Garden and Fashion: The recurring themes . . .

Just as with fashion across all areas of our lives (clothing, furniture, hairstyles and social trends), it seems that we constantly see what’s old being touted as new again.  As it turns out, this is no different when it comes to gardening.

Just like trends for fashion and the like, we see cyclical changes in style that is supposed to be the “latest and greatest answers” to improving either our lifestyle, our surrounding environment. Some trends are even touted as helping us to deal with dealing with a specific issue, as with flared jeans (but I am not sure what problem they were supposed to solve!).

fashion trends

Flared pants are a great example of “what’s old is new again”!

In fact, the fashion world is more connected to gardening than we’d imagine.  Each year a “Color of the Year” is selected by a select group within the fashion world and the color chosen then becomes one that’s touted and used in a variety of situations – from clothing and home decór  to garden design.

Pantone Color of the Year 2015

Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’ is a great example of that fashion world’s Pantone Color of the Year, “Marsala”. Not only is the color gorgeous but it’s water requirements are low to moderate.

watering-can_I have been reading with great interest about the current concerns over the drought conditions impacting the Southern California region, and the subsequent reactions of government leaders who are primarily targeting gardeners with mandates on how to save and/or improve the efficiencies of water use. Targeting water use by gardeners – who we know from our own experience are probably the most conscientious when it comes to the use and re-use of valuable resources like water – seems like a bit of an easy “solution” on politician’s part.

Governing bodies who are looking at ways to improve water efficiencies need to be reminded that there are many other industries out there that could do with improving their water use, including transportation industry, manufacturing, car dealers, etc.

water use issues

Commercial vehicle washes can be a tremendous waste of water if not designed correctly.

Coming from Australia (a land which seems to survive well enough even through cyclical droughts – the most recent lasting more than 11 years), we know that water is a precious resource. However, we also know that limited availability doesn’t mean that we cannot garden.  It also doesn’t mean that we need to restrict ourselves to the fashion trends of mid-1970’s (native gardens) or the 1980’s trend of xeriscaping, as is currently occurring. What is old is becoming new again….

drought gardens

Euphorbia and purple salvia in a xeriscaped garden; designed by Lynda Pozel. Photo courtesy Genevieve Schmidt

Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the term Xeriscaping, it is method of landscaping or gardening that reduces (but it doesn’t eliminate) the need for supplemental watering. And for the most part, in my opinion, it looks great for a short period of time, but then begins to look ordinary from an aesthetic point of view after a couple of years, with plants looking straggly and unattractive.  In my opinion, this is why most people end up pulling out many of their xeriscape plants and redoing the garden in a more traditional style.

drought garden

This xeriscaped area looks worn and a bit sad.

None of the tips for maintaining your garden during times of limited rainfall are new and they can be found in almanacs going back many years.

Most important:  choose plants that are right for your conditions and don’t base assumptions on what is or isn’t low water use just on guesses.  Instead, look around your area to see what is working for others, especially in areas where there appears to be little garden maintenance carried out.

For instance, just because a plant flowers doesn’t make it high water use (for example, roses are among some of the most efficient users of water).  Likewise, just because a plant is predominantly foliage like a Phormium, this doesn’t make it water efficient. Phormiums, in fact, require a lot of water to look their best.

drought tolerant plants

Flower Carpet Pink thrives in median strip gardens throughout this suburb in Illinois

Where possible, ensure that you use tried-and-proven gardening techniques such as watering in the early morning or late evening to minimise evaporation, or use recaptured water from your sinks or showers.

I understand that having a bucket in the shower whilst washing can be a bit of an inconvenience but you will be surprised by how much this captures on a daily basis – good water that can then be used on the garden.

There are of course a multitude of other tips to ensure you can garden in drought conditions, such as using mulch, drip irrigation, planting similar plants in clusters etc., but none of this information is new and it is readily available on the web for your reference.

drought gardening

A simple drip irrigation system and a heavy layer of mulch help to keep Flower Carpet roses blooming, even in the worst of conditions.

What we do need to consider is that all of this is cyclical (like the clothes that are at the back of the closet). Today’s trends (including hipster beards) have been here before and will no doubt reappear again in the future.

fashion in gardening

Yep – what’s old IS new again – although with a slightly different look!

Until next time, Garden on Good people – and don’t succumb to trends when we know our practical knowledge and garden decision-making is sound.


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