Get Growing: What gardening will look like in 2021: Hot tubs, weed and wildlife

Every fall forecasters and writers round up the likeliest trends for the coming year’s garden-makers.

In hindsight, we need to give the 2019 crew a pass.  No one could have predicted the wild ride that the novel coronavirus pandemic made 2020 — not least in the garden industry, which has a record-busting year.

Unprecedented demand forced online vendors like Territorial Seed and Brent and Becky’s Bulbs to close sales to catch up.  Facebook gardening groups blew up as people scrambled to create COV-ictory Gardens to ensure food security and have a healthy lockdown activity.

So, let’s see how 2020’s alternate reality has shaped the look of gardening going into 2021.

Some pre-existing trends just got bigger, like the houseplant parenting craze, growing organic produce, reducing lawn, and gardening for pollinators, as climate-change awareness increased. Unfortunately, dolphins never did move into the Venice lagoons, as some false memes claimed, but quarantines gave people a lot more time to walk the empty streets and glimpse the wildlife we had driven away with traffic and noise pollution — with positive results.

Garden Media Group (, who titles 2021’s report “The Great Reset,” concurs with the pro-Nature currents, quoting landscape architect Claudia West: “Nature doesn’t live ‘out there’ anymore” — because “out there” is gone — “It lives in our backyard ... or it doesn’t live.” As a result, we’ll be planting for wildlife with an eye toward cohabitation, designing ecologically.

In addition to appreciating nature itself, we are seeing the importance to our health and well-being of being out in nature daily.

Forest-bathing and nature schools, which had gained footholds in 2019 — Washington became the first state to license outdoor preschools that year — are emerging as safe ways to get exercise and education when schools and businesses are closed, as well as an antidote to the high doses of tech all ages are getting through Zoom meetings.

GMG predicts more gardeners will grow their own food in any space available, create back yards to live and de-stress in, and include the kids in the process. Offering instant gratification in the tiniest spots, small plants will be big inside and out, like “Micro Tom” tomato and “Baby Ball,” the world’s cutest beet.

In May, designers told Architectural Digest magazine that people will be asking for multi-purpose outdoor living spaces. (

These “fresh-air havens” will incorporate water, fire, lighting and “natural” plant species (perhaps they mean “native”?) to work out, dine or just nap in your staycation destination. GMG likewise imagines that people will transfer their unused travel budgets into hot tubs, trampolines, and fire pits.

On a larger scale, GMG says vendors will get better at pivoting to offer quality over quantity and easy one-stop shopping, and we may see more suburban farm communities built, which foster community, access to nature, and self-sufficiency.

Some forecasts are built on the backs of surveys from 2019, like the annual National Gardening Survey which surveys households. ( That report, released in May, saw a decrease in overall engagement in “lawn and garden activities” in 2019, particularly among those below the age of 45 years, a swing which 2020 looks to be reversing.

As many as 16 million people started new gardens during the pandemic, says a June national survey by box-store retailer Bonnie Plants. ( of them were under 35, which is good news for the industry.

The NGA is the only one to mention this notable outlier: the increased need for weed — that’s cannabis, not dandelion.

“As state laws governing cannabis continue to become more permissive, about one-third of respondents say they would be definitely or probably cultivate cannabis if it were legal to do so,” according to the release.

 Most were interested in psychoactive cannabis but some were interesting in hemp/CBD cultivation. It’ll be interesting to see what next year’s survey has to say about 2020’s influence on that marker.

Garden Design magazine ( seconds most of the above, with gardening itself leading the list, and adds monochromatic gardens (all one color), which are a.) simpler to coordinate than a varied palette, and b.) soothing to the eye and mind. Garden Design doesn’t specify its method in collecting these trends, but cites a “surge in popularity” for one-color gardens.

I find “moon gardens,” usually shades of white offset by lime, blue and silver foliage, being highly visible in the dark, especially welcome in Seattle’s often overcast skies.

In the United Kingdom, a group named Love the Garden ( trawled spiking Instagram hashtags to reveal these top trends, many of which dovetail with the above: inside/outside decorating, balcony and windowsill gardening, small-space gardens using plants with multi-season interest, white and gray gardens meaning in hardscaping and pots, wild gardens, cottage gardens, which mix edibles and ornamentals and let annuals sow around in a carefree way, and permaculture.

So, again, we are seeing a clear message: Garden anywhere you can, but with a conscious mind and a looser hand that cooperate to welcome nature rather than fence her out.

If you have space for a she-shed/hot-tub/parkour station with Wi-Fi for your Zoom calls, go for it.

— Columnist Erica Browne Grivas is an avid gardener and Seattle resident.