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Most recent posting below. See other articles in the column to the right.

Top 2012 Garden & Llifestyle Trends: Cultivate the New Good Life with the Power of Plants

(ARA) - In today's world where news travels at the speed of now, people are searching for balance and purpose and are tapping into the power of plants to cultivate the 'new good life'.

"Plants are powerful," says Eric Liskey, deputy garden editor for "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine. "Whether it's enjoying garden-to-table meals or sharing great new plant finds, people are naturally drawn to plants." 

Besides beautifying our homes and gardens, plants play a vital role in our health and well-being. They elicit powerful positive emotions, revive neighborhoods, and influence everything from what we eat to life's milestones. 

"Plants are no longer a luxury, but a necessity for our lives," says Susan McCoy, trendspotter and outdoor living expert. "Plants can live without us, but we can't live without plants." 

The power of plants. For a growing army of eco-conscious Gen X and Y's, recycling, repurposing and upcycling is now a lifestyle. 

Dr. Charlie Hall, professor of horticulture at Texas A&M, says, "Gen Y's are embracing a connection with plants based on economics, environmental impact, health and wellness." 

These rural and urban curators are planting home and community gardens and renewing urban spaces with an eye toward functionality and artistic design. 

Here's what McCoy and her team of Garden Media Group trend spotters see for gardening in 2012: 

1. Urban knights. A growing army of 'urban knights' are creating oases wherever they can find a patch of earth. They're planting shrubs, flowers, edibles and pop-up gardens on balconies, in alley ways, and on street parklets - even in abandoned buildings. 

From yard sharing and raising chickens to 'step gardening' and harvesting rain water, urban knights are finding a 'new good life' by getting grounded with the earth. 

2. Eco-scaping. From rocks in the garden to rocks in the living room, nature's influence can be found both indoors and out. 

"Borders are blurring between indoors and out as nature becomes more important in our lives," says Bobbie Schwartz, president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. "Many people want their gardens and their homes to be sanctuaries of tranquility, reflecting their ideal concept of nature." 

Beauty and sustainability are key. Liskey says that people want the "beauty and romance" of a garden with less work. "Gardeners want easy, low-maintenance plants that give plenty of color." 

The new Bloomtastic! dwarf butterfly bush Lavender Veil from Hines Growers is low maintenance and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds with richly-colored abundant blooms. 

"Herbs are popular as cooking shows and healthy eating habits grow," says Briscoe White, head herb farmer at The Growers Exchange. "It's easy to pot up herbs indoors and out for fresh ingredients year round." He recommends planting containers of herbs de Provence for beauty and cooking or edging a landscape border with lavender. 

3. Occupy local. People are "occupying" local farmers markets and joining CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) for fresh produce, plants and products. 

"Farmers markets are our new backyard veggie gardens and are becoming our local grocery store," says McCoy. 

According to the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, sales of "locally produced food" reached $4.8 billion in 2008.They project that locally grown foods will generate $7 billion in sales dominated by fruit and veggies in 2011. 

4. Conscious consumption. According to the 2010 Cone Survey, 83 percent of consumers still want to see more brands, products and companies that support worthy causes. 

"We've finally moved from "me" to "we" and consider our earth and each other when we purchase," says McCoy. 

American Beauties Native Plants' partnership with the National Wildlife Federation is a great example of this mind shift. When you buy an American Beauties' native plant like the new groundcover, 'Blue Moon' woodland phlox, for example, a donation is made to NWF's Certified Wildlife Habitat Program. 

5. Water watchers. "There is no single issue greater than water," says Dr. Hall. Recent drought and regional water restrictions are causing us to grow plants, flowers and vegetables with less water. 

Soil amendments like the new SoilReef biochar are considered by many scientists to be the "black gold" for gardening. Its high carbon content and porous nature help soil retain water and nutrients, saving gardeners time and money. 

Look for EcoCover organic mulch discs in all Bloomtastic! plant containers to help save water and reduce weeds. 

Hydroponic gardening is hot, allowing plants to grow year-round in nutrient rich solutions that actually use less water. 

6. In living color. Neon colors, pop art and color blocking are influencing fashion on the runways and fashion in the garden. From Tangerine Tango, the new Pantone color of the year, to deep purples and soothing greens, colors are all over the landscape. 

Rich, gem colors create your own personal piece of paradise. Tropic Escape Hibiscus from Costa Farms produces huge flowers that last twice as long as regular hibiscus and are perfect for decorating patios and landscapes. 

Create a technicolor summer with new Bloomtastic! Bambino bougainvillea and multi-colored bougainvillea patio trees. Hines' new Patio Tropics Desert Rose, Adenium Kissable Pink adds intense tropical color to patios, balconies and poolside. 

7. Inner gardening. Decorating our inner gardens with houseplants for better, healthier lives is now the norm. These natural oxygen machines clean indoor air while bringing life to any room. 

Whether you want ferns, peace lilies or palms, bring nature in and green up your spaces. To learn more about the benefits of indoor houseplants check out www.O2forYou.org. 

8. Techno-gardening. With the rise of smartphone technology, consumers are able to go directly into the buying experience. According to TrendWatching, 'dealer chic' is on the rise where securing the best deal is not just accepted - it's admired. 

Gardening is going digital with free e-zines. Costa Farms' "GrowingStyle" magazine brings designer tips and the latest plant info from growers and designers in this free app. Garden products are going high-tech, too. Now's there's a way to rid your yard of pesky critters. New motion activated sprinkler repellents from Havahart provide caring control solutions that safely rid animals from your yard. 

9. Seedlings. From the White House to the neighborhood schools, kids are learning how to grow their own food and take care of the planet. 

McCoy says we've ignored two generations of gardeners and need to get kids back to having fun growing things. She says the popularity of fairy gardens is ideal for kids and the young at heart to share the whimsical world of plants and appreciate the joy of gardening.

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