What does the future hold for those who enjoy working with plants?

For the past 20 years, Garden Media Group has issued predictions of upcoming trends in horticulture and home gardening. What’s in store for us this year, according to their 2020 garden trends report?

Garden Media Group has cleverly named this year’s predictions “Seeing 20/20.” They describe this year’s trends as “reinventions from a bygone era — helping to reconnect us with nature, rejuvenate the soil and lead us to a more thoughtful approach to life. If we can combine the wisdom of the past with the science and technology of today, our future could be very bright.”

I appreciate their way of thinking. There’s a wealth of old-time gardening wisdom, and the basic information of how plants grow and what they need really doesn’t change much. We can blend the age-old practical how-to’s with new research and technology.

The Garden Media Group predicts eight trends for 2020:

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1. Cities of the future: By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. While cultures are electronically connected 24/7, there’s a longing for nature and tranquil, plant-filled spaces. Trees will continue to be vital in sequestering carbon, providing summer’s cooling shade and winter wind protection. Urban areas with parks, historic places and landmarks will be important for attracting and keeping young inhabitants.

We need to know how to propagate, grow and maintain adapted plants in our towns and cities. As the report says, “We need an army of people steeped in horticultural knowledge who are valued, demanded and supported.”

2. Circular economy: Many remember the days when things were made to last and items were intended to be fixed or mended, rather than discarded. That desire is returning, and is termed a “circular economy” that not only minimizes waste, but emphasizes restoration and reuse. Preferred even over recycling, creating products that last and can remain in use is emphasized. For example, in the greenhouse trade, sterilizing and reusing pots and cell-packs is even more efficient than sending the products through the recycling process.

3. Green collar jobs: In the U.S., the gardening industry grew 6 percent last year to a record $40 billion. More labor is needed to support the growing industry, and jobs in horticulture now outnumber graduates 2-to-1, ranging from full careers to seasonal opportunities.

4. Endangered soil: Prior to the 20th century, soil was rich in organic material and nutrients. Erosion, deforestation and intensive cultivation have washed away about one-half of the world’s topsoil. The current trend is to encourage regenerative practices to rebuild our soil with organic materials, making it richer and more nutrient-dense. Composting, less tillage and using green manure crops are examples of soil regeneration.

5. Thinking outside the house: Houseplant sales grew 10 percent last year, and the trend will continue as a new generation discovers plants' ability to cleanse indoor air, reduce stress, bring life to a room and enhance creativity while connecting us with nature.

As a younger generation finds themselves with less time, less space and less disposable money, they are turning to indoor plants. Houseplants are experiencing a greater percentage growth than trees, shrubs and perennials. The trend has been helped by increased plant care education. Plant swaps are the new garden clubs, and in-person attendance at garden programs is becoming more popular.

6. The frog whisperer: Frogs and toads are natural insect predators, and these amphibians are becoming extinct at alarming rates. An awareness is the first step to investigating causes and remedies.

7. Recognizing the importance of fungi: Mushrooms and other fungi can solve some of the world’s pressing problems, such as cleaning up oil spills, absorbing pollution and breaking down organic material into rich soil. A fungus discovered in 2012 by Yale students, Pestalotiopsis microspore, is a mushroom from the Amazon region that can eat plastic. It can live in the absence of oxygen, meaning it can clean landfills from the bottom-up, decomposing plastics naturally in a few months, instead of the projected 400-year breakdown.

8. Indigo is this year’s natural color: Rich blue is one of the most sought-after garden colors. For thousands of years, blue cloth dye was obtained naturally from plants mostly in the genus Indigofera, which are native to the tropics. Today, less than 10 percent of cloth is dyed with natural indigo, but there’s an increased desire for jeans and products dyed with natural indigo, rather than synthetics.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at kinzlerd@casscountynd.gov or call 701-241-5707.