Gardening forecast: Hello, tech-nature!

Stainless steel garden sculpture

Merging nature with technology is a growing trend for 2016. Shot at the Toronto Botanical Gardens, April 2014.

As trend predicting goes, you’d think proclamations about gardeners and gardening would be a snooze fest. I mean, what’s there to say? Pink roses are in, yellow daffs are out? Now’s the time to rock that shorter handled spade you’ve had your eye on?

Surprisingly, the Garden Media Group‘s annual trends report has consistently dished up some thought-provoking stuff in the past. Last year’s predictions were pretty well spot on and inspiring. But with technology redefining the role of the gardener and our children’s growing disconnect with nature, their forecast for 2016 was, in some ways, downright chilling. Here are some highlights:


There’s no doubt that people love nature but communing with the greater outdoors through gardening? Not so much. Gardening work is quite often seen as no more than that–work. No worries. Technology is racing in to save the day. There are gadgets that solve plant problems, answer gardening questions, and, importantly, do the work. Connectivity is all. And control of plant maintenance, indoors and out, can be maintained remotely. Take the Smart Garden Hub, an irrigation control mechanism from GreenIQ, self-proclaimed leader of the “smart garden revolution”. You can save water with this baby and never have to look out the window to see if it’s going to rain ever again.

The Garden Media Group only mentioned the Nest app (connecting thermostat, smoke alarms and variously positioned cameras to give you full surveillance and control of your home wherever you are) as an example of enhanced digital tools that make gardening “more approachable for younger generations with limited gardening knowledge”. But tell me what you think of this next product I found on a quick Google of things that help gardeners. The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up over this one. I can’t believe…. Well, I just can’t believe it.

Am I wrong to think a gadget is needed to tell me when to water a plant? Can people not stick their fingers in the earth any more? I get that it’s handy to be reminded about watering a plant but what this gadget really does is take away all the learning about plants and connecting with nature. Something as simple as growing an African Violet on a kitchen windowsill becomes nothing more than digital feedback. I know this may be the only way for some to become engaged with growing things. But surely there’s got to be other, simpler, real-er ways. Or not:


The Garden Media Group calls this intersection “naTECHure”. The idea is that in order to engage kids in “gardening, health and fitness in fun, new ways” the use of virtual and augmented reality is needed in motivating kids to, well, move–preferably outdoors. This trend naturally comes on the heels of a lot of information about Gen Z, (born 1995 – 2009), a generation often profiled as over-connected, sedentary and tending towards obesity. (There are great things to be said for this generation as well. For an overview, check out the BloombergView article “Here Comes Generation Z“). Geocaching, the world-wide treasure-hunting game that gets kids out of the house but can’t be played without the use of apps is a good example of augmenting the real experience–running around outside–with cell phones and tablets.


From hotel lobbies with living walls to houseplants as air purifiers, selling horticulture as a wellspring of health and happiness (albeit the calm variety, not the giddy kind) will continue for a growing market sector of folks who, not incidentally, like their green, growing things neatly packaged and beautifully displayed.

That plants are being recognized for their healthful benefits is good news, of course. But I can’t help thinking this trend also signals bad news. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see living walls, in particular, sprout up in every public building, but not because they might clean the air or make the place feel more zen. Yes, they’re freaky cool from a design point of view but they’re also a really good, in-your-face statement about just how far we’ve become disconnected with nature.

By the way, I shot most of the living walls shown above at a past Canada Blooms, a good source of trending ideas for the Canadian garden. Don’t miss the next one coming up March 11-20, 2016.


A garden showing a wide variety of perennials, shrubs and trees.

There is one trend that I find heartening, though. Gardens are getting more natural. More people are moving away from the flat front or back yard filled with reliable perennials and designing “destinations” stuffed with vertical layers of flowers, shrubs and trees. The result is a more relaxed vibe, design-wise. But that’s not all. This kind of planting scheme is much more sustainable, with plants chosen to enhance each other and thrive together. It’s creating an environment that’s better able to support pollinators and other wildlife. And it’s a way of looking not just to the next season but to the future.

I hope so.

3 thoughts on “Gardening forecast: Hello, tech-nature!

  1. Pingback: Idea starters for creative container plantings | Ministry of the fence

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