Bright ideas: High-drama colour – and how it's being used – was the big story at the show this year. According to Paul Zammit, director of horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Garden, bold colour cropped up not only in blooms but in "arbours and architectural pieces," too, from the vivid hit of acid yellow-green in a painted fence to a wall of brightly coloured sap buckets in the Via Rail wall garden created by Quebec's Jardins de Métis. The look is easy to re-create at home: You can coordinate the colours in the cushions of an outdoor sofa with matching nearby tulips, as landscape architect Ron Holbrook did. Or you can get out your paintbrush and a bucket of enamel paint and liven up anything from a trellis to a pair of Adirondacks.
Right as rain: Water was everywhere in the demonstration gardens this year, particularly in the form of dramatic, architectural water walls. They showed water sliding down slick plastic screens, over metal fences and suspended in midair in the arresting garden called Hope Springs Eternal designed by landscape architect Kent Ford. Such walls add texture and movement to a static outdoor space, and the technology is relatively simple. All that is required is a well-anchored fence or other sturdy structure, outfitted with a recirculating pump, a pipe with holes for the dripping water and a basin to catch it in. The best part? They are more effective than any other water feature at blocking out city noise and they look sensational lit up at night.
Reduce, reuse, redesign?: Recycled metal and wood provided designers with plenty of inspiration for using old materials in new ways. Giant planks became edging borders, old timbers were reinvented as pillars in an arbour, as plinths for garden art and even as the base for an outdoor table. I especially loved the installation by Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, which incorporated the wood from a 300-year-old oak tree.
Going native According to Zammit, there's a shift afoot in the way that gardeners are shopping for plants:"[They] want to know if a plant is native, what it will do for pollinators and if it is drought-tolerant," Zammit says of the questions that more and more consumers are asking him. He chalks this up to an increase in "eco-sensitivity" and a growing awareness of the multiple uses of plants. After all, "gardening isn't just a way of expressing yourself or showing off how much money you have," Zammit says. "There's more emphasis now on making good choices for the environment."
The home stretch: Gardens have always been a locus of "relaxation and spiritual renewal," says Charlie Dobbin, head of horticulture at Canada Blooms. Now, however, gardens are inspiring people to get up and go. Enter the trend for "active areas" in outdoor spaces, where, Dobbin says, "yoga and tai chi can be done in a beautiful setting." At the show, this translated into yoga platforms as focal points in several of the gardens on display. Landscape architect Shawn Gallaugher went so far as to feature 'bootcamp zones' in his Otium garden, leaving no room for excuses about shlepping to the gym.