We want our yards to be the farmer’s market, a nature preserve, a kitchen, the den and an expression of our own personal style.

That’s the snapshot for what’s hot in Tucson’s gardens for 2015 according to several gardening and landscape professionals.


Interest in growing food continues to explode. Garden writer and educator Jacqueline Soule says her gardening classes are full, while nurseries can barely keep up with the demand for vegetable and fruit seeds, starts and trees and supplies to keep them growing.

“That’s the largest increase in sales by far,” says Silverbell Nursery manager Matt Smit. “The only thing that is trending up in plant sales is food.”

He notes that he’s seeing a lot of new gardeners who are in their 20s and 30s, usually not the typical age for gardening. And baby boomers are returning to their growing roots established by their parents, he adds.

Other edible gardening trends:
  • People are showing interest in creating food forests that incorporate fruit and nut trees, berry shrubs and ground-level and root crops, says
  • Catlow Shipek
  • , senior program manager at Watershed Management Group.
  • Several hard freezes in recent years have led gardeners to move away from growing citrus trees and instead tend stone-fruit trees that thrive in colder weather, says Smit.
  • Smit and other gardening experts expect that urban farming that includes raising chickens will continue to grow.

Reusing, reclaiming and recycling are increasingly important themes with clients, observes landscape designer Paul Connolly.

“It’s not so much for a cost savings, although that’s part of it,” says Connolly, owner of Sundrea Design Studio, Sundrea Landscape Center and Sundrea Style. “It’s the whole ecological aspect of it.”

People would rather “repurpose” items than to throw them away, he says.

For one design project, Connolly tore up a brick patio in the front yard and used the material to create a new patio in a side yard.

Dirt that was excavated to build new walls and cinder blocks that came from an old wall that was torn down were not dumped into a landfill. Instead, they were used to fill an eroded area that then was landscaped.

The new design was finished with antique fencing that hang on walls as artwork and as a trellis.

Rainwater harvesting is another popular way homeowners are claiming what would otherwise be wasted.

Smit says that interest in water-collection systems will continue into 2015 in part because of Tucson Water’s rebate program for water-harvesting practices.

Rainwater harvesting is becoming an integral part of landscape or homebuilding plans, not an add-on as an afterthought, he says. “A lot more people who are building their houses are thinking, ‘I need to get water to one area,’” he says.

Other sustainable trends:
  • Shipek sees more use of locally produced organic mulch to dress a landscape instead of mined and crushed rock that is hauled in from elsewhere. “It’s really starting to create a new landscape aesthetic,” he says of the practice that saves fuel consumption and uses what otherwise is considered landscape waste.
  • Debbie Mounce
  • at Harlow Gardens notes an increase in sales of plants that attract pollinating animals. “I’ve noticed how concerned people are about preserving bees and butterflies,” she says, adding that people recognize they can’t grow edibles without them.

Outdoor spaces are looking more and more like indoor ones, says Elizabeth Przygoda Montgomery, a landscape designer and owner of Shop Boxhill.

It starts with outdoor details that mimic the style inside the home. “It is about what’s happening indoors and bringing it outdoors,” Przygoda Montgomery says.

For instance, she says, fans of mid-20th century furniture will show their style using period house numbers, plant pots and mailboxes. And they’ll add those touches even if the house is a different architectural style from the look of that era.

“People are looking at what they can do to bring their style outside in a little way,” she says.

Backyards also are getting divided so that there are assigned living areas much like an open-floor plan in a home.

“It used to be just a flagstone patio that people wanted,” says Smit of Silverbell Nursery, which also does landscape design.

Now homeowners want barbecue areas that are covered overhead to make it distinct from other parts of the yard, he says.

People also want well-appointed backyards to use as “staycations,” says Val Romero, owner of Arizona Grill & Hearth.

Instead of spending money on out-of-town trips, “they’re spending it in their backyard to make it their own resort,” Romero says.

Other outdoor living trends:
  • Fire pits are growing in popularity. Shop Boxhill’s top seller is a portable bowl that can add fire ambience anywhere in the backyard. Customers at Arizona Grill & Hearth are drawn to linear fire pits, which look like planters spouting flames. Fire stone and fire glass add shimmer to the look.
  • New filters for LED (light-emitting diode) lighting eliminate the bright-white shine that homeowners didn’t like for highlighting their plants. The muted shades are attracting more use of LEDs, which lower homeowners’ costs in installing the wiring and using electricity. “They’re using a lot less energy, a lot less wattage and getting the same light effects,” says Connolly.
  • Artificial plants are going outdoors, Connolly says. He sees more people turning to them to fill in small, shady spots in the garden where nothing seems to grow. “They’re like small accents, agaves and succulents,” he says. “The fake ones look real.”

Contact Tucson freelance

writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net