What will be green and growing in your yard?

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 9, 2018

With the uncertainty of our winter weather, many people are staying indoors and pondering the spring.

Interest in what’s new in flowers and shrubs seems to increase as the warm weather arrives. Perusing seed catalogs and attending home improvement shows for new ideas is one method to spark interest in outdoor plantings.

Commercial and urban horticultural trade shows provided some insight on what’s available for the upcoming planting season. The Green ‘n’ Grown Show is an annual trade show for landscapers and nurserymen providing the commercial horticulture industry a peek at current trends and plant availability for the spring of 2018.

The show features everything from cool season turf to exotic spring blooming shrubs. North Carolina nurserymen also travel sometimes internationally in their quest to introduce plants of interest for the consumer.

Ground covers continue to be one of the key plants of interest with newly introduced cultivars that dovetail in today’s demand for low-maintenance landscaping schemes. Plant materials with unusual leaf shape, color, fruit, flowers and bark interest are always in big demand by consumers.

Homeowners also appreciate the use of tough plant materials that can withstand droughts, poor growing conditions, insect pests and especially cold weather. Reduced irrigation and pesticide usage are benefits both homeowners and maintenance contractors seek with introductions of new plant materials.

Landscaping is not limited to areas around the yard and home. Raised planters and containers of all shapes and sizes give sidewalks, entranceways, decks and patios a splash of enhancing color to often drab landscapes. Window boxes and containers planted with dual plantings of annuals and perennials provide continuous color to both outside and inside the home throughout the growing seasons.

Flowering perennials, shrubs and trees that attract wildlife continue to be very popular attributes.  Gardens featuring berry-laden plants give a hint of late fall and winter color that homeowners long for in the dull winter months.

Many homeowners crave low maintenance materials, but there are still those who enjoy working with high maintenance areas of the landscape.  It may be a sign of environmental awareness, a fascination with backyard wildlife or a yearning to be outdoors, but the popularity of outdoor gardening seems to be increasing.

One important note: The recent frigid weather may have damaged many of the local nursery crops with the excessively cold temperatures in January. Therefore, nursery stock may be in short supply and may be at an increased cost.

The nursery industry is also greatly affected by supply and demand of the building industry. With the continued surge of new homes, trees and shrubs may be in short supply.

Now is the time to rethink traditional plantings of azaleas and boxwoods and consider newer tree and shrub introductions that give the landscape a fresh makeover. It’s surprising how much the nursery and landscape industry changes within a year — almost as much as women’s fashion.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired Rowan County extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.