By Cynthia Bee, Conservation Garden Park
This past week the Utah Nursery and Landscape Association (UNLA) held their annual statewide conference in Sandy. The major themes this year were conservation, innovation and next-generation plants. Because the event is not open to the public, we’ll provide a little “behind the scenes” look at the year ahead for Utah landscapes.
Conservation is Key
Conservation was a hot topic on several fronts. Landscapers are caught in an awkward position between responding to customer demand, and installing landscapes they know will provide greater resilience for Utah homeowners. Experts from Utah State University’s extension program, Conservation Garden Park and more taught professionals how to navigate the gulf between customer expectations and climate realities. The Localscapes method was featured prominently as a way to provide customers with the landscape appearance they desire, while still creating climate-appropriate yards.
What to expect: You’ll see more emphasis on native plants and “nativars” — cultivars and hybrids of a native plant species — in local nurseries where they have the staff and expertise to help you make the best selections for your yard. You’ll also see new options for landscape materials from local quarries and sources.
What’s a conference without gadgets? The landscape industry is unique, in that the end result of their labors are living landscapes with specific needs. Much of the gadgetry at this show focused on efficient delivery of water through improvements to irrigation systems. Much has been done to improve the quality and reliability of drip irrigation systems, so if you tried drip irrigation years ago and were unimpressed, now is a good time to give it another look.
Irrigation systems have gone digital, making it easier than ever to manage your system without having to directly adjust your sprinkler timer. New smart controllers are Wi-Fi connected and contact the closest weather station to adjust your system based on anticipated weather conditions. These new controllers also make it easy to manage your irrigation directly from your smartphone. Some controllers are compatible with smart home automation systems and can be part of a complete system.
What to expect: This is the year when homeowners switch out their current timers for the new high-tech versions. The change is made even easier with statewide smart controller rebates offered through Utah Water Savers. Learn more at http://UtahWaterSavers.com.
Next Generation Plants
There have been dramatic changes to plant breeding and hybridization over the past decade, and the conference offered the opportunity for professionals to work directly with the companies and growers spurring the changes. Growers have moved toward plants that require less water and are downscaled to fit smaller residential lots. Some of the top new plant introductions are columnar shrubs and trees to fit tight spaces.
What to expect: Look for new, upgraded versions of many of your favorite plants at local nurseries this season.
Plan to visit us at the Conservation Garden Park this season where you can see all of these trends in a real garden setting. Registration for many of our spring classes is now open. http://conservationgardenpark.org/events.