301 2024 Garden Trends

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

Tips for beginning and experienced gardeners. New, 30-minute (or less) episodes arrive every Tuesday and Friday. Fred Hoffman has been a U.C. Certifi...

Show Notes

What are you planning on doing in the garden in 2024? The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has spoken to gardeners, growers and professional nurseries and landscapers throughout America to find out what’s on their to do list this year…or not to do.

For example, quieter gardening is a trend. So is how leaves from your trees are being put to use. Among the popular plants for 2024: Fruit trees, houseplants, ornamental grasses, sedges and an overwhelming demand for hydrangeas. Also homeowners are getting tired of dealing with one commonly used plant that has lots of problems and requires lots of work: boxwoods.

We talk with the vice president of horticulture for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Andrew Bunting, about these trends. Plus he has info about the upcoming edition of the largest flower show in the nation, The Philadelphia Flower Show, which has been going strong since 1829.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory, it’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Let’s go!
Previous episodes, show notes, links, product information, and transcripts at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, GardenBasics.net. Transcripts and episode chapters also available at Buzzsprout

Pictured:  A Butterfly Lands on a Zinnia

Subscribe to the free, Beyond the Garden Basics Newsletter https://gardenbasics.substack.com
Smart Pots https://smartpots.com/fred/
Dave Wilson Nursery https://www.davewilson.com/home-garden/

Book: The Plant Lover’s Guide to Magnolias by Andrew Bunting
Philadelphia Flower Show
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal Plants of 2023
2024 PHS Garden Trends List

All About Farmer Fred:
The GardenBasics.net website

The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred Newsletter, Beyond the Basics

Farmer Fred website:

The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog

Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram/Threads: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Minute Videos on YouTube

Got a garden question?
• Leave an audio question without making a phone call via Speakpipe, at https://www.speakpipe.com/gardenbasics
• Call or text us the question: 916-292-8964.
• Fill out the contact box at GardenBasics.net
• E-mail: fred@farmerfred.com

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases from possible links mentioned here.

Thank you for listening, subscribing and commenting on the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast and the Beyond the Garden Basics Newsletter.

Show Transcript

GB 301 2024 Garden Trends TRANSCRIPT


Farmer Fred  0:00

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. It's made in the USA. Visit SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred.

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.



2024 Garden Trends Pt. 1


Farmer Fred

What are you planning on doing in the garden in 2024? The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has spoken to gardeners and professional landscapers throughout America to find out what’s on their to do list this year…or not to do.

For example, quieter gardening is a trend. So is how leaves from your trees are being put to use. Among the popular plants for 2024: Fruit trees, houseplants, ornamental grasses, sedges and an overwhelming demand for hydrangeas. Also homeowners are getting tired of dealing with one commonly used plant that has lots of problems and requires lots of work: boxwoods.

We talk with the vice president of horticulture for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Andrew Bunting, about these trends. Plus he has info about the upcoming edition of the largest flower show in the nation, The Philadelphia Flower Show, which has been going strong since 1829.


We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory, it’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Let’s go!


Farmer Fred

So what is New Year's for you? For most people, it might be January 1, but I think for gardeners, the new year starts when the catalogs start hitting the mailbox. And I don't know about you, but the catalogs started hitting the mailbox in late December. So we're wondering about 2024 for the new year, and what we're going to do in the garden. And you're probably looking at those catalogs going oh, that's a nice plant. Oh, that's a nice plant. Well, let's widen your perspective a bit. And think about, well, what's nice for your garden? Let's talk about gardening trends that are coming up. And one group of people who sort of have a magic eight ball that can figure out what's going to happen in 2024, in the way of gardening, is the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. And they come out with their annual list of top trends for gardeners. So what do we expect to see in the new year? we're talking with Andrew Bunting. He is vice president of horticulture for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which is probably more famous for their Philadelphia Flower Show, which happens in late winter, early spring. And coming up, It'll be in March. We'll have details about that. Andrew, it's a pleasure talking with you again, and always good to find out what's going to be happening in the garden, both indoors and outdoors.


Andrew Bunting  3:09

It's good to talk with you again.


Farmer Fred  3:11

Talk about how you develop these gardening trends on a yearly basis.


Andrew Bunting  3:17

Yes, so what we do is, we kind of synthesized lots of information. So we listen to lots of podcasts, look at all the magazines, both popular magazines, as well as trade magazines. I go to a lot of conferences and symposia. And I visited a lot of gardens, we take all this information and kind of funnel it into creating these top 10 gardening trends. So a lot of it's observational from all these different channels of information that we have access to.


Farmer Fred  3:58

And there's certainly a lot of things happening in the way of gardening and I, like you, talk with industry experts to see what they're developing. And it's always interesting to figure out well, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Is there a demand for a product or a service? Or is the developer or the breeder just coming up with these based on their own thoughts on this? And it's kind of difficult to tell. All I know for sure is there's a lot of interest now in indoor gardening, and we'll talk a little bit about that as well. But there's also a lot of interest in climate change, and among your trends for gardening and 2024, a lot more people are worried about climate change and what they can do to help mitigate that. And if you're a gardener, there's certainly a lot you can do.


Andrew Bunting  4:47

Yes. So several of the trends have to do with the environment. One is you know, mitigating climate change and the other one is just seeing  your garden as part of the  environment or the local ecosystem. With regards to climate change, that's a  tricky one, because the changes in the climate vary from region to region, it could be a lot of people are looking at it fairly broadly with hotter summers, drier summers, maybe periods of the year where  there are periods of the season where there's heavy, heavy rainfall. So you're looking for plants that either are growing in natural areas or that can withstand those conditions. So I was talking to some colleagues around here, one of the things they're doing for their little Arboretum is putting together a list of plants that actually grow in the south. So these would be plants that would have part of their  DNA makeup would be would have more heat and drought tolerance. So starting to plant those plants with the idea of if it's embedded in their genetics, then they can probably take summers that are more extreme than what we're used to.


Farmer Fred  6:12

Are you seeing that on the East Coast in your area around eastern Pennsylvania? Are you seeing especially warmer winters?


Andrew Bunting  6:20

yeah. And that's one of the most notable things that we're seeing, are winters where they're warmer, like last year, I think we had a total of a third of an inch of snow, when typically we would have probably 20 to 40 inches of snow. We're having winters that don't get as cold. it used to be 20 or 30 years ago the first Magnolia would bloom right around the first of April. And same with the first flowering cherry, it was about the same date. Now, both of those are happening. We can get cherries and Magnolias  in bloom as early as a month earlier. And then all the bulbs are blooming earlier. So everything is blooming earlier, but there can still be extremes. So you know, we might get a week of warm temperatures in March and all the early magnolias come into flower, but then you know, it can still dip down to 25. So the blossoms are probably more vulnerable than they've ever been, because they kind of get coaxed out of hibernation and come into flower. And then we get, you know, still some cold dips during the winter.


Farmer Fred  7:38

Yeah, that's a big problem, especially for those who grow fruit trees. And we'll talk more about fruit trees as well, with chilling hours, possibly decreasing where you live, that might threaten the existence of some certain varieties that need say over 1000 1500 chill hours.


Andrew Bunting  7:58

yeah. You know, I think with these kinds of climatic swings, there's lots of issues around, you know, proper dormancy.  one of the issues we had  happened from the Midwest all the way to the East Coast is that we have a fairly mild fall. So a lot of plants  weren't really shutting down and going into kind of  their winter dormant stage. And then the temperatures drop drastically. I was in Memphis, and they went from 60 degrees to  below 10 degrees for two nights, and it killed hollies to the ground. Azaleas, boxwoods, a whole host of staple landscape plants were totally destroyed over just a two night episode.


Farmer Fred  8:56

Wow. By the way, I'd like to point out too, that you've used the word Magnolia several times now. And you do have a book about magnolias that  may be out of print, but it's still available as a used book. “The plant lovers guide to magnolias”.


Andrew Bunting  9:10

Yes, I wrote that. I think it was published maybe about eight years ago. But yeah, it's a nice little encyclopedia of Magnolias for the homeowner or for the home gardener.


Farmer Fred  9:26

And if you deal with Amazon or bookstores that specialize in used books, you can probably find it at a reasonable price. Maybe you're selling it out of the trunk of your car, too.


Andrew Bunting  9:38

I don’t. I have a few copies left. I occasionally see it on Amazon.


Farmer Fred  9:44

Yes, at a fairly reasonable price. You don't have to spend $200 for it.


Andrew Bunting  9:49

I think the original price is like $30, you probably can get it for 10.


Farmer Fred  9:56

I think the lowest price I saw was 27. And that's reasonable. All right, getting back to considering the environment as you garden. I think that has a lot to do with the idea of sustainability. And one of the movements that's been popular for a few years now, and it's still on your list of gardening trends, is basically leaving the leaves. Using leaves as mulch.


Andrew Bunting  10:21

That has been, I guess, trending and continues to be a trend. And the idea behind that is, in the fall, in most parts of the country, the leaves fall off the trees. And what they do  in my little town here is everybody rakes them up or blows them to the curb side and a big truck comes by and sucks them all up. The idea with “leave the leaves” is to actually as they fall, either leave them where they fall, or rake them into the bed leaving the leaves as kind of a natural mulch. And over the course of the winter, they'll naturally kind of break down into leaf compost or compost. And one of the reasons why you want to leave the leaves is it's in that kind of organic duff or leaf litter, where a lot of pollinators in particular, overwinter. So they might overwinter  as a larva or beetle  or some insect form. And if you rake all that away, there's no place for these pollinators to overwinter. So it's really it's kind of twofold. One is to not rake them to the curb side and have someone take them away. Instead,  use them for organic matter. And then also those leaves can provide habitat for these overwintering insects.


Farmer Fred  11:53

Conversely, you're also providing habitat for any pests that may have infested those leaves during the past Spring and Summer and Fall season. So I would imagine that if you are saving leaves, you would just want to save the healthy leaves and discard the unhealthy leaves.


Andrew Bunting  12:10

Yeah, yeah, if you can do that. I mean, that's probably hard to discern. you can't really tell what's overwintering in that leaf litter, if it is good insects or are bad insects. but I also feel like, if you remove all the leaves, you're not necessarily  removing all the pests from your garden.


Farmer Fred  12:38

And one habit that you put on your gardening trend list for 2024 would cover several of the points you make, and that is saving those native plants or especially the ornamental grasses. And don't be pruning them back in such a hurry in the fall. Give some of the good guys a place to spend the winter. The good bug hotel, especially lady bugs. Out here, muhlenbergia, a deer grass, if you leave it the way it is, and okay, it's not the prettiest, but it's providing habitat deep down inside that ornamental grass for a winter home for ladybugs and once it warms up in February or March, they'll come marching out, and we'll get a good start on helping control the bad bugs in your garden.


Andrew Bunting  13:26

Yeah, that's right. So you know, typically, the practice for many would be,  come this time of year, to go into the perennial garden. Then cut all your perennials back for the winter. And what's been suggested is don't don't cut those perennials back. Leave them the way they are. And in those stems, and often the stems are hollow on a lot of perennials and ornamental grasses, is the larva and other insects or insect types. It’s habitat for them. They'll get into  those hollow stems and overwinter there and then emerge in the spring. So the thought is, don't hack them back. Yes, it may look a little untidy. But you know, a lot of perennials can also look fairly ornamental for the winter especially, like you mentioned the deer grass, it is winter insurance. So you know, I think for a lot of these practices, it's also kind of changing or accepting a new aesthetic in the garden.


Farmer Fred  14:37

Yeah, I have to convince my neighbors of that every time they go by my front yard, and it seems to be kind of a wild looking garden.


Andrew Bunting  14:44

Yeah, same here. Right now, as I look out the window, I have Molinia ’Sky Racer’ which is a ornamental grass. and I have an ironweed, Vernonia, It's still up so I think this time of year, people are less critical of how your yard looks,


Farmer Fred  15:03

Well you since you mentioned it, let's take a little scenic bypass on that iron weed, because that was one of your Gold Medal plants in 2023. And now you're going to have to explain the Gold Medal program and how those plants get on that list. But one of those plans for 2023 was a Vernonia. The ‘iron butterfly’. I have to laugh because last night I had to sit down and listen to all 17 minutes ofIn A Gadda Da Vida. And I wonder why did I misspent my youth like that? But anyway, the varietal name is iron butterfly, and it's a Vernonia. It's an iron weed. And I started looking up ironweed. And I'm thinking, “Why isn't that plant out here?” I mean, it's not in the Sunset Western garden book, but it is in their National Garden book. And in the research I was doing on Vernonia, the iron weed  is adaptable to zone nine, but it is widely adaptable through mainly zones four through eight.


Andrew Bunting  16:02

Yeah, so the Gold Medal Program is a program that the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society started about 40 years ago. And we have a group of about 12 to 15 professionals who get together every year and plants get nominated. And once they're nominated for this,  this group gets together and kind of discuss the list and we try to whittle it down to about six new plants a year. So we're picking plants that are adaptable, have ecological functions, are ornamental. Plants that people can actually find in their garden centers. Plants that have multiple seasons of interest. So we usually we usually pick six and they can be trees, shrubs, vines,  perennials. so the selections are from 2023. One of them, as you mentioned, is one of the iron weeds and the Vernonia are widespread across the United States. They are fairly adaptable as a genus. this one is Vernonia lettermannii, the ‘iron butterfly’ only gets to about two and a half feet tall. It's covered in tiny purple flowers in the late summer or early fall. Actually, the plant that I have that I have not cut back in the garden out front, I can see Vernonia iron butterflies from my seat right now. It has finally turned kind of a gold, golden yellow, so it has the flowers. It's really good for a pollen and nectar source for late season pollinators. So it's good for that. But it's also very late flowering, which is a good niche for it in the garden.


Farmer Fred  17:50

I was wondering, because if you get the golden hues in the fall with the iron weed, this is not a deciduous plant?


Andrew Bunting  18:00

Well, it's just it's a perennial. So like right now the leaves are kind of brownish black. You know, ultimately, it'll get cut back to the ground.


Farmer Fred  18:14

Oh, okay. And that would happen when it starts warming up in the spring?


Andrew Bunting  18:19

Yeah, yeah. So like, you know, to your point about leaving perennials up for the winter, I'd probably wait until maybe April 1, by then most of the overwintering insects will have emerged. And I'll go in and cut it back to the ground and then it just kind of rejuvenates itself  for the season.


Farmer Fred  18:42

So the last time I looked, that area of eastern Pennsylvania you are in was in USDA zone five. but in the 2023 USDA zones, where are you?


Andrew Bunting  18:53

We were in the sixes, now we're between 7a and 7b. So okay, just over the course of 15 years, we've gone up a zone.


Farmer Fred  19:05

Wow. And so around here for cutting plants back, It might be in early March, whereas you are doing it in April. I should point out that the  ironweed is a plant that, I believe, is native just to Oklahoma and Arkansas, yet is widely adaptable. And some references say it is adaptable in USDA zone nine. It's heat tolerant, it's drought tolerant, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why this plant is not being grown commercially here in California. For our water wise environment.


Andrew Bunting  19:42

Yeah, it's pretty drought tolerant because it comes from like you said, a part of the country where there is an appreciable amount of moisture. Yeah, maybe it's, I mean, you have basically winters where you get most of your moisture and then  you have no moisture for the summer. So maybe it's not that drought tolerant. That's a possibility.


Farmer Fred  20:07

From the research I did on it, it needs irrigation, but not that much. Maybe once a month.  So that would certainly fit into waterwise gardening plans here in California where there's always the threat of a drought.  But then again, local nurseries don’t have it because wholesale nurseries aren't offering it, probably because there's no demand for it. So now that we're talking about it, people are gonna go into nurseries, here in California especially, and say, “Oh, do you have that iron butterfly plant”? The staff will look at them kind of cross eyed, wondering what they're talking about. And all I'm doing is just ticking off retail nursery owners now because they can't find the plant. So let's point out you can grow it from seed if you want. But it's kind of hard to find from seed.  I only saw a couple of  catalog companies that offer the seed. I saw it in High Country Gardens and in White Flower Farms catalogs. so you can get it as a seed. but that's the general ironweed. I don't know about the availability, in particular, of the iron butterfly ironweed, if that's available at seed.


Andrew Bunting  21:15

Yeah, so that's a selection that was made. I would say it's probably more available than many of the ironweeds just because it is a particular selection that was made.


Farmer Fred  21:30

Yeah,  it is a native perennial, like we said, in Arkansas and Oklahoma, but it thrives in a wide range of soil conditions. It'll survive hot and dry too, as well as periods of inundation of rain. And as you stated, It flowers late in the season, so it's a kind of a nice late summer - early fall bloomer.






Farmer Fred

You’ve heard me talk about the benefits of Smart Pots, the original, award winning fabric container. Smart pots are sold around the world and are proudly made, 100%, here in the USA.

Smart Pots is the oldest, and still the best, of all the fabric plant containers that you might find. Many of these imitators are selling cheaply made fabric pots that fall apart quickly. Not Smart Pots. There are satisfied Smart Pot owners who have been using the same Smart Pots for over a decade, actually approaching 20 years.

When you choose Smart Pot fabric containers, you know you’ll be having a superior growing experience with the best product on the market.

And your plants will appreciate Smart Pots, too. Because of the one million microscopic holes in Smart Pots, your soil will have better drainage, and the roots will be healthier. They won’t be going round and round on the outside of the soil ball, like you see in so many plastic pots. The air pruning qualities of Smart Pots create more branching of the roots, filling more of the usable soil in the Smart Pot.

Smart Pots are available at independent garden centers and select Ace and True Value hardware stores nationwide. To find a store near you, or to buy online, visit smart pots dot com slash fred. And don’t forget that slash Fred part. On that page are details about how, for a limited time, you can get 10 percent off your Smart Pot order by using the coupon code, fred. f-r-e-d, at checkout from the Smart Pot Store.

Visit smartpots.com slash fred for more information about the complete line of Smart pots lightweight, colorful, award winning fabric containers and don’t forget that special Farmer Fred 10 percent discount. Smart Pots - the original, award winning fabric planter. Go to smart pots dot com slash fred.



2024 Garden Trends, Pt. 2


Farmer Fred

As I mentioned in the open to this show, there was a trend in gardening for 2024 known as “quieter gardening”. What do we mean by that? Let's get back to our conversation with Andrew Bunting, vice president of horticulture at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.


Farmer Fred

Now getting back on the highway of gardening trends here, the other thing to consider as the environment, as you garden, is the ears and nose of your neighbors. And we still see that big switch going on from gas powered engines to battery operated machinery.


Andrew Bunting  24:23

Yeah, so  one of the trends, and I see it just kind of anecdotally around here, is a lot of people are switching from two cycle gas powered machinery such as lawn mowers, blowers, weed whips, even chainsaws, to battery operated machinery. And some local Botanic Gardens and arboreta, too. So there's a local garden called Chanticleer public garden, and they've gone totally battery operated. So if a fairly significant botanic garden can do it, then I think homeowners can do it as well. And I know that many of the manufacturers of the equipment have kind of gotten ahead of this. So they have really good battery operated alternatives available even for the industry. So one of the biggest, I think questions was: would a battery operated chainsaw have the same power as a gas powered chainsaw? And from what I'm hearing? The answer is, yes. So if there's a two cycle piece of equipment or machinery that you're currently using, chances are there's a really good battery operated alternative.


Farmer Fred  25:49

Yeah, I'd be a little concerned about the weight of that chainsaw with the size of a battery, it would need.


Andrew Bunting  25:55

Yes, sometimes the weight the battery can be an issue. But I suspect, like everything over time, that the batteries will become, smaller in life later, as well.


Farmer Fred  26:11

I believe that's Moore's law, about batteries (transistors, actually) getting twice as powerful at half the price and half the size. So that that's always a nice thing to look for. And there's always electric chainsaws, too, that you plug in.


Andrew Bunting  26:25

Yeah, no electric chainsaw is I think, especially for the homeowner, they often don't need the same kind of capacity or power that contractors need. So, a lot of the equipment, battery or electric plugin types, can be perfectly fine for a homeowner.


Farmer Fred  26:46

One of the biggest advances if you've been in a cave and haven't kept up with horticultural tool advances, is the handheld chainsaw, the one hand chainsaw, it's it's just a small little chainsaw. Rosarians have  adopted this little battery operated chainsaw to aid in their “shovel pruning”, in winter time.  Yep, it works quite well. Now one of the things under that garden trend of considering the environment you have, is using peat free potting soils to help lower demand for peat harvesting. We've heard over the years that peat bogs are basically an endangered species in our vital wetland habitats. But the option. Is it any better? the option that we hear most about is coir, which is made from coconut husks and shells. I would think that would be endangered as a result?


Andrew Bunting  27:43

Yeah, I think there's different alternatives. so there's coir, which are coconut hulls. There's composted peanut shells or hulls, there's rice hulls, there's leaf compost, so the companies that make alternatives to peat-based potting soils are using byproducts from other industries. Pine bark is another one. The idea is that the coconuts are being harvested anyways for coconut products. So the  husks or hulls are available, versus the peat, which you mentioned. Peat exists in these peat bogs, often in Canada, in different parts of Europe. And they're extremely fragile ecosystems to begin with. So you have to get there. So you have to drive or create a road into these peat bogs and then you dig this peat which takes 10s of millions of years to turn into peat in itself, it is not a renewable resource at all. So it's just trying to find suitable alternatives for the peat, which are usually composted products from other industries.


Farmer Fred  29:11

Alright, let's move on to another gardening trend for the upcoming year. Growing fruit at home. And boy o boy, if you've never tasted a freshly harvested piece of homegrown fruit versus what you would get in a grocery store, you're missing out on a real tasty treat.


Andrew Bunting  29:31

There is a real interest in fruit, either traditional fruit around here such as apples and peaches and pears and then, like where you live, citrus. but also trying out new types of fruit. So that might be things like around here, the Asian persimmon and I suspect in California is a really interesting crop and very easy, easy to grow there. They can either look like an egg, or they can get like kind of a squat little pumpkin in that they are colored orange. You just need another type of cultivar of the Asian persimmons to get fruiting. I have four in my backyard, they're probably 10 or 12 years old. Each one is probably 20 feet tall, and each one produces probably 500 to 700 persimmons per year.  even from one or two for certain plants, you're gonna get incredible fruit production.


Farmer Fred  30:39

I know the native persimmon needs a pollinator, but with the Asian or Japanese persimmons there's a lot of great self fruitful varieties, especially the Fuyu persimmon, which is very popular here its self fruitful, and just to dissuade people from thinking that this is a tree full of bowling balls, because you use the word pumpkin, they're smaller than that. they're about the size of a baseball or so.


Andrew Bunting  31:01

Yeah they're not the size of the pumpkin. They just look look in shape like a little pumpkin right?


Farmer Fred  31:07

Little is the key word there. And yeah, the tree is very productive. I have a Fuyu persimmon tree in our yard. And we just got done harvesting more than we can eat so that's why we have a dehydrator. we slice them up, dry them, and make a treat that lasts for months. And it's a very tasty treat. dried Japanese persimmons especially the fuyu which is a non astringent persimmon, which means you can pick it from the tree, and bite into it and you won't spit it out. On the other hand, if you have an astringent Japanese persimmon like a Hachiya, you have to wait for those to just soften up till they're almost jelly like before they they sweeten up.


Andrew Bunting  31:51

Yeah, the one I have, a Saijo, which is non-astringent. you can pick them right off the tree when they're ripe and eat them. the other astringent ones will make your mouth pucker up just like the native persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, which is in the woodlands of the eastern half of the United States. They're much smaller, they're like the size of a gumball. And they have to be frosted in, multiple times on the tree, before they're edible. But the Saijo, I've had people come over and we've probably picked them at least 1000 this year and people use them for cookies. Bread. You can eat them right off the tree my neighbors have use them and made ice cream.


Farmer Fred  32:42

Yeah, it's one of my favorite pieces of fruit, the persimmon, the Japanese persimmon. the other plants that you mentioned on your list for growing fruit at home and this is when we did an episode on recently, about the Paw Paw. And here California we're not too familiar with the Paw paw. so we're test growing it at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center. And we have discovered that  it probably would be best grown in an area where you get afternoon shade because it's not that heat tolerant.


Andrew Bunting  33:11

if you go into the native woods around here, you'll find the native Pawpaw, Asimina triloba.  while it can grow in full sun, it really is in its native habitat an understory plant. So you can imagine in The Woodlands, it gets a lot of shade. It has a squat little fruit that looks kind of like either a big peanut or a little banana, and it has a banana like texture and tastes. It grows native in places like Indiana and Michigan, the common name in Indiana is the Indiana Banana and in Michigan it's the Michigan banana. And then yeah, they're gaining in popularity. It helps to have multiple types for cross pollination and the pollination is by a fly. So you know I've heard of people taking roadkill put it in a bag, yes, and it attracts these flies that fly around and pollinate the flower. And the flowers themselves if you've ever seen one is kind of a pendant bow. And it's kind of a meat color like a carrion color like a deep purple. So I think the flowers probably evolved, or kind of co- evolved with the pollinating fly to look like meat.


Farmer Fred  34:40

We pointed out when we were talking about Paw Paws that the aroma of those flowers might resemble the corpse flower. And that may be the reason why it attracts flies.


Andrew Bunting  34:52

Yes,  the corpse flower is a really good example of kind of co-evolution because it is pollinated, I think, by carrion beetles that smell the corpse flower which smells like rotting meat and they're attracted to that and they're looking for meat and they come upon this flower and I see them rooting around inside the flower. they essentially do the pollination,


Farmer Fred  35:20

we should point out that that aroma is only related to the flower, not the fruit itself. The fruit of the paw paw  itself is described as a combination of pineapple, banana, strawberries. and it's like a, like a custard type fruit that you could eat with a spoon.


Andrew Bunting  35:40

Yes, that's right.


Farmer Fred  35:42

So maybe a paw paw might be in your future for the coming year. Houseplants Do. they ever go out of style? And with yards getting smaller as new housing developments get smaller yards, people are looking for tinier plants. And that's true with fruit too.  a lot of the wholesale growers of fruit are developing smaller growing varieties. You mentioned the bushel and berry blueberries, there are dwarf figs, there strawberries, there's all sorts of fruiting trees that you can grow as basically a shrub or a small plant in a good sized container, maybe a 15 or a 20 or 30 gallon container and keep them small.


Andrew Bunting  36:26

I think maybe an overarching trend is that people maybe in general have smaller spaces to garden and you mentioned houseplants. I think that's one of the trends that is kind of  sky rocketing. People have always had houseplants for decades, but they were exceedingly popular. But nowadays, I think with both home and city dwellers, houseplants provide an avenue for them to do gardening. It's a different type of gardening, but something with houseplants can do a lot of gardening and have no appreciable amount of outdoor space at all. And, you know, just in Philadelphia, we we have dozens of new little kind of boutique shops that sell kind of interior decor and houseplants. We also see this at the Philadelphia Flower Show, which you mentioned in the introduction, we have an area called the Horta Court, which is where people bring individual plants to be judged against each other, kind of like bringing your jam to the county fair. it's always been a popular area of the flower show. But today, it's more popular than ever. Cactus and succulents have become really popular as house plants. A lot of different arums, like Monstera, pothos, alocacias, philodendrons, become really popular. air plants, too. And the list goes on. And what's interesting is a lot of the house plants that were popular 75 years ago are now having a renaissance. things like the snake plant or mother in law's tongue, the sanseveria is really popular today. Monsteras are really popular today, Jade plant, African violets. All of those plants were popular 50 years ago, but are, again, very popular today.


Farmer Fred  38:38

Another trend that you've capitalized back there, and you've talked about this before, but I think it's very, very interesting. The plant swaps that happened in the Philadelphia area and that includes houseplant pieces, if you will.


Andrew Bunting  38:50

Yeah, we have a couple of public gardens where we do plant swaps and the kind of the premise or the rules are you bring whatever you bring, so if you just bring like the cutting of spider plant or a jade plant then you get to take if you bring, you know 10 cuttings you get to take away 10 cuttings or you bring six empty pots, you get to walk away with six houseplants. So it's a way for especially the very new gardener to get some plants to kind of start their journey with indoor gardening. It is very organic, very grassroots. it's a lot of fun. So those have become more and more popular. if we advertise that we’re having one, we can easily get, 200 people with minimal advertisement.


Farmer Fred  39:47

A lot of the trends that you see for 2024 can sort of dovetail together in order to increase garden sustainability. and you point out too, that you can have a nice little sign in your yard saying that you are a national wildlife habitat  if you qualify. And it's all a matter of incorporating a lot of naturally occurring plants and insects and gathering them all together, and you could be honored for your efforts.


Andrew Bunting  40:19

so there's quite a few, I would say dozens of certifications, most of them having to do with the ecological impact that your home garden is making. There's some that are very specific to pollinators. For example, there's one that's called the Monarch Watch waystation habitat restoration, which we actually got that certification for a little pollinator garden, we just put in, in, in my hometown. And what it is, is, we put in enough different species of butterfly milkweed Asclepias, that are an attraction to migrating monarchs. So we got this Monarch Watch waystation designation. But there's others through the National Wildlife Federation, there's wildlife habitat certification. Locally, through our extension, we have a pollinator friendly garden certification. And the list goes on. Through Audubon,  your town can be designated as a bird town, our town is, so it is kind of a seal of approval. But I think once you have the little sign in your yard, it also acts as really good educational tool to inform your neighbors about what you're what you're doing in your yard. So if your neighbors don't like the aesthetics of your yard, because you're leaving the perennials up for the winter, or looks a little natural or shabby looking. I think if you have a sign in there that says, you know, it's a wildlife habitat, then I think that people understand why you're gardening that way. Exactly.


Farmer Fred  42:09

Yeah. If you have a sign up  they might excuse the mess, if you will. then it's not a mess. You're attracting the good bugs, and having a pollinator friendly garden. Is that a trend that has been going on for several years now and should be still going on?


Andrew Bunting  42:24

Yeah, yeah, I would say,  of all the different types of ways that you can garden and the types of plants that you can plant. Planting for Pollinators continues to be a trend and is, is becoming even even more popular even though it’s been very popular in the last several years. And I think homeowners are becoming a little bit more in tune to what is a pollinator, what is pollination? What is biodiversity?  Why does biodiversity matter? You know, there's pollinators like the monarch butterfly and swallowtails. But there's the European bee, which is non native, and other bees, but just in Pennsylvania, there's 530 different native bees. So I think people are becoming more aware that there's a lot of pollinators out there and you need a lot of different kinds of pollinator plants to really sustain pollinators in your garden. And there are some plants that are especially out here that are incredible for pollinators. One is one of the mountain mints, Pycnanthemum, is  an amazing magnet for so many different pollinators when it's in flower. The flowers themselves are fairly small and inconspicuous. It's literally like buzzing like there's so many pollinators on this around the plants you can easily  hear the collective buzzing of all these different pollinators.


Farmer Fred  44:02

Exactly. building the good bug hotel is going to make your pesticide use go down. And in fact, it should go down just because the combination of using toxic pesticides and beneficials don't go together. Because if you're trying to kill the bad bugs, you're gonna be killing the good bugs too. So by letting the good guys do most of your work on the bad guys, you're gonna solve a lot of problems.


Andrew Bunting  44:26

yeah, for sure. In my home garden, I’ve been gardening here for 25 years.  I'm almost 100% sure I've never sprayed any type of insecticide. I've just allowed the good bugs to proliferate. And I think because of that,  I've had minimal insect problems over the years because the good bugs will often be  predators  on the bad bugs so you can really create even in your own little yard, a fairly balanced ecosystem.


Farmer Fred  45:05

When you're doing that too, you could be mitigating global climate change, which is also one of your trends for 2024. By incorporating more drought tolerant species, maybe more heat resistant species here in the West, as the summers get hotter and perhaps increased periods of drought by selecting, especially native species and doing certain things to your garden to can help mitigate a lot of problems that face us in the future.





Farmer Fred

You have a small yard and you think you don't have the room for fruit trees? Well, maybe you better think again. Because Dave Wilson Nursery wants to show you how to grow great tasting fruits: peaches, apples, pluots, and nut trees. Plus, they have potted fruits, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, figs, grapes, hops, kiwifruit, olives and pomegranates. All plants, that you can grow in small areas. You could even grow many of them in containers on patios, as well. It's called backyard orchard culture. And you can get step by step information via their You Tube videos. Where do you find those? Just go to dave wilson dot com, click on the Home Garden tab at the top of the page. Also in that home garden tab, you’ll find a link to their fruit and nut harvest chart, so you can be picking delicious, healthy fruits from your own yard from May to December here in USDA Zone 9.  Also in that home garden tab? You're going to find the closest nursery to you that carries Dave Wilson's quality fruit trees. They are in nurseries from coast to coast. So start the backyard orchard of your dreams at DaveWilson.com.



2024 Garden Trends, Pt. 3


Farmer Fred

So where does the rain go in your yard after a rainstorm? That is actually a garden trend predicted for 2024 we talk about that and a lot more with Andrew bunting the vice president of horticulture for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.


Farmer Fred

I like the idea having swale gardens, where you're capturing rainwater.


Andrew Bunting  47:17

yeah. So just on a fairly small home garden, you can, as you said, planting plant species that are maybe grow in more southern parts. Like around here, we might want to grow  Maples that are native to Alabama, because they're going to have inherent heat tolerance,  species choice. But then like you said,  if you do a rain garden or a swale, that's a way to capture stormwater runoff and have it percolate on your site versus going into the stormwater system. And there's all sorts of plants that can be planted in swales or rain gardens where in certain times they're totally submerged or inundated with water than maybe other times of the year, they're perfectly dry. So finding plants that, the Bee Balms are a good example, Monardas can take almost flooded conditions. But then when it dries out, they can also take fairly drought-like conditions as well.


Farmer Fred  48:36

Well, that takes us back to your list of the 2023 Gold Medal Plants as selected by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. And one of those is a Tupelo, which is a native tree the Nyssa sylvatica. And you people were fond of the variety, Green Gable.


Andrew Bunting  48:53

Yeah. So this, I would say for a good portion of the United States, is a great street tree. So it's urban, tough and tolerant. It's a really good example where it can take in its native habitats often growing in swamps in southeastern parts of the United States. It can take extremely wet conditions, but it can take also fairly dry urban tough conditions. It has all the different cultivars Green Gable, Red Rage, and one called Wildfire have like brilliant fire engine red for fall color, again, a little blackness, purple fruit, it's a great food source for a myriad of different songbirds. They have good form, so they make a good, either shade tree or specimen tree. We use a lot as street trees, as well. So  it's one of the most adaptable of all the tree species.


Farmer Fred  49:59

One of your gardening trends for 2024 has to do with boxwoods. And frankly, I've never understood the massive use of boxwoods as a screening hedge. It just has so many problems and require so much maintenance.


Andrew Bunting  50:14

Yeah, boxwoods probably became popular because they were popular in European gardens. it's a plant that if you want any type of formality in your garden, you can get it with a boxwood. a boxwood flanking either side of your front door, or used as a low hedge or taller hedge, and they are clipped into any type of form. So I think they were kind of adaptable for those uses. But like any plant that's overused, and, the American Elm is is a good example. American Elm used to be the dominant street tree, planted from New Jersey to Illinois and North to Michigan and south, into the middle south. And then Dutch elm disease came through and killed every single one of them. And I think we're starting to see that  like the boxwood, where they're so prevalent and popular, there's kind of a monoculture. And they have other pests and disease problems. But the current problem that's the most daunting is boxwood blight. Some boxwood blight can come in, and it starts out with kind of contorting and discoloring on the boxwood. But eventually it will move through all the boxwoods to the point where the damage is so severe that you have to really remove them. People are looking at either boxwoods that are showing resistance to the blight. there's a company, Better Boxwood, and they have several new ones such as Skylight, that are posed to be resistant to boxwood blight, but then people are also looking at other plants completely, that look like boxwoods, and one that I've always used is Inkberry Holly, Ilex glabra. And there's some new ones out like Strongbox and Gem Box and Squeezebox, all are kind of more congested growing, like inkberry Holly. And they're being promoted as something that looks likea boxwood but isn't a boxwood at all, and then therefore has resistance. You know, it's just not affected by boxwood blight.


Farmer Fred  52:39

Yeah, holly has a big problem out here, especially  in the Central Valley of California, where it does get over 100 degrees a lot. it's just it doesn't like the heat.


Andrew Bunting  52:49

I think out there, if you want something that looks like a boxwood, probably, again, you're gonna have to find something that's not a boxwood to get that effect.


Farmer Fred  53:01

the exact look of a trimmed  boxwood is hard to replicate in heat tolerant plants here. and if people would just get off of the idea of mimicking an English garden in California, we'd all be better off. Go with shrubs or small trees that will give you the privacy, like the Laurus nobilis, the bay Laurel, which is an excellent evergreen plant for a privacy screen.


Andrew Bunting  53:31

Right. Yeah, there's always I think with a, you know, a little experimentation there are lots of plants out there that will more or less give you the same effect, but just aren't the exact species you're looking for.


Farmer Fred  53:45

We've talked earlier about the importance of ornamental grasses for giving the good bugs a hotel for the winter time, but we're seeing more and more interest and you point this out in your gardening trends for 2024, about the popularity of more grasses and sedges.


Andrew Bunting  54:02

Yeah, I would say grasses, you know, they they really kind of burst on the horticultural scene 25-30 years ago, and you know, they've continued their popularity and I would say today are more popular than ever. and I think a lot of that has to do with the real movement to more naturalized style of planting, kind of more kind of prairie-esque or meadow-esque, regardless of where you live in the country. There's really good ornamental grass choices out there. Many of them are native. I would say that another trend is when grasses, ornamental grasses, were first used with Miscanthus and Pennesetum, etc. Those are non native grasses. Many of the ornamental grasses that are used today, I would say are mostly native. And then the sedges are grasses. Like plant often found  in the woods, or woodlands that have kind of grassy like foliage. And they'll take  a lot of different types of shade: wet shade, dry shade, full shade, partial shade. Some are really small like Carex pennsylvanica, and others are fairly tall and large and more structural and actually look more more like a grass. So all the sedges are in the genus Carex. And, you know, that's a plant that 10 years ago, people thought sedges were weeds,  they kind of were thought of as a weed. And now there's nurseries that, like Cares pennsylvanica, again, nurseries around here can't produce enough, they're so popular, they become really popular with landscape architects who are doing and more naturalistic types of designs. They're also really popular in restoration projects. And there's hundreds of species of sedges, kind of the sky's the limit as far as choices of different, especially native sedges.


Farmer Fred  56:17

And there have been tests done out here on using a lot of different sedge varieties, and some have turned out to be okay as ground covers, used as a lawn substitute as well, that can reduce your water use.


Andrew Bunting  56:33

yeah. So I think that's probably the next frontier out here as well, to look at things that kind of for all intents and purposes look like a lawn, but are not your traditional lawn that needs to be mowed every week. So yeah, if we can find,  maybe sedges or other plants that still give people a lawn like, feel but don't need the constant mowing, that would wouldn't be a major breakthrough.


Farmer Fred  57:04

One of the gardening trends that you notice for 2024, and  it has the growers, the wholesale growers, going crazy and producing new varieties… And that's hydrangeas. I noticed that at the National Garden Bureau, of new plants that they've been highlighting, there's over two dozen hydrangea varieties that are on that list.


Andrew Bunting  57:26

Yeah, there's a hydrangeas, I think where, you know, hydrangea is we're kind of an old fashioned Victorian plant that's been around for over 100 years, and, you know, has had some level of popularity both in the United States and in Europe and other parts of the world. And then probably 20 years ago, Martha Stewart had a bouquet of hydrangeas on the cover of Martha Stewart Living. And from that day forward, there's been this unprecedented enthusiasm and popularity around hydrangeas in the garden. There's brands, you know, every brand company has new hydrangeas, whether it's Endless Summer or, you know, the list goes on and on and on, like every brand company in the United States, you know, to stay competitive, has to have a few new hydrangeas, so every year that like you said, there's dozens of new hydrangeas on the market like one nursery just came out with Eclipse, I went to a show, Cultivate, which is a trade show in Columbus, Ohio every year and they had an entire  room that is dedicated to this one hydrangea which has black foliage and pink flowers. You know, it's a plant, I would say in general hydrangeas can be grown probably in every state in the United States. Not everyone but you know, it is a genus is fairly adaptable like the panicle Hydrangeas, Hydrangea paniculata are extremely heat tolerant. There's, there's a couple of native hydrangeas, there's the traditional lace cap, and all types that people use widely across the country. So that is a shrub that I don't see waning in its popularity anytime soon. Maybe never. This hydrangea wave just continues indefinitely.


Farmer Fred  59:48

And there's always the question of: when do you prune a hydrangea? Well, that's changing, too. it depends on what variety you have. some bloom on new wood, some bloom on one year old wood. so know what you're getting. keep the sign or tag. This is another good reason, and I love this as a gardening trend, but I doubt it will ever become a gardening trend, is to keep a garden diary of what you plant, how it produces, when you planted it, when you tore it out because you didn't like it, and why you took it out. things like that. And that can help you remember what the plants are, because as everybody knows, the garden gnomes wake up at night, and they like to pull up your signs that you put out next to the plants and move them around. Right.


Andrew Bunting  1:00:31

Yeah, I think even for me in retrospect, even though, you know, I do this professionally, had I started some sort of garden journal from the day I started planting things here, it would have been great information to to be able to reflect upon.


Farmer Fred  1:00:49

Yeah, I do that too. I've kept a garden diary since like, 1999.  Or even before that, actually, it goes back to 1990. And it's interesting looking through it, and seeing a plant that I really, really liked. And I'm wondering, why am I not growing it now? So it kind of helps you remember the oldies but goodies and give them another try. Yes, for sure. One of your garden trends, I think it's the last garden trend that you have for 2024, is enjoying a taste of the tropics. Here in California, that's pretty easy to do. But I would think in the Philadelphia area of eastern Pennsylvania, be it zone five, six or seven, your plant options are a bit more limited.


Andrew Bunting  1:01:33

Yes. So the way we kind of enjoy the tropics or the tropical feel is through our summer plantings. And because it's generally hot and humid, and there's an abundance of moisture here during the summer. If we plant things like a red Amazonian banana, like if I plant one that's two feet tall. By the end of the summer, it could be 12 or 14 feet tall and really have this tropical luxuriant foliage. Another group that's really popular are the elephant ears, Colocasia.  You know by the middle of summer, it has these big tropical elephant ear like leaves and there's like this new one Pharaohs Mask. It looks like I keep turning the plant inside out. Like  the veins that you see on the backside are pronounced on the front side of the leaf. and there's are elephant ears that are black. There's ones that are variegated, there's one called high giant that gets again like 12 feet tall in one growing season in the garden. So we can take a lot of these plants whether they're cannas, bananas, elephant ears, and put them in as relatively small plants in May, in by mid to late summer. They have this amazing tropical effect in the garden, they can be planted in the garden, ground or they can be used as container plants. So even though they're an annual, for us, they're still very adaptable.


Farmer Fred  1:03:14

I know that growers out here and probably back there too, are going crazy at producing new begonia varieties and you can get some very interesting begonia varieties that can give you that tropical effect as well.


Andrew Bunting  1:03:27

Yeah, there's a whole series that came out  called the Jurassic series and they have big leaves with different kinds of shapes that then they have all these great variations some are like purples, some have like a pewter variegation. Some are chartreuse in color. So yeah, the one we all think of is like the wax begonia has been superseded by these,  incredible pattern, leaf begonias that actually  can also have significant stature in the garden as well.


Farmer Fred  1:04:06

All right, the 2024 gardening trends, according to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. We would be remiss, Andrew Bunting, talking with you,  if we didn't mention the Philadelphia Flower Show, which you have been producing since, I don't know who was president when the first show happened.


Andrew Bunting  1:04:27

Yeah, it's been going since 1829.


Farmer Fred  1:04:32

I don't know who the president was either. That would be somebody who liked Manifest Destiny, probably.


Andrew Bunting  1:04:39



Farmer Fred  1:04:41

All right. So, why not? Plants have been part of American history since the first settlers.


Andrew Bunting  1:04:47

Yes, yes. So the next flower show in 2024 is March 2 to the 10th.Tickets are on sale. you can get any information from PHSonline.org. The theme this year is united by flowers. So, you know how plants kind of bring people together? This is kind of the meta message. And you know, it's it's one of the biggest horticultural events in the world. It's a huge indoor Flower Show. We  always have it kind of right at the end of winter, beginning of spring, and it is a really good kind of kickoff to the spring season on the East Coast.


Farmer Fred  1:05:37

And I guess if you get there before March 2, maybe you could have a preview party.


Andrew Bunting  1:05:42

There is a preview party. That's always fun. So yes, if you come right before March 2,  you could sign up for the the preview party. This show itself is a nice combination of florists from all over the world showing their floral arrangements. Large landscape exhibits, competitive classes, including people bringing individual plants to be judged against one another, and then a massive kind of marketplace, vendor area. And then we also this year, have a new speaker series called “Know to grow”, where we'll have 30 speakers over the course of the 10 days of the flower show. and all those lectures are free and open to the flower show visitors.


Farmer Fred  1:06:31

Oh, that's a nice little treat there. Gives people a place to sit for awhile.


Andrew Bunting  1:06:36

Yes,  sit for a while and get educated.


Farmer Fred  1:06:40

All right. It's the Philadelphia Flower Show ,presented by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. March 2 through 10th, 2024 in Philadelphia, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, more information available online. Go to phsonline.org.  click on the flower show link. Andrew Bunting, is the vice president of horticulture for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. We've been talking about the trends for the new gardening year 2024. And a lot of it is basically get Mother Nature to work with you; don't work against Mother Nature.


Andrew Bunting  1:07:19

Yes. Thank you for having me.




Farmer Fred  1:07:27

There’s a big change coming to the Garden Basics podcast, starting next week.

No, I won’t be chatting in Bulgarian or start using a cohost created by artificial intelligence…although that could be funny. But, no. Starting next Tuesday, January 23, it will be an extra edition of the Garden Basics podcast. On Each Tuesday episode, Fred and Debbie Flower will be answering your garden questions. Then on Friday, it will be the usual Garden Basics podcast, where me and my guests do a deep dive into getting you your best garden ever. So, Tuesdays it’s garden questions. Friday’s, it’ll be more garden blah blah blah. For example, next Friday, January 26 (2024), we delve into the award winning new plants of 2024, according to the All America Selections committee.

Now, regarding your questions for episodes on tuesday…there’s a lot of ways to your questions here:


• Leave an audio question. We love your voices! We want to hear you!

One of the best methods is to yell at your phone or your device without making a phone call. Go to Speakpipe dot com. speakpipe.com/gardenbasics

• Call or text us the question: 916-292-8964.

• Fill out the contact box at GardenBasics.net

• E-mail: fred@farmerfred.com


PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, don’t forget to tell us where you are, because, and say it with me…all gardening is local. We want to give you the most accurate answer for your question. So, tell us your city or county or state or USDA Zone, if you want to be fancy when you contact us with your questions.


Starting Tuesday, it’s an extra edition of the Garden  Basics podcast each week.



Farmer Fred

Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening.




Comments & Upvotes

Contact Us


Got a question, press inquiry or idea you'd like to share? Contact us through the form below and let us know how we can help.

Subscribe, don't miss the next episode!