're all earth's caretakers."


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GardenMedia Group
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