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Tracking the trends for 2012

AS we settle into the new year, the horticulture industry looks to the future to identify new trends that will shape the habits of gardening consumers. This is not an easy task, since most predictions rarely materialize in the manner predicted.

AS we settle into the new year, the horticulture industry looks to the future to identify new trends that will shape the habits of gardening consumers.

This is not an easy task, since most predictions rarely materialize in the manner predicted.

But try we must, so here are a few researched trends for your consideration.

Trendwatching.com has compiled several trends they believe will shape consumer habits, including a trend called "Eco-Cycology," which means companies will help consumers recycle by taking back old items from customers and actually doing something constructive with them with the goal of achieving a more sustainable lifestyle for consumers and society.

This trend will play out locally in the form of increased plastic pot recycling, which is now legislatively mandated by the provincial government.

As well, the recycling of green waste is becoming a larger part of life in Metro Vancouver and expected to increase in intensity as the Metro board pushes for higher recycling targets which will include increased backyard composting or curbside collection of food waste from individual homes and multifamily dwellings.

The Garden Writers Association is an organization of more than 1,800 professional communicators in the lawn and garden industry located primarily in the U.S. but also including members from Canada and other nations. The association released the 2011 Late Summer Gardening Trends Research Report produced from data collected in September by Technometrica Market Intelligence. The survey statistically represents attitudes of 100 million households with an accuracy of about 95 per cent.

The association asked consumers who have a lawn or garden to rate their interest level in organic gardening, earth-friendly gardening, native plants, web-based gardening information, food gardening, and garden blogs. Their survey found that 59 per cent of the participants had food gardens, 41 per cent chose native plants for their gardens, 49 per cent believe in earthfriendly gardening, 40 per cent prefer organic gardening, 25 per cent obtained gardening information from the Internet and eight per cent got information from garden blogs. The survey results show that gardening consumers are increasingly looking for sustainable and environmentally friendly gardening products and services.

The Garden Media Group released its 2012 Garden Trends Report, a few highlights of which include:

- "Urban Knights":

Generation X and Y are taking on the cause of protecting and defending the earth by acting as urban knights who reuse and recycle old materials to build new gardens, plant and grow

gardens on any piece of vacant land and grow food at home, raise chickens, harvest rainwater, use compost bins and tap solar energy where possible all in an effort to grow a kinder, more gentle world.

- "Eco-scaping" is a philosophy that realizes the value of nature inside and outside of the home to create a sanctuary using natural materials and low maintenance plants while offering beauty and sustainability.

- "Water-watchers" is what we will all become. As population increases, clean fresh water will become scarcer worldwide. Even here in our water-rich province, water restrictions will not go away and will continue to increase severity and frequency, especially in B.C.'s Interior and the Lower Mainland during summer drought.

At a recent meeting for the 2012 Seattle Flower and Garden Show, much of the conversation centred on how to engage generation X (born 1966-'76) and generation Y (born 1977-'94) into the gardening mainstream. While this may be a forward-thinking idea, it is doubtful that it will yield much profit in the short-term for the gardening industry, because people in those age groups can barely afford a condo or townhouse let alone own a house in the Metro region. So it's still the baby boomers (born 1946-'54) and the late boomers (born 1955-'65) who actually own homes with gardens and who have the financial means to pay for garden-related products and services. Gen X and Y may buy some herbs or flower pots for the deck but don't expect them to buy much more until they can afford a home that has space for gardening and outdoor living.

There are forecasters who predict "this colour" or "that type of material" will be trending. Frankly, it's nothing but a shot in the dark because no one really knows what colour or material you or I will like.

Of all the trends forecasted, the easiest to predict will be the growing practice of "food gardening at home" as consumers continue to have concern with food health and safety, and the sustainability of modern food production.

Regardless of trends, gardening consumers are always looking for one thing: value for money. And with turmoil all over the world and the economy loping along, it seems obvious to me that "product or service value versus necessity" will be the prime consideration for all gardening expenditures this year.

Todd Major is a journeyman horticulturist, garden designer, writer, consultant and organic advocate. For advice contact him at stmajor@shaw.ca.