February 9, 2018

BC Home + Garden Show: How does your garden grow?

As our lifestyles become more urban, connections between people and plants become more important

By Brian Minter

Like most things in this world, over time the essence of a garden has changed dramatically. Today’s garden is a distinctly new one born of the changing way we live, and it’s one I’ll be exploring at the BC Home + Garden Show (February 21 to 25).
For earlier generations, the garden was a food source, not only for fresh produce, but also for canning and preserving food to last through the winter months. By the late ’60s and ’70s, gardening was the world’s number one leisure activity and we saw an explosion of new varieties of flowering shrubs and trees, exotic fruit varieties, longer-blooming perennials and improved annual colour plants. Containers and baskets became the new big thing.
The early 2000s ushered in an era of higher-density living, and gardens became somewhat irrelevant: the retiring Boomers who had downsized had other priorities, while the X and Y generations were living in smaller places, especially in urban areas. In North America especially there was a marked decline in plant producers and nurseries and in garden plant retail sales.
A few years ago, I helped host the International Garden Centre Association’s Congress in Vancouver, and at that time, garden centre owners from around the world were noticing that something significant was beginning to happen. Vegetable seed sales had begun to spike, quickly followed by a growing demand for vegetable plants, which the younger generation wanted to grow organically. It was also evident that over half of these vegetables were being grown in containers. To support this renewed interest in growing produce, breeding programs quickly developed new non-GMO vegetable plants that could be grown successfully in containers.
Vegetable gardening evolved into food gardening and expanded dramatically into fruits, herbs and more exotic vegetables. Many of the younger generation were “foodies” and had a passion for international cuisines, especially for Asian foods.
As our planet becomes more challenged, especially with changing weather patterns, more pollution and an ever-greater loss of habitat for wildlife and plants, a shift has begun to take place. Living more closely together, without green space close by, people have quickly developed a renewed desire to discover the nature of what a garden should be.
Smaller spaces have changed the dynamics of gardening. Sensory gardening has become more important. Fragrant and tactile plants and the soothing sound of water are all essential in today’s gardens. Plants that bloom longer or repeat bloom and the art of combinations suddenly became very important as a value-add to containers and baskets.
Many people are becoming more aware of the necessity of pollinators and more concerned about their well-being. Even small-space gardeners are choosing plants that bloom in sequence and ones that provide a great source of pollen and nectar from late winter until fall. Container plantings are beginning to reflect the importance of providing beauty for us and food for pollinators and birds. Containerized trees on our patios should also be part of a bird and pollinator habitat. A water source would also be a wonderful complement to this area.
Today, we are learning more about the important connection between plants and people. We know this connection gives us a greater sense of happiness, and we are beginning to understand how the right plants in the right location can make a huge difference in the quality of our lives. Indoor plants not only produce oxygen, but certain varieties also clean toxins out of the air, creating a far better environment inside our homes.
These are just a few thoughts about today’s gardens and how the nature of our gardens has changed and continues to evolve. Join me at the BC Home + Garden Show to learn more about the importance of the new trends in gardening.

For tickets and information, visit bchomeandgardenshow.com

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