At Cultivate’20 Virtual, Garden Media Group President Katie Dubow shared the firms’ annual 2021 Garden Trends Report, The Great Reset, and offered a look into the future of horticulture as part of a panel of speakers on “A Retailers’ Planning Guide for 2021: You asked to be declared an essential business, now choose to be one.”
In regard to this year’s report, Dubow said it quickly changed due to the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, and they had to scrap most of their research and start fresh. The factors that influenced the 2021 report were changes in behaviors that occurred during quarantine.
“The shift in community collective is real and it is powerful. And what's more, gardens are tools for building resilient and connected communities and neighborhoods,” Dubow said.
Here are the trends that will shape the future, according to Dubow.
From delivery to curbside pickup, the supply chain has changed forever. For businesses to succeed in the future, they need to shift their minds and be open to quick change. Dubow suggested that businesses must offer fewer SKUs, and to choose quality over quantity.
Second, they want experience. Offer yoga, container classes and events with kids. People are going to be looking for things to do outside, especially with their children. People want to connect back with their community, Dubow said.
Third, businesses must provide value. Dubow shared a recent study from De Beers Group which found that shoppers will look for gifts with more meaning — ones that communicate how important and valued the gift recipient is. Dubow also recommended that businesses drop the services that aren't contributing to their bottom line and add services that are.
“You do not need to keep to the status quo and keep doing what you've been doing. Customers have been retrained to shop differently,” she said.
Hort businesses can use technology to their advantages in different ways. For example, stream a how-to cook video along with a new herb collection. Garden centers can try a virtual sampling to introduce people to new products or use quick, TikTok-style videos as a marketing tool. Dubow also predicted that there will be an increase in electronic payments and touchless transactions.
“Take a look at what your business practices have been and shift and continue to pivot over and over again, especially as we enter fall. It is very unknown how business will be conducted,” she said.
The second trend was inspired by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright 100 years ago: Broadacre Cities. Broadacre Cities are super grids of family plots on one or more acres of land, depending on the size of the family. These little homesteads were designed to help the community thrive.
While the idea never took off, residents have been forced to make their homes and community everything under quarantine — their offices, gyms, schools, restaurants, movies, and entertainment centers.
“With almost half of the American workforce working remotely, these plant communities modeled after the Broadacre component seem just right,” Dubow said.
Public spaces like parks and trails will become an integral part of daily life, and stores will need interiorscaping to make their spaces more inviting. As a result, cultural experiences that allow for freedom of movement, particularly those that are outdoors, will benefit from an increased demand upon reopening. Additionally, people will want entertainment and experiences in those outdoor spaces.
And with more people in their homes, there will be an even greater appreciation for plants, she says. “Plants that will survive and thrive in those spaces with low light, perhaps on your desk at home to help boost concentration,” Dubow said.
Trend number three profiles the new “Backyard Aficionado.” According to a National Gardening Association survey, Dubow shared that the industry picked up 16 million new gardeners during COVID-19, many of whom are under 35. In fact, according to that survey, the 35-44-year age bracket had the highest mean spending, $608, of all the age groups in 2019. Many in this group are raising a family, own a home and have an established career, Dubow pointed out.
However, these new customers will not stay unless the industry finds a way to entice them. She suggested that garden centers develop products and bundle items to make gardening easier, along with innovating current services. Garden centers should also cater to those interested in victory gardening. To drive that point home, Dubow shared that the term “victory garden” spiked on Google’s peak popularity of all time on April 5.
“So first, this new Backyard Aficionado is interested in growing food. And with the surge of at-home cooking and the fear of food scarcity, Americans are discovering again the joy of homegrown food,” Dubow said.
Second, the Backyard Aficionado is interested in reducing their lawn. “There is a return to our backyards and it's not just about the lawn. From pools to pollinators, the lawn is going bye-bye,” she said.
Most importantly, the Backyard Aficionado is interested in reducing stress and increasing health and wellness. According to Dubow, simple ways to incorporate health and wellness from the comfort of home or nearby outdoor spaces have taken over as essential practices to maintain connections, release stress and recuperate a sense of normalcy.
“Don't miss opportunities to offer health and wellness content on your website, newsletters and blog,” Dubow said.
The fourth trend, Tiny Gratification, explores how the Backyard Aficionado is getting into the tiny plants, especially in edible gardening. And because these plants are small, they finish faster.
“To new gardeners, they're still learning the ropes and as they do, provide them with tiny or fast-growing edibles. Houseplants are jumping on the bandwagon too,” Dubow said.
Dubow suggested some tiny veggie varieties that are sure to be a hit with Backyard Aficionados: Micro Toms — the world's tiniest tomato plant — mini red or yellow bell peppers, dwarf yellow crookneck squash, Tom Thumb peas or Crunchkin pumpkins. These plants are ideal for a customers’ cubicle, apartment or tiny house. She also suggested baby’s tears, string of pearls, air plants or African violets.
The fifth trend is design abundance, a dynamic shift in the industry that will lead toward greener societies and a return to nature.
“As cities shut down across the world, plants and animals began to reclaim human spaces. From coyotes on the streets of San Francisco to a resurgence of bees and rare wildflowers in the UK, we have the opportunity to rebuild better,” Dubow said.
A shift will happen away from mulch and eco-dead plants to co-creating with nature. Gardens are more than a human space because they are also an ecologically functional space, she said. In addition to designing landscapes, people are returning to the comfort of their own backyard. People have invested in ways to provide hands-on learning to keep their kids from getting bored and spaces for adults themselves to relax.
“But how do we keep them outside year after year? First, we design functional and beautiful landscapes. Shrink your lawn, and plant and care for your trees,” Dubow said.
Turn out the lights
The sixth trend is light conservation, and the easiest way to achieve this is to simply turn off your lights.
“Did you know that lighting up the sky at night is one of the major causes of insect decline?” Dubow asked. “White light draws insects in all night long, exhausting them, making them easy prey for bats and birds.”
If you're concerned about security, you can install a motion sensor so lights will only turn on when provoked. Dubow also suggested changing out your current bulbs and putting in yellow LED bulbs. These will save you energy and are the least attractive to insects.
“You can’t reverse insect decline by yourself, but if we each do our own small part then we will enact change. Not only will we restore insect populations, but we will create the largest collective conservation effort in our history, and one that can — and must — succeed for our own good,” Dubow concluded.