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IANR News Service: News and Publishing, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, P.O. Box 830918, Lincoln, NE 68583-0918. http://ianrnews.unl.edu/static/0903180.shtml
While the winter landscape sleeps in shades of gray and brown, gardeners dream in the colors of spring -- lush green foliage and the vibrant pinks, blues, oranges, yellows, and reds of blossoms.
It will be awhile before gardeners can dig in the dirt but already some gardening trends are emerging: landscape sustainability, native plants in home landscapes, container gardening, and increased interest in vegetable gardening. And this spring, just as in any other year, nurseries will sprout new varieties.
One of the biggest trends is increasing interest in vegetable gardening, said Dale Lindgren, horticulturist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte.
Last year, vegetable plant sales were up 10-15 percent and that trend is expected to continue. Vegetable gardening is becoming more appealing as people try to save money at the grocery store during these tough economic times. Some gardeners are focused on food safety and believe that food they grow themselves is safer, which is related to the burgeoning interest in organically grown food, Lindgren said.
"Last year, we got a lot of questions about local food, and I think we'll see that again," said Kim Todd, UNL landscape horticulture specialist and "Backyard Farmer" host. "There are a lot of people who want to grow at least a little bit of their own food, and more people are intrigued with edible woody plants such as apples and apricots."
In the last few years, interest in heirloom vegetables and flowers also is on the upswing. Old-fashioned flowers, such as hollyhocks, are receiving more attention because they don't require much water. Heirloom vegetables, particularly tomatoes, are grown for their flavor, Lindgren said.
Another trend is blended gardens, which include both edible ornamental vegetables and flowering plants. Vegetables such as colorful peppers and eggplant can provide visual pleasure as well as food. This can be a good option if garden space is limited, he said.
"One of the overall garden trends is landscape sustainability, which means the landscape is one that we can take care of without harming the environment," said Sarah Browning, UNL Extension educator.