It’s only one gardeners view, but here it is . . . Last week, while at a national garden conference, several of us were involved in a debate about trends and fashion in gardens. If you look at a house or car, most people can pinpoint the century or decade it came from. Can you do this with a garden? Drive around sometime with a gardening friend and try to “date that yard” – you’d be surprised how easy it is!

What was the fashion that tells the garden’s age? What will we say the garden look of the early 2000’s was?

There is at least one major difference between architecture and landscape design. Most all gardens are dependent on nature and natural systems and will change with time as plants grow and die. On the other hand, architecture is rather static; gardens are dynamic. Notably, successful gardens are much more dependent on the context of their surroundings. Buildings less so.

In my mind, the best garden design captures a sense of place rooted in the local geography and climate, and works with them to result in a style that fits that place. So what is the “look” of the Orange County garden?

Current gardens in Orange County are evolving at a faster pace than has ever been experienced before. Gardens are changing (however slowly) to better reflect our climate and the place we live. Unlike previous gardening fashions, these changes will not be brief – like color gardening trends of the seventies and eighties, or cottage gardening during the nineties. These will be permanent changes. The resource pressures upon local gardeners, such as water, waste, air and time, will change how we design and use our outdoor spaces. As a response to these pressures, and the cost of land, gardens of this millennium will be rather permanently unique from those of the past.

This trend will manifest itself here in Orange County and coastal California in a few ways: an intensive concentration of plantings and a multiplicity of species, in ever smaller spaces. Non plant elements, like empty outdoor pottery pots, objects de art, wall treatments and garden art will be commonplace.

However, these trends will develop within a larger context; that of our gardens connection to a unique geography and climate. Gone the way of dinosaurs will be expansive lawns, large statements of bedding color and big specimen trees. A distinct California-style garden will emerge.

Years from now we may look at turn-of-the-millennium gardens as those offering super-efficient irrigation systems, organic surfaces and locally inspired décor. Styles, as expressed through plant selections, will transition from time to time but will forever after be a reflection of our climate and geography. Native plants, succulents, Mediterranean flora, ornamental grasses and others will all get their turn, but these transient styles will always operate within this larger, permanent context. Local gardens inspired by far off Cape Cod, an English hillside or a South Pacific Isle will, like colored mulch, drift away into a bygone era.

Here in most of southern California, there has been no distinct planting style or regional look to our gardens. This is the land of gardening opportunity; and significant climate denial is alive and well.

I see future urban gardens as a mélange of plantings appropriate to what we can grow well here. Therefore, I find the gardens of this millennium a thorough mix and match, highly customized to the whims and personalities of its participants – but with a strong sense of place. A garden collage will be emerge, borne of temperate cloudforests; Californian, South African, Australian and New Zealand plants; succulents of all shapes and forms; fall and winter blooming subtropicals; water thrifty flower bulbs, arid bromeliads and much more.

From this we will develop a California-style of gardening, a style that can only be consummated in a mild Mediterranean climate. The Orange County garden will fully express itself. It’s an exciting time – a gardening renaissance for all of us.

Yes, there are trends and front yard fashion in gardens. What is the fashion that will tell of today’s garden? You have my thoughts; what are yours? E-mail me at stumpthegardener@

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar