Gardeners returning to 'nostalgic' plants, Monrovia study finds

Jan 9, 2024
Gardeners returning to ‘nostalgic’ plants, Monrovia study finds

When it comes to plant choices, the classics are back, according to a recent survey conducted by Monrovia.

Home gardeners are returning to flowers and shrubs that offer timeless appeal as an antidote to the hectic pace of modern life — and new breeding is making traditional garden favorites such as roses, hydrangeas, peonies, lilacs, and other blooming shrubs updated and even better. These beautiful flowers bring gardeners back to simpler times and offer a connection to memories, family, and friends that may have influenced their love of gardening.

The survey found that nearly 30% of homeowners say gardening makes them feel nostalgic. For the most ambitious gardeners, who spend the most time gardening, that number jumps to 46% of respondents saying they strongly agree with the statement, “Gardening makes me feel nostalgic, reminds me of a simpler time with family.”

Every year, Monrovia asks 1,400 homeowners across the U.S. about their gardening interests and plant purchasing habits. That data is combined with monthly mobile studies to track continuing and emerging trends.

“The return to these classic plants is part of the larger trend we’re calling the ‘Garden of Nostalgia and Romance,’” said Katie Tamony, chief marketing officer and trend spotter at Monrovia. “The connection to the past is merging with the need for attractive, low-maintenance elegance. Think big, beautiful blooms, softer colors, and a return to romance in the garden. Modern varieties of these traditional plants are easier to grow and provide more blooms than shrubs of the past.”

Monrovia’s picks for nostalgic and romantic plants to add to the garden this season include:

Hydrangea 'Seaside Serenade Kitty Hawk'
Hydrangea ‘Seaside Serenade Kitty Hawk’

New reblooming hydrangeas bring more and longer lasting blooms to the landscape. Hydrangea ‘Seaside Serenade Kitty Hawk’ features beautiful, star-shaped flowers that emerge a lime green and transition to a stunning soft pink. The blooms sit atop strong stems and are highlighted by deep green foliage.Modern roses add fragrance to the garden with enhanced disease resistance that make them easy to grow.

Climbing rose ‘Heavenly Ascent Pink’

Climbing rose ‘Heavenly Ascent Pink’ brings a classic romantic look to your landscape. This smaller climber features fragrant, creamy-pink blooms and reaches 8 feet tall. This continuous blooming rose is a must-have for gardeners who are drawn to the nostalgia and romance design trend. Look for ‘Heavenly Ascent Red’, too.

Agapanthus ‘Bridal Veil’

Agapanthus ‘Bridal Veil’ packs lots of bright, beautiful blooms in a compact habit. The billowy white flowers cover strong stems that reach only about a foot high. This agapanthus is perfect for mass planting or in containers. A perennial in Zones 7 to 11, it can be grown as an annual in cooler climates.

Weigela 'Coco Chill'
Weigela ‘Coco Chill’

Weigela ‘Coco Chill’ is compact and colorful with dark, dramatic foliage that brings a modern touch to this classic shrub. Coco Chill’s bright pink blooms provide a lovely contrast from spring through summer. This weigela is exceptionally hardy and perfect for adding a touch of nostalgia to any garden space.

Lilac 'Little Darling'
Lilac ‘Little Darling’

When it comes to classic garden blooms, it’s tough to beat lilacs. Their flowers and scent bring back springtime memories. Recent breeding work has improved lilacs, offering varieties that flower more than once and stay more compact in the garden. Lilac ‘Little Darling’, a Monrovia exclusive, offers double the blooming power with classic lilac-colored, fragrant flowers in the spring and then again in the fall. This compact variety looks great in containers and is an outstanding addition to any size landscape. Pollinators love it too!

Itoh peony 'Garden Candy Candy Apple'
Itoh peony ‘Garden Candy Candy Apple’

Peony may be one of the most beloved varieties in a garden of nostalgia and romance. Modern breeding is making these traditional shrubs even more cherished with stronger stems, compact habits, and more plentiful blooms. The  Itoh peony Garden Candy collection has eight colors to choose from, including an outstanding double red. Itoh peony ‘Garden Candy Candy Apple’ features vibrant, saturated magenta blooms that stand out in the spring garden.

Rosa x 'Meikapette' ITSY BITSY PEACH
Miniature rose Itsy Bitsy Peach’

Beautiful things come in small packages! This is especially true of the new miniature rose ‘Itsy Bitsy Peach’. The abundant blooms range in color from soft peach to orange yellow, covering the plant in sunny color. Itsy Bitsy stays compact, reaching only 18 to 24 inches tall, making it an excellent choice for containers or in the landscape.