Did I miss something? Where was all the hoopla when we transited into a new decade? Here we are well into the fourth month of a new one-a decade that is-and aside from the Census, there doesn’t seem to be much notice of the milestone. However, there are some important trends for the decade taking shape and worth noting as we observe Earth Day.

Kudos to those of you who see some of your own initiatives in the following list, and you may notice gardening figures prominently according to a recent analysis by the Natural Marketing Institute, which conducts all of the consumer research related to Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. The list, according to a garden industry on-line newsletter, is based on various institute research sources, including the Health and Wellness Trends Database, the LOHAS Consumer Trends Database, Healthy Aging/Boomer Database, Supplements/OTC/Rx Database, as well as analysis of current activities in the marketplace. Here are the top trends for the coming decade:

1. Getting “off the grid.” A new spirit of self-reliance is the driving force on a very personal level as consumers prioritize their spending and behavior towards what they believe is purposeful, principled and powerful. Consumers are looking for ways to be more self sufficient even beyond their spending habits, including household-generated energy, water conservation and purification, self-directed healthcare and private gardens.

2. Meaningful green. “Green” has penetrated the consciousness and purchasing behavior of consumers across the globe, as well as at the retail shelves. The challenge now is in achieving meaningful differentiation, as green initiatives must be distinctive, memorable and measurable. Consumers demand that green products provide the same benefits at the same price as conventional products, so it will be vital to align these elements. Look for the meaning of “green” to move beyond the struggle of statistics (x percent less packaging, more energy efficient) to new communication platforms that extend the meaning of green.

3. EcoTechMed. New economic realities are motivating many to take greater steps towards proactive health care rather than sick care and to take greater responsibility for their own health and wellness. At the same time, technology is enabling fully customized and predictive prevention alternatives, including a blending of alternative medicine with Western medical science.

4. Breaking the mold.
Consumers are changing many long-held societal norms, from eating less meat and refusing vaccines, to trading in the suburban castle for an eco-friendly urban flat, to rejecting financial services models and managing one’s own portfolio. When consumers break this mold, they create entirely new market sectors for valued products and services.

5. Pure and simple. New trends in purity and simplicity are evident as we move to simpler inputs, focused messaging, cleaner labeling, streamlined design and easy delivery. This “less is more” trend is resonating with values-driven consumers, natural and eco-friendly enthusiasts, and convenience shoppers.

6. The future is now.
There’s an atmosphere of urgency that many consumers feel in terms of solving problems in society and with the environment.

7. Commonwealth of connections.
Increasingly, the aging population is driving massive societal shifts, resulting in a host of new products and services. Businesses are emerging across all economic and social strata, with products and services designed to connect to the financial, social and medical needs of 100-plus million U.S. consumers.

8. Personal ROI.
Consumers are demanding greater value from every product and service they buy. This personal value is now being defined as personal return on investment. These value requirements transcend product cost and functionality to include a value differential. The value differentials that encompass fair trade, resource management, and the efficacy and productivity of corporate social responsibility programs are increasingly part of this emotional and social value equation.



Clematis pruning tips for masses of blooms

When it comes to those popular blooming vines, clematis, turn to the Hummingbird Farm in Turner. This time of year, the subject of pruning those wonderful perennials causes many a gardener to shiver and shake in their boots. With a shrug of their shoulders, and a sense of humor, here’s what the folks from Hummingbird Farm (in Turner) say on the subject:

Pruning causes gardeners more anxiety than any other aspect of growing clematis-and it is NOT necessary! Forget what you may have read or heard elsewhere. Most published works on clematis are written by folks who garden in warmer climates than ours, with longer growing seasons and milder winters. We have tested our pruning recommendations for a number of years on a wide variety of clematis and they work.
Under the “Frozen North Pruning System,” there are only two pruning treatments. Which you use depends on when your clematis blooms.

• Don’t Bother! Clematis that begin to bloom in May or early June should not be pruned; Mother Nature will do the pruning for you. Our long, harsh winters will cause some winter kill on the top growth. We recommend pruning out this winter kill after the leaves start to grow in the spring. The amount of winter kill will, of course, depend on how cold the winter is; some winters, some clematis may die back to the ground. This is OK – feed and water them well and they will regrow and bloom for you.

• Full Prune. Clematis that don’t begin to bloom until late June or later should be severely cut back in late winter or early spring. This is a great cure for cabin fever! In late March or early April, pick a warm day and sharpen your pruning shears. Cut all the stems on your Full Prune clematis at anywhere from 12 to 18 inches above the ground. The stems you have removed should be quite brittle and will easily pull off their support. This may sound drastic but in fact it is quick and easy to do. If you’re like us, it will take you longer to find the pruners than it will to prune a couple of mature plants! And, no, you will not kill the plant – it will thank you by blooming more profusely than ever.

And here’s a final, Deep, Dark Secret: If life gets in the way or you forget or make a mistake or somehow don’t prune your clematis correctly this spring, so what? Your clematis may not bloom quite when you expect it to or for as long, but it won’t hurt you or the plant. We don’t recommend making the same mistake too many years in a row, but the occasional slip up is not the end of the world.

Also Hummingbird folks recommend that established clematis plants get a springtime boost of a shovel-full or two of compost (the amount depending on the size of the plant) and then a couple feedings of RoseTone fertilizer (Espoma) in early and mid-summer. The rose fertilizer gives clematis, which has nutrient needs similar to those of roses, just what they require and adds beneficial microbes which could help suppress plant diseases. They also warn to not feed clematis those “blue’ fertilizers because they don’t provide what the rose fertilizers do, and to not feed the plants anytime after August 21 so they can ease into dormancy for the winter.

Well, there you have it. So, relax and enjoy the season. For more information on clematis pruning tips and fertilization, visit the Hummingbird Farm, hummingbirdfarm.net/clematis_pruning.


Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award and the Florida Magazine Association’s Silver Award of Writing Excellence. She is a member of the Garden Writers Association. She gardens in Camden.