Photo: KateMonkey/Creative Commons
If you scoff and think growing your own food may sound just a bit too "Little House on the Prairie" for your liking, well, you might be missing a major Paris Hilton-worthy trend (in addition to all of the other benefits).
Contemporary garden trends have almost nothing in common with the habits of the Ingalls family. From urban living walls and small space-friendly container gardening to foodies relying on fresh herbs and Michelle Obama's White House planting, these seven trends make it chic to get your hands dirty.
1. Herb GardensHomegrown herbs have several key things going for them:
- When it comes to growing them, herbs like basil, rosemary, cilantro, mint and chives are practically foolproof, whether you're using small containers in a windowsill, outdoor space in your yard, or a bigger hydroponic garden indoors.
- They look gorgeous and smell amazing, even before you start eating them.
- Having fresh herbs on hand makes it easy to throw together even the simplest meal -- try herb-roasted tomatoes over pasta or grilled tilapia with fresh herbs -- and enjoy the fresh taste and bright aromas -- and the endless complements that your dinner is sure to get you.
Read More: 8 Easy Ways to Grow a Gorgeous, Useful Herb Garden
2. Container Gardens
Photo: Chris Tackett
The chic side of gardening tends to go unnoticed by city dwellers -- most of whom trade the rural or suburban lifestyle (the one that means you have land to plant on) -- for urban living.
But container gardening offers them the best of both worlds: Dozens of fruits and vegetables -- from the obvious (basil, oregano, tomatoes) to the exotic (avocado, pomegranate, quinoa) that they can grow on even the smallest fire escape.
Bonus: whether you're using repurposed materials or designer decor, the containers themselves offer plenty of ways to show off your sophisticated style. It's the perfect way to combine uber-local produce -- trendy enough in itself -- with your big-city third-floor-walkup lifestyle.
3. The White House Garden
Photo: The White House/Joyce N. Boghosian
If the last few years have taught us anything, it's that if Michelle Obama does it, we all want to do it.
Michelle Obama announced plans to start the garden in April 2009, and for three years in a row the efforts of her and the local students that help out have resulted in local, organic produce.
The harvest, including blueberries, spinach, lettuce, peas, and fresh herbs, have found their way into dishes prepared by the staff chefs for everyday meals and state dinners.
4. Living Walls
Foodies aren't the only ones taken in by the idea of adding a little bloom to their daily life: Architects and city planners are also adding green space to their projects -- and when land is at a premium, they build up instead of out.
Living walls (also called vertical gardens) are brightening up libraries and museums in Spain, interior decor (we love this indoor-ready version from Joost Bakker), London hotels, and other public buildings all over the world.
If you're short on outdoor space, you can even grow your own living wall.
5. Planting for Bees
Gardeners know that bees are critical to the health of any planting system -- but with colony collapse disorder putting the future of those little buzzers in danger, some dedicated conservationists are turning their backyards into havens for the often-friendly insects.
Bees may actually be drawn to a lot of the plants you were already planning to include in your next garden -- including rosemary, safe, sunflower, and zinnia.
Look for plants where the nectar and pollen are exposed, says Dr. Joseph M. Patt, to encourage the bees to make your house their home.
6. Sharing the Bounty
The Garden Writer's Association's research for 2009 showed that 38 percent of households in the United States -- that's more than 41 million families -- had planted a vegetable garden (a 19 percent jump from 2008).
And while the study didn't mention this, we have a feeling that being able to trade bushels of cucumbers for jars of your neighbor's homemade peach jam is a pretty sweet motivation, too.
7. Farm to Table
Home cooks aren't the only ones whose meals get a burst of flavor and intrigue from fresh herbs -- restaurant chefs get the same benefits, which is why more and more of them are relying on their own gardens to stock their kitchens.