Those of you who know me outside of these columns know that I spend quite a bit of time traveling around the country to lecture on "Teaming With Microbes." I speak at trade, flower and garden shows, botanical gardens and other venues involving the gardening and green industries. It is a great way to assess trends, completely different from assessing trends at "home" garden and flower shows.
So what is coming down the pike? Organics are. It is fascinating, but not the least bit surprising, to see "going organic" as the biggest trend of the year. Attendance at my lectures and the subsequent sale of books to growers are proof enough of that to me.
What adds to this is the increasing number of books on organic gardening for professional growers as well as the appearance of companies with new products clearly aimed at organic gardeners, be they homeowners or golf course superintendents. The professional green industry is moving to organics, and that will trickle down to you in the form of everything from Christmas trees to chrysanthemums.
The next-biggest trend is programs selling specialty flowering plants, which are nationally promoted under a brand name in magazines and other media.
The most noticeable of these is the Proven Winners program, which has been around for several years. There are four or five big growers who distribute to thousands of nurseries, such as ours in Anchorage, a few dozen hybrid plants developed especially for the home grower. Local nurseries get plants as plugs and grow them until they are sold. Each plant is given a special label with instructions, the trademarked program name and a great picture of the plant. Most are sold when they are in bloom.
Great efforts have been taken to make these plants new and very different from the plain starts many nurseries grow. In addition to vastly improving on old standards, new, often never-before-heard-of plants are being introduced.
Since I am on the subject of Proven Winners, check out www.pwcertified.com/grower/ce_main.cfm?pwgrower (or just Google "Proven Winners") and you will find pictures of this year's offerings. This will help you get early start in planning. As your reward for sticking with me thus far, you will also find a plethora of cultural information for the growers that you can and should use. Remember, print out what you need, or copy or paste. You are on a computer; use it properly.
As branding programs grow, and there are several -- one for tea roses, brand-label trees, special shrubs -- they all use the Internet to provide instructions for the home grower as well as the nursery grower. Obviously, this highlights the trend of the using the Internet as a gardening tool.
Continuing with trends: You will soon see the same kinds of national programs for houseplants as well as vegetables. So far this has been a great trend -- it has transformed our hanging baskets, for sure.
Finally, one trend I hope we won't experience is the upcoming dearth of nursery product in the Southeast. It's dry. Mighty dry. Many of the box stores in Georgia will not open their nurseries this spring because of the extreme water shortage. Many growers are cutting back by 50 percent the number of plants they are growing. And not just growers in Georgia, but in Oregon and Minnesota as well.
So Alaskans who feel sorry for themselves because they can't garden outdoors until May should cheer up. Many U.S. gardeners won't be planting anything this year. So far in my wanderings, I guess, this is the biggest trend of them all.
Aren't we lucky that Alaskans set trends but don't necessarily follow them?
Jeff Lowenfels is a member of the Garden Writers Hall of Fame and co-author of "Teaming With Microbes." Reach him at www.gardenerjeff.com or by joining the "Garden Party" radio show, 10 a.m.-noon Saturdays on KBYR 700 AM.
Amaryllises: Let them continue to grow after they bloom. Cut the flowering stalk off when it is done flowering. If a leaf turns brown, cut it off. Buy new ones now available for Valentine's Day.
Brighten up: Water houseplants and clean up debris. The light is coming back.