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'Grow it yourself' is the new mantra for gardeners

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Another year, another excuse. Sure, you were going to tame that out-of-control passion vine and pluck every weed from the front lawn, but 12 months slipped by and it's almost the new year. It's the gardener's equivalent of the smoker who didn't kick the habit or the couch potato who stayed put, despite resolutions that seemed so doable when the year was young. • Instead of lofty plans like growing the most bananas on the block or calibrating an irrigation system to hydro-perfection, why not simply get back to the basics? The big trend in gardening these days is "grow it yourself," or GIY, a grass roots movement that promises to simplify your life and benefit the environment, trend analysts say. • "It's a resurgence of gardening for the greater good — for the Earth and our wallets," says Susan McCoy, president of the Garden Media Group, a Pennsylvania firm that conducts market research on consumer gardening trends. "The urgent commitment to environmental sustainability and the basic desire to make our homes our havens is reflected in all gardening trends for next year," she predicts. • Put these trends to the test in your home landscape next year, and you might be greener and leaner in 2009:

>> Be an eco-booster. Conspicuous consumption is out and eco-friendly living is in. In the yard, that means providing plants and shelter for wildlife, saying "no" to harmful chemicals and creating a habitat that is naturally sustainable.

>> Grow your own food. You can easily grow vegetables in Florida from September through May and herbs through most of the year. Or plant a fruit or nut tree in a sunny spot.

>> Blend your garden beds. Mix herbs in with ornamentals and place potted veggies in sunny garden beds. Rosemary and mint are hardy growers, even during summer heat that scorches most herbs. Or keep them in pots and move them to provide more sun in winter and less in summer.

>> Plant natives that thrive in our climate. There's a new word for them — "nativar" — and it's any cultivar or hybrid of a native species. Mix them into your garden beds to transform your landscape into a natural sanctuary for native wildlife.

>> Use less water. Choose plants that "drink responsibly," including natives, drought-tolerant plants, succulents, cactus and many ferns. The general rule of thumb for watering is about 1 inch per week during the growing season and less in cooler months. Established native landscapes typically don't require any supplemental water at all.

>> Use indoor/outdoor plants. Marketers call them "green heroes" — ferns, spider plants, peace lilies and pothos plants that are easily potted, mobile and known for their air-purifying powers. They can go from patio to indoors (just make sure they're critter-free before bringing them inside). When tropical plants such as bromeliads or orchids bloom, bring them indoors to beautify your home.

>> Simplify containers. Forget loading containers with multiple plants. Use just one plant in an eco-friendly container made from terra cotta or cast stone.

>> Use bold colors. Forecasters predict a funky mix in 2009, including hot pink, acid green, plum, yellow and red. Look for super-bright flowering plants and containers in the garden center. Or spice up bland-looking containers with spray paint.

>> Think globally. Create an "escapist retreat" outdoors by placing objects from your travels on the patio or in the garden. Look for Asian, African, Indian and Middle Eastern influences in garden accessories. American folk art also is popular.

>> Start "bubbling." It's the new catch-all for staying home, whether you're indoors or out. Your "bubble" can include the patio, deck or outdoor "rooms.'' Make them comfortable and inviting for year-round entertaining. Marketing gurus (who love catchy names for what many of us have already been doing) say that for those who can't swing an expensive vacation, bubbling can feel like an anytime "staycation." Enjoy.

Yvonne Swanson is a Pinellas County master gardener and freelance writer. She can be reached at yvonnesgarden@gmail.com.

'Grow it yourself' is the new mantra for gardeners 12/26/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 2:24pm]

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