We’re making predictions and next year’s garden is looking exotic.

Garden Greenhouse
Thomas J. Story

The 10th annual National Heirloom Expo touched down recently in Ventura County, California, and we were on the scene to find out exactly why the event has been called “The World’s Fair of Pure Food.” At the fairgrounds, live folk music hummed behind a 20-foot-tall Dr. Seuss-like tower of heirloom squash, while the scent of funnel cakes pointed you towards a veggie-lined labyrinth just outside of the exhibit hall entrance. Abundance was the word of the day, with more produce (and fruit flies) than you could shake a garden trowel at. 

Melon carving, intense seed exchanges, and the gathering of what I can only explain as “wellness nomads” were among the more entertaining aspects of the day. There were a few notable themes, however, that piqued our interest and we’re making predictions. In a word, they’re unexpected. Here are a few 2024 garden trends to keep in mind as you’re planning for the growing seasons ahead. 

1. Drought-Tolerant Florals


Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co./rareseeds.com

Cut-flower beds continue to be popular for many home gardeners, but as we start to see a shift toward more water-wise landscaping choices, there will also be a change in the types of blooms we add to our home-grown bouquets. Celosia is one particular variety that was showcased during the event that is easy to grow, thrives in heat, and is substantially low-water once established. Three particularly pretty varieties to keep in mind when you seed-source for spring are the flamboyant variegated cockscomb, Celosia ‘Orange Peach, and Celosia ‘Flamingo Feather,’ which would all add incredible color and texture to both fresh and dried arrangements. 

2. Posh Poultry

Khaki Campbell Duckling
Make way for Khaki Campbell ducklings.

Food Photographer/Getty Images

You might have already added a flock to your homestead; you may have even located a few crowned Polish or other exotic blue laced hens to spice up your menagerie, but homesteading is taking a turn and all signs are pointing to waterfowl. Yes, ducks might be in your backyard egg-laying future. Contrary to popular options, these backyard birds do not need a full-sized pond to thrive as stock tanks or other small-scale water features are more than enough for certain breeds to dip into. The American Poultry Association hosted a showcase of a few choice domesticated birds during the expo, featuring the Khaki Campbell, known for its abundant egg laying abilities and beautiful green-hued bill. Not into the swimming type? There are lots of chic chickens to consider that do not need a pool. Keep your eye out for the stylishly spotted and incredibly adorable booted bantam hen Mille Fleur d’Uccle, who’s recently rising in popularity. 

3. Subtropical Gardening

Chinese Wool Flower
Chinese Wool Flower

Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co./rareseeds.com

Exotic fruit and subtropical gardening have already been on our radar, but the sheer number of seed and plant exhibitors at this particular event proves that the desire to challenge our horticultural know-how and grow unusual fruits is becoming more popular than ever. Paw Paws, sapote, and goji made appearances along with recognizable mango, jackfruit, and papaya. Looking to start your own subtropical garden? Raindance Seeds out of San Diego County offers an impressive catalog of extremely rare exotic seeds; One Green World, from Portland, offers small seedlings of fruiting trees and shrubs; while California Rare Fruit Growers have all the education and know-how to get you started no matter what kind of fruit you’d like to grow.

4. Vividly Violet Heirlooms  

Purple Potato

Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co./rareseeds.com

Many gardeners have delighted in the addition of indigo-striped tomatoes over the past couple years, but the purple produce push continues to ramp up. With violet variations of beans, brassicas, and peppers becoming more mainstream than ever, there is no longer an excuse not to eat the rainbow. Baker Creek, the seed company behind the event, has a number of unique heirloom offerings that will satisfy your purple-hued palette. Purple Karma barley, Siberian yarrow ‘Love Parade’, and a spicy puma pepper have caught our eye for some lavender-leaning crops to try when starting seeds for next spring. 

5. Localized Seed Sources

Baker Creek Seed Packets

Courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co./rareseeds.com

I’m a firm believer that we should be experimenting more with seeds grown within our own regions, and after a few outstanding tests with Italian lettuce the past two springs, I’ve been trying to source seeds grown in similar climates. So it is with great excitement that I’m seeing more and more backyard seed farmers popping up offering a number of unique heirlooms grown closer to our zones. Siskiyou Seeds, based out of southwest Oregon, was on the scene offering a gorgeous spread of rare varieties. I’ve personally been a fan of their culinary offerings which have allowed me to add unexpected spice elements to beds like black cumin, anise, and caraway. For those looking to add to their native gardens this fall, California Native Seeds out of Castro Valley offers organically grown, non-GMO, hard-to-find varieties of wildflowers.