Saturday, February 5, 2011

Political Agendas in the Garden

Used to be gardeners put a plant in the ground and hoped snails didn’t eat it. Today’s gardeners, however, are on a mission—hitting the ground with a variety of social/political agendas. Their purpose may be to grow their own food, create urban ‘green’ sanctuaries, offset carbon footprints or save declining native species and wildlife. Planting for a greener good is changing neighborhoods and communities—one garden at a time. It's a grassroots movement, and, as we used to say in the 60s: Power to the People! (right on).

Detroit street scene
These days big city mayors like New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg are promoting gardening programs in schools, connecting students with nature, growing food, and ‘greening’ the urban landscape. In blighted cities, like Detroit, where Hantz Farms is trying to rejuvenate the city by returning to its agrarian roots, the nation’s largest urban farm is in operation.


Conception of an urban farm
 Since last year, according to the latest Garden Trends Research Report from the Garden Writers Association, half of those surveyed said they have gardens in their backyard, while more than one-quarter have gardens in their front yard. With vegetable gardening up almost 20 percent and community gardens up a whopping 60 percent over last year, they say there's a growing appetite for producing food for the table. But, gardening with natives also is gaining ground, says Susan McCoy, president of the Garden Media Group. As backyard conservationists, gardeners are transforming yards, gardens, rooftops, even urban alleys, into green and productive spaces.

Here’s a look at top emerging garden trends that McCoy and her team are seeing for 2011:

1. Gardening with a Purpose
2. Eco-scaping
3. Edible Ornamentals
4. Sustainable Containers
5. Succulents
6. Indoor Gardening
7. Growing Vertical
8. Urban Farming
9. New Urbanism

What’s driving this new back to the urban landscape movement? The economy, Boomers retiring and having more time to garden, horrific natural disasters like the gulf oil disaster, concerns about global warming and the greater focus on a healthy environment, not to mention healthy humans. Patricia St. John, president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers noted that “gardens continue to reflect awareness of how our landscapes enhance and improve the environment around us.”

But, I'm still trying to wrap my head around terms like Eco-Scaping, “sustainability” and “biodiversity” as they relate to my own garden and figure how they relate to what I'm doing with my dirt. The experts say the move to de-lawn large tracks of turf and transform lawns into sustainable landscapes is achievable with the right plants for the right spot that use less water and pesticides. I'm not ready to give up my lawn yet, don't know about you. Hey, I live at the confluence of California's two largest rivers. There's plenty of water flowing past my front door, don't you think I can use a little of it for my paltry patch of green?

The experts say, however, that grass (not that kind of grass! it's not the 60s) don't have to be green. There's plenty of variety these days. Some types are wildly popular because they’re easy to maintain and attractive in all landscapes. Look for the brand new white Japanese Forest Grass - Hakonechloa macra FUBUKI™ ‘Briform’ from Briggs Plant Propagators. It lights up the shade and glows in autumn with streaked pink and melon tones.

Beautiful native plants from The American Beauties™ Native Plant collection are low-maintenance and attract wildlife and beneficial pollinators like butterflies, bees and birds. Natives like Solidago shortii ‘Solar Cascade,’ exclusively offered from North Creek Nurseries, are part of the American Beauties Native Plants Family. Proceeds from the collection benefits the National Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Habitat Program.

For a complete look at predictions for 2011 Garden Trends, visit: gardenmediagroup.com

The 1968 Olympics Black Power salute
one of the most overtly political statements
in the history of the modern Olympics.
Right on!