Top Garden Trends for 2012

Freshen up your landscape this year with the latest gardening trends.

  • view all thumbnails
Backyard garden
See the Latest in Gardening

    Want to know what's hot in gardening for 2012? Our editors predict an even bigger boom in home food gardens; smaller, cozier outdoor rooms; and container gardens using repurposed materials. Get more details here!

Small Plants with Big Impact

    Small-space gardening just became a lot easier with new introductions such as the Flutterby Petite series of dwarf butterfly bushes from Ball Horticultural Company. Hydrangeas, ninebarks, weigelas, and butterfly bushes are tried-and-true favorites now available in dwarf sizes to captivate even the smallest of yards.

    Photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural Company

Creative Veggie Gardens

    Edible landscapes have been popular for years, but we're seeing readers getting cleverer with their veggie gardens. Instead of growing cabbage in a straight line, try curves. Plant perennials right next to your basil and sage. And in lieu of wood, build your raised beds out of galvanized steel or rustic materials. Just as you would design your landscape to complement your personal style, design your vegetable garden to match.

Skinny Apples

    Growing your own fruit is just a hot as growing vegetables and herbs. Bring an apple orchard into your backyard without losing your entire yard by planting a columnar apple tree. Varieties in the Urban Columnar Apple series grow only 8-10 feet tall and less than 2 feet wide, making it easy to grow and harvest the same as if you had an acreage of apples. Plus, their height and texture make these trees a perfect focal point in the landscape.

    Photo courtesy of Greenleaf Nursery

Colorful Relics

    Heirloom vegetables, fruits, and flowers are making a comeback as gardeners strive for more organic plants in their gardens. The colorful seed varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds make you wonder why we ever strayed from the old-fashioned varieties of tomatoes, melons, and peppers.

    Photo courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Miniature Gardens

    Miniature landscapes allow you to express your style on a small scale. Creating a terrarium, tropical container, or fairy garden is fun and easy to display at the office, in your home, or on the patio.

The Sky's the Limit

    Take advantage of a barren rooftop to create an outdoor space filled with raised garden beds, vegetable containers, and comfortable seating areas ready to entertain friends and family.

Herbs Within an Arm's Reach

    What's more accessible than having fresh herbs growing in your kitchen, ready to season your latest meal. Thanks to vertical gardening systems, such as this one from BrightGreen, you can have vertical and highly decorative growing modules for plants -- such as basil and cilantro -- to flourish right where you need them the most.

    Photo courtesy of BrightGreen.

Fireplaces Are Out -- Fire Pits Are In

    Gathering close around a fire pit or firepot with friends and family has become more comfortable than the large, outdoor rooms anchored with a fireplace. They create a cozy environment and they cost a lot less than their larger counterparts.

Boost Your Oxygen Level

    Houseplants have long been an easy way to add a touch of the garden inside. With low-maintenance, new varieties such as air plants and Moss Rocks, anyone can claim a green thumb.

    Bonus: Indoor plants actually clean the toxins from the air inside your home. Look for the O2 for You series of plants, for example --- these plants are top-of-the-class for scrubbing pollutants out of your air.

Play Up Texture

    Make room in your landscape this year for texture -- whatever texture that might be! Incorporating annuals and perennials such as elephant ears, blue fescue, Japanese painted ferns, Rex begonia, and lamb's ear to your garden beds will instantly add pizzazz that outlasts any flowering plant.

Get Personal

    Extending your individual style from the interior to the exterior has become a top landscape priority. From traditional shrubbery and structural lines to vintage accents from repurposed materials, anything goes in the garden to create the same comfort you find in your living room.

Go Beyond Annuals

    Container gardens are the easiest way to add a punch of color and grow veggies where you don't have room. What's hot this year is adding ornamental trees or shrubs with attractive foliage and/or blooms to create a grandiose focal point in the garden. Trees such as Japanese maple, dwarf Korean lilac, on standard, shrub rose on standard, or even a weeping cherry tree work well planted among annuals and perennials within a large container.

Take Another Look

    Many old-fashioned plant varieties are getting a facelift! Favorites such as tea roses, hibiscus, lilacs, coneflowers, and Baptisia are now sitting center stage as their plant breeders are tweaking them to better appeal to today's landscape. Bella Anna hydrangea (pictured) was bred to be just as reliable as older 'Annabelle' -- but with additional features such as large, reblooming pink flowers.

    Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries.

Get Intimate

    Small outdoor spaces or separate rooms create a cozier environment for entertaining. No longer are people attracted to the extravagant design of a large patio or multilevel deck. Gathering close enough to hear a whisper is where people feel most relaxed.

Create a Wildlife Haven

    Attracting birds and butterflies is fun, but it's also a way for gardeners to get involved with helping the ecosystem and creating a more environmentally friendly garden. Birds and butterflies are essential for controlling insects as well as pollinating flowers. Easily create an intriguing habitat with berry plants, fragrant flowers, and birdseed during the winter months.

Be a Bee Lover

    Everyone benefits when a queen bee lives in your backyard. She will command her workers to pollinate all your flowers and supply enough honey to drizzle on your peanut butter sandwich or over your corn bread muffin for the entire season. Although a beekeeper's outfit seems misleading, beekeeping is fairly simple to maintain. Look to your local extension office for classes or visit your local library for helpful resources.

Containers Aged to Perfection

    From furniture to containers, colors are getting more muted. Containers with an aged look -- patinas, encrustations, crackled finishes -- are becoming the focal point in gardens. Use plants with contrasting colors and foliage to highlight the rustic exterior of your planter.

Fresh-Cut Bouquets Straight From the Garden

    Enjoy fresh flower bouquets whenever you feel the urge by cutting blooms right from your garden. You don't need a large plot to grow a cut-flower garden. Careful design with the most prolific bloomers can easily fill an 8x10-foot area -- and your vase for an entire season.

Colorful Canning

    With a large movement towards vegetable gardens, canning, drying, and pickling have naturally become the next step in self-sustainable living. Experimenting with salsa recipes, tomato pastes, and pickles is the new weekend hobby building confidence in gardeners -- young and old alike.

Eco-Friendly Gardens

    Creating a smaller carbon footprint is still top-of-mind for society as a whole, but it doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. We're seeing our readers take baby steps towards a greener lifestyle by selecting organic products, using waterwise plants in the landscape, cutting back on irrigation, composting, and collecting rain water.

Urban Farming

    Raising chickens is no longer for the rural farmer. Hobby farming within the boundaries of a residential lot is all the craze, making your morning omelet taste so much better with fresh eggs from the backyard. Most chicken coops take up less room than a toolshed, and although raising chickens may seem overwhelming, daily tasks are easy enough for teens to complete.

Succulent Obsession

    Succulents have been all the rage for a few years now, using them for tabletop containers, vertical gardens, or drought-tolerant containers. Take it a step further by incorporating creeping succulents into your garden. Plant them along and within stone steps, stone retaining walls, or carve out little pockets within a patio for succulents that can take heavy traffic. Wherever you plant them, know the maintenance is minimal and the return is high.

Horizontal Appeal

    Traditionally espalier was exclusive to fruit trees, but now a variety of trees are being trained to branch horizontally, offering new design possibilities, particularly in small spaces. Plant crabapples inches from an exterior wall to soften a space and add spring color. Position espaliered trees on the patio or deck to create a living privacy screen. Or go old-style and grow apple trees horizontally for easy access to the fruit.

Reuse and Abuse

    Repurposing materials in the garden is a great way to add budget-friendly accents to a cottage landscape. Think beyond a container's initial purpose and see what it can be used for. If a water fountain no longer retains water, fill it with soil for a cascading display of succulents, sedums, and other plants. Other materials to consider: galvanized containers, wheelbarrows, wire or metal containers, wicker baskets, and toolboxes.

Support Local

    Farmers' Markets are the new Saturday morning pastime. Knowing where your food is grown and talking directly to the farmer who harvested your vegetables is a comfort to those who don't have the space or the knowledge to grown their own food. Added bonus: Buying goods through your local farmers markets or co-ops helps to keep the community economically strong and reduces your carbon footprint.


Looking for an inspiring container garden? Take our short quiz and receive a customized planting strategy perfect for you. Start now!

Top Brands

Share Your Thoughts