By Katie McCoy Dubow


Balance of work and play make for a happy life, and the same can be said in the garden. As the economy continues to improve, people seek modern, eco-friendly outdoor décor and essential greenery to balance their homes and gardens this year.


“Back in 2001, Garden Media first spotted a rise in outdoor living. The backyard became the new living room — dining room — and kitchen,” said Susan McCoy, trend spotter and president of Garden Media Group.


“Now, 13 years later, the outdoor room is still as important — if not more — as it was in 2001. However, ideals for outdoor spaces have evolved. Consumers’ needs and styles have drastically shifted from a mass consumption attitude to an eco-conscious one,” explained McCoy. “With this new mindset, consumers are willing to pay more for products if they’re fair-trade, organic, or made from sustainable materials. In essence, they want to invest their money in products that will make them feel good about their spending.”


In its 13th Garden Trends Report, Garden Media Group found consumers spending their valuable leisure time outdoors and decorating their outdoor places and spaces, not just the interior of their homes. People are socializing outdoors more, hosting garden parties, playing lawn games, gathering for home brewing events, and taking more of an interest in being good stewards of the Earth.


Globally, the 2014 Garden Trends Report found the gardening and outdoor living market is expected to increase yearly by 3.5 percent through 2016, when it should reach $220 billion. The North American market, which has remained flat at $58 billion, is expected to grow annually at a rate of 1 percent for the next four years.


“2014 is all about balance,” said McCoy. “People understand, appreciate, and are now seeking the serenity the outdoors brings to their lives. The catch is that they don’t want their outdoor space to feel commercial. Instead, they strive to add their personal stamp on their outdoor room. Individuals want their outdoor space to serve as both a private oasis and a hangout area for socializing.”


Knowing what people want isn’t always apparent. It takes tracking consumer habits, studying emerging trends, and a few educated guesses.


When trends are spotted and “what the people want” is discovered, retailers are grateful.


“Over the years, Garden Media has found that when garden businesses not only follow the trends, but use them to their advantage, it can have a major impact on their bottom line. What it comes down to is presenting the consumer with the trends that matter to them,” added McCoy. “The lawn and garden businesses that consistently succeed year after year are those that best react to trends, and, eventually, shape them to your business’ advantage.”


The following are three major outdoor living trends Garden Media identified in the 2014 Garden Trends Report that are guaranteed to drive traffic and boost sales.


 


Dress up yards


Despite a strengthening economy, the shift toward decorating gardens with plants, containers, art, furniture and accessories will continue, while larger-scale home landscape projects decline. McCoy said that retailers can expect record strong growth in this sector.


“With constant connectivity and busyness prevalent in everyone’s lives today, grandiose garden projects seem too daunting to take on. On the other hand, decorating and sprucing up the yard with small décor accents is a relatively quick project to tackle while still maintaining all the razzle dazzle consumers inherently want,” said McCoy.


There is a growing emphasis on using outdoor spaces as extensions of today’s homes, fueled by the social trends of outdoor gatherings for barbeques and lawn parties.


This new emphasis will drive demand for items such as outdoor furniture, planters and other furnishings that can be used out-of-doors.


Additionally, outdoor décor that can be personalized, such as decorative throw pillows, fanciful furniture, colorful garden ornamentation and art, allow homeowners to add their signature to their yards.


 


Simple elegance


Classic elegance in colors, shapes and visuals will become popular in 2014.


In the garden, simple equates to monochromatic colors or pairing a single, bold color with a stark white, whether for plants, pots, outdoor fabrics or furnishings. A single color brings unity across the design, whether it’s in the garden or an outdoor room, and the addition of white brightens the scene and enhances other colorful accents.


Another way to achieve simplicity in the garden-sphere is to plant masses of a single variety for a dramatic sense of unity.


For example, The Suntory collection of flowers gives consumers many opportunities to add that touch of classic elegance with a wealth of new varieties such as Surfinia Heavenly Blue petunias, Crackling Fire begonias and Sun Parasol mandevillas. Massed into containers or garden beds, varieties like these make a statement while also being easy-to-care for in the months to come.


Simplicity translates flawlessly into décor and containers as well. Monochromatic or monoculture plantings set in handcrafted and eco-chic planters add class and unity anywhere outdoors.


“What the ‘simple elegance’ trend boils down to is a lucid design concept, one that makes gardening and design accessible to all ages of consumers. With this trend, people know exactly what they want to do, and feel like they have the know-how to make it a success. Consequently, consumers feel empowered and in control of customizing their personal space,” said McCoy.


 


Frac’d up


Neat, clean lines are out. Geometry explodes in the outdoor living space in the form of fractional shapes like triangles, circles and squares, with the circle being the most popular.


These shapes add architectural structure to the garden, whether it’s with the structure of the plants themselves, the designs into which they are planted, or the art and accessories that accompany them. The lines add an element of weightlessness to the garden and have the potential to draw the eye to unexpected places.


Get “frac’d up” in the garden with a pop of color and “out-of the box” plants such as alliums and black-eyed Susan’s with a not-your-typical-flower character. Umbelliferous plants were a hit at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show as the explosions of shape and color fit right into modernist gardens.


Plantings in the shape of domes, chevrons and triangles will also be popular in 2014.


“The tension between ‘frac’d up’ and ‘simple elegance’ really puts the power in the hands of the consumers. These two design-centric trends are nearly opposites, which again comes back to the idea of balance in the garden in 2014. There simply isn’t one-size-fits-all for gardens or gardeners. In 2014, younger, more eco-conscious millennials are entering the gardening world, and they’re looking for a myriad of choices — all of which need to be easy to execute,” said McCoy.


 


These three major outdoor living trends have emerged as important influences on today’s consumers. Now it’s up to you to give ‘em what they want.


 


Katie McCoy Dubow is creative officer at Garden Media Group, offering innovative PR campaigns designed to build brands in home and garden, horticulture, outdoor living, lawn and landscape industries. For more information, visit www.gardenmediagroup.com.


 


The complete 2014 Garden Trends Report is available for free download at http://grow.gardenmediagroup.com/2014-Garden-Trends-Report.


 


You can also stay on top of individual global and garden trends for 2014 and beyond by reading the “Trending Thursday” weekly feature on Garden Media’s blog, “GROW!” at http://grow.gardenmediagroup.com/blog.