Pandemic brought a big change in horticulture and ‘horticulture’

Pandemic brought a big change in horticulture and 'horticulture'

“Gardening during a pandemic” may someday be the title of a book, an in-depth study of how COVID-19 affected home gardening. However, you won’t see me writing it.

At first, the impact seems huge – too big for me to research thoroughly, yet to settle for a book. Then the question arises that when and how will this daring virus be controlled. With Omicron settling in, the changes made to horticulture practices in 2020-21 are strict and expanding.

You would have to be completely unconcerned with everything in order not to know in advance the impact of COVID on houseplant collection. Internet media often can’t write about a new fact of life – Google “new houseplants” or “rare houseplants”. People went crazy and, if Amazon and other Internet sources are correct, are still going crazy over houseplants. There has been an explosion of interest not only in readily available – I say common – houseplants, but expanding into the rare and expensive ones. Surveys show that the trend is here to stay.

The next trend is to grow food indoors. More and more people, especially millennials, want to grow some food at home, so websites, blogs, and media have proliferated to help people pursue this goal. It’s not just interested in kitchen growing systems. People are growing all kinds of things indoors. In fact, I think a column is coming!

Another gardening trend that has become mainstream is the use of social media to reach and teach gardeners, especially newbies who are mostly millennials and who live a lot of their lives online. Newspaper columns and even blogs are morphing into YouTube channels and Reddit. Oh! I’m going to be aged by some TikTok-er!

In addition, video usage grew exponentially. I remember when we started including website references in the 90s. Didn’t want to go back. New phones make it easy to create videos, and there are many sites that host them.

Some 18 million new gardeners came on the scene, with more to come. As you might expect, they bring about change. Sounds weird, but things like Wi-Fi are starting to happen in your gardens. Could you have a router in your outdoor greenhouse this year?

Oh, I laughed when I saw my first outdoor living room a few years ago. It had a huge TV! “Yardening” now includes a landscaped area with a fire pit, with portable ones a COVID trend, a gas grill, and plenty of comfortable seating. What is surprising to me is that more and more people are installing giant screen TVs in these areas! (Watch this Weatherproof TV.) It’s happening in a Lower 48 suburb, but could it be in Alaska?

Shared gardening also became a thing during COVID, and people love it so much that it becomes a permanent thing, not just a trend. Neighbors and “pod members” divide the work and the harvest. A site that shows how to start a shared garden (as well as the new trend in using videos) is here.

I’m not sure we see it here in Alaska, but a lot of the emphasis on gardening has shifted from gardening in the backyard to looking at the front porch. It is where people spent an extraordinary amount of time during the pandemic, and in some places neighbors communicated this way. There are tons of “what to grow on the porch” articles like this. These are great, especially if you have southern porch exposure.

Ornamental grass, which was already a trend before COVID, became very desirable and has now established itself outside. They may have been part of the “riding the yard of lawn” movement, but what used to be portrayed as parking lot screening and low-care plants for hard-to-reach areas — 4-, 5- and 6-foot plants. Groups of birds, swaying in the wind – somehow got caught up in the home’s gardens and landscapes. The industry has noticed and is producing more. I hope to have as many stores in our local outlets as can be found in outdoor nurseries. You will find examples here.

And finally, organic gardening – capital letters used deliberately – solidifies its place as the only way to garden during the pandemic. Millennials may have learned some science in school and are skeptical of horticultural corporations that are truly pushing the non-organic. Proof of the trend is that more and more nursery outlets trade only organic products. Hint to the local nursery: Business has never been better.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next or what trend is going to become a permanent part of gardening. However, things are changing and a lot will change before the pandemic is over. Thanks to the Internet—now a sustainable gardening tool and not just a trend—we wouldn’t have to wonder what these are.

Jeff Garden Calendar

All my gardening: Thank you for the gift of being able to write this column every week. I couldn’t have done it without your support.

Seattle Flower & Garden Show: February 9-13 at the Washington State Convention Center.

Last-minute, greatest gardening gift: Membership at the Alaska Botanical Garden, This is a gift that every gardener and family needs and should have. Buy a subscription for yourself if no one else does.


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