Homeowner’s Pride

11/14/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Outdoor Living, Uncategorized

If you are looking for a lilac to plant this spring the timing couldn’t be better. The moisture from a couple of weeks ago has just now brought lilacs into bloom. You will find a dozen different varieties at garden centers, from the deep reds of the French varieties to the common lilacs your grandmother grew. Because they’re in bloom, you’ll have no doubts about the color you’re buying. Fortunately, lilacs grow well in the mountains of Arizona.

With deep purple flower clusters that fade to pink, Bloomerang Lilac is an exciting new introduction this spring. It is a variety that continuously blooms through the season much like a knockout rose, potentilla, or butterfly bush, and it now is at the beginning of its first bloom cycle. This compact variety fits easily into any sunny mountain landscape that needs more fragrance. Although this lilac is striking in a glazed container with a foundation of mixed flowers, perennial beds look really good burgeoning with this ever bloomer.

Bad news, good news: The Bloomerang is so new that the number of available plants is still very limited. This spring’s specimens are all that will be available for the year. The good news is that, although this lilac grows to 5 feet high, blooming shrubs in stock are only two feet tall so a plant in full bloom can be found for under $20. For beauty and performance it gets two thumbs up from this gardener!

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When housing markets noticeably changed in the 2000’s, many of us became real estate investors. Gardeners involved in the investment trend altered their views on landscaping. We neglected personal landscaping projects as we waited for the money that could be made when investment values rose. While maxing out the equity credit line to flip houses and leverage more property while maintaining routine expenses, pride of home ownership seemed to take a back seat. Since real estate prices tanked an interesting phenomenon has occurred, at least with the customers I serve: Pride of home ownership is back.

This must be connected to the remodel craze that has been going on inside homes for the past two years, because now homeowners are into landscape remodeling with the same vigor. The pride of ownership both inside and out is reminiscent of trends in the late ‘80’s and throughout the ‘90’s. Entire landscapes are being shaped to fit the gardener’s new personality. I’ve noticed the emergence of three types of gardeners.

Avid – Avid gardeners always have been out in their gardens. As the world becomes more stressful they simply spend more time gardening. The visits to their garden centers are so frequent these avid soil tenders are recognized by name. For this group gardening is a passion, a hobby, and therapy to recharge not only their gardens but their souls. Approximately 15% of spring visitors to the nursery are defined as avid gardeners.

Entertainment – A noticeable twist occurred since skyrocketing real estate came to a halt. Homeowners are focusing garden projects with an objective of entertaining and socializing more. This group of gardeners focuses on shaping landscapes with a new outdoor patio, a fire pit, a new grill, a privacy screen, shade trees, or a hot tub.

Their gardening projects include taking out tired shrubs, replacing dated containers, face-lifting tired patio furniture, and rearranging the outdoor space to look more like a living room or kitchen for outdoor gatherings with family and friends. A refreshed landscape definitely draws people to the outdoors. I calculate that 35% of gardeners visiting the garden center this year are part of this fun new dynamic.

Well-Being – In pursuit of healthy living, growing foods for personal consumption is back and not just among young families but with retirees as well. This week we set up new community gardens in the Talking Rock subdivisions with a focus on organic gardening. Over 20 people attended this neighborhood class with great energy and interest for the subject. But backyard vegetable gardens are only part of the trend in seeking general well being.

Many new homeowners brag about the bargains they got on their homes’ purchase prices. Now they are spending time and money getting the yards back to their previous glory and in many cases far exceeding the vision of previous owners. Tree and shrub sales are off the charts this year as these gardeners take pride in enhancing their new homes’ landscapes. Remodeling that started in kitchens and bathrooms has spread to the yards. It’s hard to beat that reward of pulling into the driveway and seeing your handiwork and the satisfaction of a completed garden project.

The garden mood is reminiscent of the 1990’s when homeowners were embarrassed by the knee-deep weeds and dead plants of an ugly yard. Gardeners’ goals this spring seem to be color, a front yard so nice it is the showpiece of the neighborhood, a backyard that is comfortable for family and friends, and bringing a gracious sense to the patio or deck with new furniture, a grill, and containers full of flowers.

Time will tell, but it feels to me like the impersonal rush of house investing is over and the pride of living in a home in a lovingly tended neighborhood is back . . . . . as it probably should have been all along.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.