To get a glimpse of what landscaping customers were requesting in 2020, CNGA interviewed Monika Nevergold, the owner of Dandelion Design in Denver, and Jennifer Timms Hobson, a co-owner of Jericho Nursery in Albuquerque.
Did you notice any new trends with your landscaping customers in 2020?
Monika: One trend over the last several years has been a lot more kitchen gardens. People are integrating veggies into perennial borders and flowers into kitchen gardens so you have mixed plantings. I’ve been coaching people how to grow vegetables in their landscapes. Front yard food gardens are a big thing, when the backyards are too shady. I’ve redesigned a few front yards in Congress Park over the last couple of years so that part of the yard incorporates a kitchen garden, but we also plant flowering annuals to help with pollinators and curb appeal.
Jennifer: If there is anything good that came from the 2020 pandemic, it was the resurrection of the home gardener. People were forced to stay home and take a long hard look at their yards and realize that just buying some annuals for pots on the patio wasn’t going to cut it this year; they had tired landscapes that really needed updating. The demand for our landscape design services was daunting to say the least. People were interested in an entirely new landscape, not just a few replacements. They wanted COLOR, COLOR, COLOR, perennials, and flowering shrubs like roses, althea, and OMG, the crape myrtles! Showy xeric plants like variegated yucca, and the new color introductions of hesperaloe were in high demand. It seemed like people finally noticed that there were pretty plants they could add to their landscape.
Were customers drawn to gardening with certain plants this year?
Monika: This year my clients were most drawn to edible plants, succulents and some natives. A well-placed yucca or agave really lifts and brightens a space while a large container of blueberries adds spring flowers, summer fruit and fall color. By planting blueberries in a container, you can give them the acidic soil environment they prefer. Edible flowers are always fun so nasturtiums are a must! And who doesn’t love a sunflower? Some of my long-term clients prefer what they’ve always had, but I like to try to introduce new options each year anyway and sometimes we find a perfect match.
Jennifer: Customers took much more interest in growing their own food. Some used it as an educational opportunity with their children who were now home from school, and some took a more nostalgic approach, remembering what it was like to work in the garden with parents and grandparents. They wanted fruit trees to double as their shade provider. They wanted privacy screens that would provide a harvest like pomegranate or elderberry. They incorporated tomatoes and peppers into their perennial beds and patio containers.
What other products were customers adding to their landscapes?
Monika: The other thing that has come up more recently is taking care of our little insect friends. Several clients are asking for plants that attract butterflies and planting milkweed specifically because they’ve been reading about the disappearance of monarch butterflies. The homeowners have space so they want to use their gardens to help. Swallowtail butterflies love fennel, so fennel has become popular. People are getting interested in helping the insect population as a whole. One client became a beekeeper after I took over maintaining the property, so we transitioned to a pesticide-free, organic landscape. Everything there is driven by feeding the bees. We planted 5,000 crocuses in that meadow. It’s all about how to keep things blooming as long as we can. We plant pansies around the bee hives every fall and in front so they’ll have food for the winter.
Jennifer: People were sort of brave this season. With most of us doing curbside orders during the meat of our spring season, it was hard for customers to really get the normal attention and information they were used to and just winged it. We noticed a significant uptick toward soil amendment and preparation, as well as green-waste mulch use, which was a nice change for those of us who have been preaching to the choir about the negative effects of the moonscape look of yards of gravel.
What other trends did you notice in your landscaping business?
Monika: The availability of plants has been going down over the last several years, since we have lost so many nurseries on the Front Range. Availability was getting harder before COVID-19. With COVID-19, this year was extremely difficult. Part of it was that nurseries couldn’t get what they were used to getting because labor was at a standstill all over the country. By the beginning of June, the inventory at the nurseries that I frequent looked like August. I was shopping in a new way, getting plants sight unseen. That might work on a big scale with 50 shrubs in a commercial installation, but on my scale, when I need just three of this or five of that, it is really tough. I’m a professional fine gardener, trying to do interesting containers and gardens with diversity. Because I am not buying in quantities of hundreds, finding unique plants that I want has become more time-consuming. But I’m super grateful that nurseries and garden centers remained open, that our businesses were considered essential, and I was able to keep my crew employed. You have to truly love gardening to keep at it year after year. It’s definitely in my blood!
Jennifer: I think the biggest and best change we saw, at least in New Mexico, was the push to support local businesses. Each state seemed to have different variations of lockdowns and closures. In New Mexico, big box stores had minimal restrictions and many folks we spoke to thought small businesses really got the short end of the stick, so they pulled together to support those of us who are active within the community. We even had customers who would go to local restaurants, donut shops, and taco stands and bring us goodies during our curbside mandate, just to spread the love, so to speak. It was a wonderful thing to watch, and be a part of.