A Look at the Top Trends in Central Florida Landscaping
by GRACE HIRDES
Landscaping and gardening have always been popular topics for homeowners. We’ve noticed that some of the biggest landscaping trends to emerge lately include a focus on the environment, natural wildlife, and sustainable vegetables.
We spoke with Anne Yasalonis, Residential Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator at UF/IFAS Extension Polk County, to find out what’s gaining traction and growing in popularity in gardens and landscapes this year.
If you’re interested in preserving your yard while making upkeep easier and environmentally conscious, some of these trends might be perfect for you.
- Growing Food
Yasalonis says the most common questions she fields in Extension classes and at different events are about growing various vegetables, herbs, or fruit tree gardens. She says once Covid hit, many people became much more focused on their health and started to ask what they can do differently. A common answer to this question has been to eat healthier or exercise more and that’s where we see this trend of wanting to be more sustainable by growing vegetables, herbs, and fruits.
- Ornamental Landscaping
When it comes to the more floral aspect of landscape trends, Yasalonis says they are seeing an increased interest in native plants, wildlife planting, and pollinators. If you are interested in adding some pollinators to your yard, she suggests adding some Native Milkweeds. She says even though they are tricky to grow, they are incredibly beneficial. They not only help pollinate the plants around them but are also great at sustaining the butterflies in your backyard. Yasalonis also suggests adding some native wildflowers to your landscape, with one caveat.
“Just because they are native to Florida does not mean they are drought-tolerant or will thrive easily,” she explains. “You need to know their background and be sure to pick ones that will do well in the soil and area you are planting.”
- Container Gardens
Just as home gardens took off after the pandemic, container gardens also are experiencing a renewed interest, especially among young people wanting to start their own gardens on a smaller scale. If you live in a small space and need some suggestions to plant in your containers, Yasalonis suggests tomatoes, butterfly pollinators, pinta, or native wildflowers. You can also plant herbs such as parsley, dill, and fennel. These are all great for small area gardens as well as container or raised gardens.
“Growing mushrooms has become increasingly popular with container gardens,” Yasalonis adds, “just be sure you do your research and choose the right ones for your area.”
- Rain Gardens
Water conservation has increasingly been a hot topic in Florida, and that continues to steer landscaping trends.
“In Florida, water conservation has been a big trend lately, with a lot of people converting from high-volume irrigation to micro-irrigation,” Yasalonis says. She says she’s seen an increased interest in rain gardens as a way to conserve water. A rain garden is a garden that collects rainwater, holds it for a limited amount of time, and filters it before slowly releasing the water into the ground. It collects rainwater from various surfaces like roofs, patios, or parking lots, allowing the water to slowly seep back into the ground and preventing runoff from reaching local waterways. When building a rain garden, you’ll want to select only native plants as they can control erosion by stabilizing soils and filtering any contaminants in the runoff before it enters the groundwater.
- Leafy Garden
Everyone loves a good salad, and what’s better than growing your food right in your own backyard? You can have your own continual salad bowl to eat from if you plant some leafy greens and lettuce in your garden. These greens can be planted in the ground or in a container garden and can be planted now in the cooler weather or in the spring when it warms up.
“Just be prepared to move or cover your plants if you decide to plant now as there is still a risk of frost or freeze,” Yasalonis warns. “A few years back we had a freeze in March, so we need to be prepared for that in case it happens again.”
Our state’s climate offers diverse and unique opportunities to explore through landscaping and gardening. Yasalonis and her team at UF/IFAS offer classes to help answer any questions you may have. To see when their next class is visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/ufifas-extension-polk-county-gardening-programs