We see vloggers and influencers talk about trends in clothing, home décor, and makeup, but did you know that landscaping has trends as well? The plant ID classes our team took in college may look as different now as a textile class in the 70’s would to us in 2023. New plants are introduced at a staggering rate, and they take the place of plants that may be considered out of style for us now. Not only are the trends in what we like to look at change in the plant world, but new diseases and pests make us change the things we incorporate and use.
In 1996 the Summer Olympics came to Atlanta, Georgia. Georgia planted purple loropetalum and gold mop juniper at nearly every on and off ramp going into the city. People liked the bright combo of gold and purple and all through the Triangle you could see evidence of that as landscapes were updated with those shrubs after the games were long gone. The same thing happened at the introduction of the bright red Knock Out Rose in 2000. They quickly became the most widely sold rose in North America thanks to their long bloom time. Nearly every yard had at least one. That over planting eventually lead to the virus Rose Rosette proliferating and causing the Knockout Rose to not be used in 2023 by landscape designers as a practice.
The types of plants we use are not the only things that change, but our lifestyles change and that calls for a different backyard experience for families. We have a different lifestyle than our parents did, and that can be seen when we look at homes and the experience you want to have in it. We saw an incredible increase in the addition of pools during Covid, as an example. People were wanting something that they could enjoy at home with their family rather than spending that income on vacations that may be thwarted.
As cities grow and municipalities look for ways to deal with rainwater and run off from impervious surfaces, we started to see the addition of rain gardens and bio retention ponds in medians and parks in cities. These systems use a range of grasses, small shrubs, and perennials to help dissipate and use that rainwater runoff. Just like the 1996 Olympics, people took note and began adding areas of grasses and perennials in their landscape that mimics the look of those integral systems.
The promotion of using native species and plants pollinators need is another amazing trend we are seeing, and designers are considering that when planning a landscape much more often. Many shrubs we have used in the past may not have been the best choice since these considerations were not at the forefront of the design as they are now. People allowing there to be areas of native bloomers in their landscape versus a more formal garden has allowed the introduction of Cone Flowers, Black Eyed Susans, and Golden Rods that have a much more erratic and open growth habit than boxwoods, for instance. We are seeing tastes trend away from rows of hedged shrubs at home.
For landscape professionals, watching trends and keeping up with new plants is part of the job. We go to trade shows, seminars, subscribe to newsletters, follow growers on social media, and tour nurseries to stay up to date on what is going on. We look forward to seeing what is next, and perhaps lend a hand to setting the trends of the future as well that are good environmental choices for the Triangle and beyond.