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Garden trends in 2016 range from a return to nature to downsizing and dwarf plants. There are a number of hot new plants available for gardeners to dream of and begin the hunt for as soon as garden centers open later this month.

To help you choose the best plants available, several plant organizations and growers select honorary 'plants of the year' to celebrate the best cultivars and varieties available.

Whether you are new to gardening or have made the hobby your lifelong dream, there is something new and enjoyable to focus on during the coming growing season.

Plants of the year

The National Garden Bureau each year selects a number of plant varieties to focus on during the growing season. This year, as their choice perennial, the organization has proclaimed 2016 the Year of the Delphinium. The annual Plant of the Year is the versatile begonia.

The Perennial Plant Association also honors a perennial each year as it's perennial Plant of the Year. For 2016, this organization has selected Anemone 'Honorine Jobert,' in elegant white.

I'll have much more on each of these choices in upcoming features.

For hosta lovers, the American Hosta Growers Association has selected Curly Fries, a fun, lively little plant as 2016 Hosta of the Year. A great selection for beds, borders and containers, this unusual hosta, with elongated, ruffled leaves in bright lime green is a winner.

The International Herb Association honors the versatile world of the pepper as Herb of the Year.

Colorful, exciting newcomers

New at garden centers this year, you'll find dozens of new plant treasures from growers and breeders large and small.

Some that I look forward to discovering include a beautiful new milkweed, Monarch's Promise, featuring variegated foliage in green and white, along with a new series of miniature bee balms that grow just 12 inches in height. Named the Leading Lady series, these will be available in plum and lilac.

Colorful new coneflower hybrids continue to burst onto the gardening scene. New for 2016 are the stunning Cone-fections Cherry Fluff, a soft, feathery double-bloomer in soft pink and white, as well as Double Scoop Lemon Cream in bright lemon yellow.

New cardinal flowers include varieties with brilliant golden foliage and another with beautiful rose-pink blooms.

What's hot in gardening?

Fine-tuning our gardens to be more nature and wildlife friendly is one of the biggest gardening trends for this year. Incorporating native plants and grasses, more woody shrubs and trees, hummingbird and butterfly gardens and many other garden elements all play a part in this move toward backyard nature.

This also means using more all natural and organic pest and weed control methods. Many garden centers already began selling ladybugs as natural pest control last season.

Retail sale of honeybees as pollinators has also become widely available throughout the state.

Foraging gardens, those that feature seamlessly intertwined plantings of a variety of edibles throughout the landscape are hot. More and more gardeners throughout our area are discovering the simple pleasures of growing a variety of crops, not in organized, traditional rows, but scattered naturally throughout the landscape, including the front yard.

Pet-friendly landscaping is another new gardening trend picking up steam throughout Wisconsin. Planning and maintaining gardens and landscapes with our pets in mind has become increasingly important to families throughout the area.

This means organic lawn care alternatives, non-toxic plantings and play areas dedicated to our furry friends.

Coming next week, it's time to start many garden favorites indoors from seed. I'll have some great tips and ideas for beginners and longtime seed-starters alike.

Visit Rob Zimmer on Facebook and online at www.facebook.com/RobZimmerOutdoors and www.robzimmeroutdoors.com.

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