JoAnne Skelly: Gardening trends

The topic of gardening can, at times, appear unchanging. Plant needs are consistent and basic: water, support, nutrients, sunlight and carbon dioxide. Seeds are generally planted in the same way. Maintenance doesn’t change much. How many ways are there to harvest a tomato, an apple or other delectable edible?

However, since gardening is one of our most popular hobbies, it is big business. Therefore, products, tools, hardscape, plant varieties, and even design ideas are changed and supposedly improved regularly, to get people to buy the latest and greatest. I searched the Internet for what’s new in gardening this year. Sunset Magazine ( listed a few grand scheme of things trends such as urban parklets, succulent mania, urban homesteading and upcycling public spaces.

Urban parklets are a bit like what Carson City did downtown with planted areas, potted plants and benches, with the idea to not only beautify the space, but also to make it more inviting and participatory.

Another trend is the interest in succulents these days. Containerized succulent gardens are available in almost any store. And, why not? Succulents are hardy, drought-tolerant and easy to care for, whether you grow them inside or out. Urban homesteaders are people who turn their yards into edible gardens where they might also raise chickens, bees and other critters to provide food. Upcycled public spaces are former parking lots, bus yards and other industrial or reclaimed spaces converted to landscaped areas for public use and interest.

I also explored’s 2017 trends. Garden consumers are choosing more natural looking landscapes using natural materials to create less contrived spaces and vistas. I liked their idea of hyperlocalism, which refers to buying locally, including locally sourced plants, particularly native plants, and materials. I didn’t find their trend of reimaging lawns new. This has been a concept of low water-use design since the ‘70s with the idea being the incorporation of alternatives to thirsty or high maintenance turf-grass in a landscape. Creating natural dye gardens is a novel concept. Mixing old and new styles — traditional with contemporary has always seemed enticing to me. And why not develop active play spaces for all ages into your yard?

For aging baby boomers, who make up a large percentage of gardeners nationwide, dwarf shrubs are becoming a user-friendly option because they are easier to care for and still allow a diverse plant palette for smaller spaces.

Finally, we are told to bring nature inside. Houseplant gardening is back, just like in my hippie days.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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