Califonia Bountiful

Gardening: Fashions for the garden

Sept./Oct. 2010 California Country magazine

See what's "in" for your garden.

It may not be as apparent as what the latest supermodel is wearing, but gardening is subject to the trends just like the fashion world. You can almost date a house by its landscape. After more than 20 years of writing about gardens, I have a few observations:

  • Vegetable gardening is in. A couple decades ago if you said you had a garden, people assumed you were talking about vegetable gardening. Then things changed and theme gardens—cottage gardens, English gardens, Zen gardens—became popular. Vegetable gardening was out, or at least relegated to the far corners of the backyard. But mention gardening today and people again think of vegetables. The National Gardening Association reported a 20 percent increase in home gardens over the past year. In fact, it's been dubbed the age of GIY—grow it yourself.
  • Tomatoes remain the king of crops, but salad greens are quickly catching up, mainly because they're easy to grow in containers on decks, patios, even windowsills. Greens are especially popular among women in their 20s.
  • In the ornamental garden, climate-appropriate plants are in, especially in California's hot inland valleys and foothills. More gardens now feature plants that can take all the heat of a California summer, like lavender, salvia, rosemary, santolina and as many California natives as possible.
  • The hottest plant for shade is heuchera, also known as coral bells. They've long been desirable front-of-the-border plants with their attractive leaves and tall spires of tiny, nodding pink flowers. Today's new hybrids have become the darlings of the shade border. Leaves come in bright chartreuse, lime green, dark purple, even variegated. Just take a look around your local nursery, and you'll get the idea.
  • For sunny borders, echinacea, also called purple coneflower, takes center stage. The traditional pink petals and prickly orange cone have given way to cultivars with pink and green petals, ones as orange as the marmalade you spread on your toast or as yellow as butter. They're bright, they're tough and they're beautiful.

Gardening to-do list for September/October

  • Even though summer may be winding up, the weather can still be quite hot and plants can get heat and/or water stress. If your plants are wilting early in the morning, they're probably not getting enough water. Vegetables like melons and squash often wilt during the hot part of the day, but recover at night if they are getting enough water.
  • Keep watering container plants.
  • Clean up around the garden—dead leaves, spent flowers, fallen fruit—to prevent overwintering insects and diseases. Bag and discard insect- or disease-infested material. Do not put it in the compost.
  • Plant cool-season annuals like pansy, primrose, stock and sweet peas. In the vegetable garden, plant broccoli, cabbage, chard, lettuce and spinach. Plant shrubs like daphne, quince and forsythia.
  • If you're looking for fall color, now is the time to start shopping. The best way to tell if a plant is going to give you the brilliant colors you want is to see the plant in its fall glory.

Pat Rubin is a longtime gardener and garden writer. Send questions or comments to her at

Follow us on: Facebook Twitter YouTube Pinterest Pinterest