For three years, ever since I stopped living in the house I own and started living in other people’s houses, I have been a frustrated gardener.
As a foster parent for houses between owners, I know the arrangement is temporary. I am not to do anything permanent, like paint a vanilla room crimson, or plant an English garden. This is trying for someone who likes to knock out a wall now and then.
So this time of year, as spring blossoms like a debutante, and the yard calls to me like the sea to a sailor, I am aware of how my constraints put a crimp in my garden hose.
I want to plant something green and nurture it. My instinct to nest is as strong as an osprey’s. Never mind, that time has allowed me to cover, as if with a weed barrier, the memories of my failed yard projects.
Maybe because spring and hope go together like Easter and eggs, I have all but forgotten the times the rabbits devoured my herb garden, the ugliest worms alive invaded my tomato vines, a hailstorm ravaged my perennials, moles made a buffet of the 200 bulbs I’d planted, and the day several ladies were over for lunch.
That day, I had put sprigs of homegrown mint in their ice tea, which they were sipping genteelly when one of my children loudly announced, “Oh, that’s the mint from Theo’s corner,” referring to our dog’s favorite watering spot.
Which explains why last week, as I was in The Home Depot, along with the rest of America’s home improvers, I couldn’t resist the lure of the garden section.
I had gone to the big-box store to buy picture hangers, but the garden section, all bursting and thriving and springing with verdant life, distracted me. I detoured from my task, and was soon putting half a dozen fresh herbs — little plastic containers of basil, parsley, rosemary — in my cart.
My head spun with a vision of a small herb garden in my kitchen by a sunny window, where I would have my mini garden after all, if impermanent, especially in my hands.
I came home inspired, but minus the picture hangers (darn!), and planted my herbs in happy ceramic containers. I banished any thought of the failure and blazed on delusional as someone in the early stages of love, believing, against all odds, that it would be easy, and would turn out right.
I soon after learned, and this is so disillusioning to people like me who think they are original, that I am part of a tsunami-size trend.
“The No. 1 trend, by far, this spring is the home garden,” said Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for The Home Depot. “More consumers than ever are growing their own,”
“Vegetables, you mean,” I said, to be clear. I mean with all this talk of legalizing marijuana, you never know what Home Depot will sell next. Heck, they sell everything else.
“Edible plants, in seed and live forms, have been the fastest growing category in live goods for the past five years,” Fishburne said.
Driving the trend, she said, are consumers who have grown up with the Food Network, so are more food savvy. A generation ago, outdoor dining consisted of hot dogs and hamburgers. Today, consumers want homegrown tomatoes and endive.
“As more people embrace the idea of farm-to-table,” she said, “that trend carries into backyard and container gardening.”
And renters and homeowners are both getting very creative about gardens in tight places.
Here are some ways they are growing their own edibles:
• Vertical gardens. Those who think a vertical garden is an off-the-wall idea are right. These gardens literally grow on walls, in planters or containers attached to vertical surfaces with clips or brackets. Some home gardeners rig drip watering systems to keep them green.
• Tabletop gardens. Not even the lack of a yard is stopping pent-up gardeners from growing their own herbs and vegetables. They are planting table gardens by converting a flat surface, such as an outdoor table, into a garden by placing a raised bed on it. You can make your own in whatever dimensions suit your space using either a raised-bed kit or building it from scratch. Bonus: Getting down on your knees in the mud isn’t necessary.
• Hanging basket gardens. If you don’t feel like serving a banquet to the critters in your area, getting goods off the ground with hanging, tiered baskets can be the solution. Line lightweight wire baskets with preformed bowls of moisture-retaining moss. Fill them with edibles and stick in some flowers for color.
• Themed gardens. Today’s do-it-yourself gardeners are growing gardens with a purpose: Mediterranean cooks are growing oregano, fresh basil and Italian parsley. Salsa lovers are cultivating onions, chilies, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro. Grill aficionados are harvesting vegetables to throw on the barbie. Happy Hour lovers are planting ingredients to garnish their evening cocktails. Here are some ideas: http://gardenclub.homedepot.com.
• New age organics. Over the past five years, Home Depot has started carrying twice as many kinds of organic soils. “Customers want more organic food, so are demanding organic soils, seeds and herbs that have been started organically,” Fishburne said. “We’re seeing a new generation of gardeners moving toward environmentally friendly and health-conscious gardens.”
Join me next week as Fishburne shares the next three biggest trends in outdoor living.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.