Darrell Blackwelder: What’s new for landscapes

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 7, 2020

Nurserymen, landscapers, lawn care specialists and other allied landscape professionals converged in Greensboro last week for a time of horticultural education and displays of plant materials for 2020.

The Green & Growin’ Show is the ultimate for those in the landscape industry, providing the opportunity to share their wares and ideas. It also gives those in the business a chance to take a peek at what’s in vogue in the landscape industry, sort of like a fashion show of plant materials for 2020.

The exhibits featured everything from warm season turf to four-inch caliper balled and burlapped shade trees. There were also number of growers promoting seedlings and bare rooted trees and shrubs.

Landscape plants with unusual leaf shape, color, fruit, flowers and bark interest are always appealing. Contractors appreciate the use of tough plant materials — plants that can withstand droughts, poor growing conditions and pests.

Ornamental grasses are examples of tough plants that can withstand long periods of drought.  Reduced pesticide usage is a benefit both homeowners and maintenance contractors seek from newer disease- and insect-resistant plant materials.

Landscaping is not limited to areas around the yard and home. Ornate planters and containers of all shapes and sizes give sidewalks, decks and patios a splash of color, adding interest to often rather dull outdoor landscapes. Both annuals and perennials add a full season of color to both outside and inside the home. Large planters were featured with a vast array of both blooming and colorful foliage plants.

Both lawn maintenance contractors and homeowners are becoming more environmentally conscious, implementing grasscycling and composting as a method of returning organic material back to the soil, reducing fertilizer costs.

Electric and robotic mowers were very popular, not only for homeowners but also for commercial applications. One booth featured a giant robot mower capable of mowing golf courses.

Flowering perennials, shrubs and trees that attract wildlife are very popular items. Wildlife gardens and use of berry-laden plants give a hint that homeowners are yearning for more outdoor activities.

Flowers, bright colored annuals and perennials are always a popular exhibit at the show. One camellia shrub had a showy white bloom almost 8 inches in diameter.

Contractors continue to seek low maintenance materials but there are still homeowners who demand high maintenance areas. It may be a sign of environmental awareness, a fascination with backyard wildlife or a yearning to be outdoors, but the popularity of landscaping with the environment as a theme seems to be an increasing trend in landscaping for 2020.

Darrell Blackwelder deblackw@ncsu.edu is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.