The top horticultural trends for 2017 have one basic theme: the environment. From healthy nutrition to personal success, fulfillment and well-being, our concern for the environment infuses our garden designs and inspires the decisions we make, from plants to technology. Horticulture is seeing green.

Agriculture meets the city

More and more people want to eat fresh produce grown without the use of chemicals, which is why urban agriculture is a growing phenomenon. Literally! This trend is hot, and it’s filling gardens and balcony containers with plants that are both beautiful and delicious. You can design your own plant combinations – vegetable, fruit and herbs with a few annuals to complete the arrangement. For example, a single container could include yellow cherry tomatoes, dwarf peppers, kale, purple basil, strawberry plants and a few geraniums to finish off the ensemble. In the garden bed, add some climbing squash or cucumber plants behind your favourite perennials. Hang a planter filled with ground cherries and impatiens. Brighten up your patio table with delicious and pretty clover, broccoli or alfalfa sprouts and edible flowers. A feast for your eyes first, a feast on the plate second.

The environment first

A solid respect for the environment is fundamental. Eco-awareness leads us to adopt eco-responsible methods to conserve water, promote biodiversity and adopt an environmentally-friendly approach to the land we cultivate. If “we are what we eat” we certainly don’t want chemical products on our fruit, vegetables and herbs. Choose eco-friendly products, or certified organic. Opt for native species of pollinator-friendly, edible plants, such as the Jerusalem artichoke and Saskatoon berry. Do your research on a range of topics: eco-friendly garden maintenance, companion planting, rain water collection, watering techniques and products to conserve water, and composting.

A yard for everyone

The back yard should happily and safely accommodate the whole family – adults, children, and pets alike.

Say “backyard” to the kids and they’ll run to the big play space. Prioritize safety to keep scrapes and bruises to a minimum. And to help small children respect the boundaries of the play space, a visual aid such as a hedge or fence can be indispensable. Play structures such as a swing set, slide, and sand box should be located out of the sun in order to prevent heat stroke and sunburns. You can achieve more shade in the yard by planting some trees or by building a pergola. Remember: kids love to dig their hands into the dirt. Create a small vegetable garden for them or set aside an area for them in the family vegetable garden and they can start developing their green thumbs. Non-toxic products and non-poisonous plants are a must when working with young garden-apprentices. And avoid plants with thorns, spines and prickles, such as roses and raspberry bushes. Choose fast-growing vegetables like radishes and lettuce instead. Cherry tomato plants – red, yellow, orange and indigo – and strawberry plants are perfect, as are herbs such as chives for flavour, and basil and rosemary for fragrance. Really large plants such as sunflowers and pumpkins are favourites with kids, and a few annual flowers will make pretty bouquets for Mom!

Don’t forget that ‘man’s best friend,’ aka dogs (and cats), will also use the yard. So there is even more reason to ban chemical-based products from outdoor use. Also, ensure that there are no plants in your garden beds that could be poisonous to your pets.

The “smart” garden

Technology has been introduced to the garden to help you grow your green thumb greener! There are apps available on your smartphone that will enable you to identify plants quickly; just take a photo and with a few clicks you can access a wealth of useful information, like the name of the plant, its sunlight and water needs, and the weather and soil conditions that suit it best. This is a fantastic way to speed up and simplify your plant and garden education. Tech-savvy gardeners take note: gardening tech is now available that can let you know through sensors when to water or fertilize by sending update alerts to your phone. Use your smartphone to control your watering system, but use it as well to manage your speakers, lighting, and even the garden fireplace. Ambiance at your fingertips!

Open up your living space

When the warm weather finally arrives, we want to head outside. We want to entertain outdoors, cook and eat outdoors, garden, search out R&R, and sit around the outdoor fireplace on cooler evenings. In short, we want to live outside as often, much, and late as possible.

The deck has become an extension of the interior of the home. The aim is to create distinct living spaces within an open layout, and to achieve this, we look for materials that will both define a particular area and provide a harmonious connection between the various spaces. Colour is ideal. You can also use a flooring material and simply modify the installation within various areas. Paving stones and flagstones are linear, smooth and contemporary. Opt for pale colours, such as grey or ivory, that won’t absorb as much heat. Echo the colour by choosing stones in the same shade for the fireplace or low wall.

If you plan to build a deck or pergola, aim to use low-maintenance sustainable materials. Wood remains a superb choice; it is beautiful and adds warmth to all decors. Cedar is a native species, highly resistant, and does not require protection. Ipe is an exotic hardwood, and very luxurious. Composite decking looks like natural wood; it’s very resistant and eco-friendly since it’s made from 95% recycled materials.

Garden furniture retailers offer sets to suit all tastes. Choose furniture that is comfortable of course, but also functional and lightweight enough that it can easily be moved if you want to switch up your decor. Benches are an excellent choice for the dining area because you’ll be able to accommodate more people around the table if necessary. Modular adjustable furniture provides flexibility when it comes to rearranging the living area.

Your plants will play an important role. They can define different areas, harmonize the decor, create movement, and focus attention. With pots and planters, you can easily integrate your plants into your outdoor living space. Try to buy pots and containers that will match your decor: a rustic imitation barrel, traditional circle, or a contemporary square, colourful and fun for the children’s corner. Play with height and colours.

Yellow has been declared colour of the year 2017, so have some fun and include it wherever you can: new yellow cushions for the living area, yellow dishes or placemats in the dining area, yellow cherry tomatoes or yellow annuals in pots and planters, a new perennial in your flowerbeds, or an assortment of very green herbs in a yellow pot.

To the backyard

Back to summer means back to evenings with friends and wonderful family barbecues and back to the ultimate in relaxation – a seat by the fire on cool evenings.

If your outdoor design is going to be a success, good planning is of the essence. You need to figure out how your family naturally uses the area before you designate specific living spaces. Depending on the scale of the work to be done, it might be wise to call upon professionals for their help and advice.

Can you manage some of the work yourself? Go ahead! Get a wheelbarrow, shovels, bags of soil, compost, straw, a garden hose, and dig in. And if the results exceed your expectations, don’t be shy! Post a few pictures on social media, share the fruit of your labour and delight in your success!

First and foremost for 2017: enjoy your yard! Push a few boundaries when it comes to garden design. Dare to mix it up a little. Have fun! Enjoy the beauty and live your summer to the max.