Fungi Gardening Miscellany

A Look Ahead at 2023

Phalaenopsis flower from Wikipedia, photo by Nicolas Perrault II.

Every year, there is a new crop of highlighted plants that earn the honour of “plant of the year”. For 2023, the National Garden Bureau has identified a handful of goodies:

  • Year of the Orchid – Characterized by their bilateral symmetric flowers and upward-facing blooms, orchids are a beautiful and mysterious species.
  • Year of the Amaryllis – The Amaryllis you decorate your home with during the winter holidays is a Hippeastrum. (True Amaryllis is a bulb native to South Africa with only one species, Amaryllis belladona, also known as “Naked Ladies” because of their pink flowers on stems without leaves.) Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) offered in the late fall through winter are used as forced bulbs to decorate and beautify the inside of homes during the winter. These easy-to-grow bulbs are being propagated in many parts of the world today.
  • Year of the Broccoli – my dear husband favourite veggie is also veggie of the year for 2023. Broccoli hails from the Mediterranean region and has been enjoyed there since Roman times. Other European regions eventually caught on and broccoli was popularized in France as “Italian Asparagus” in about 1650. The English adopted it about 70 years later. Pop quiz: what’s the difference between broccoli and boogers? Answer: kids will eat boogers.
  • Other plants of the year 2023 include: Rudbeckia, Spirea and Celosia.

Because I am an incurable nerd and an economist by training, I also took a look at the economic forecasts for the coming year and extrapolated my own implications for gardening. There’s a reason they call economics “the dismal science”!

Let’s start with Citibank’s Unstoppable Trends:

  • The US-China technology and trade wars will intensify, which means more supply chain disruptions. Security of supply will become more important than efficiency. I think this may mean more companies will chose to bring their production home from overseas and we are likely to see imported foods becoming more expensive or unavailable.
  • The transition to clean energy will accelerate, but natural gas is likely to remain a key fuel for some time to come. We’ve already seen how rising fuel prices drive inflation in food prices. I think we can expect this trend to continue through 2023.
  • The rush to digitization, automation, and robotics will be ongoing. This has some fascinating implications for agriculture with more emphasis on precision and robotic agriculture. See for example, this article from the EU: Futuristic fields: Europe’s farm industry on cusp of robot revolution. Home gardeners are also keen to join the robot revolution with devices that include automatic watering systems and robotic lawnmowers.
Robotic lawn mowers. Photo: Debbie Wolfe from “The Best Robot Lawn Mowers Tested in 2023” on Bob Villa’s website.
  • Aging populations and a growing global middle class will see rising investments in health care. Citibank favours “biologics”, which could mean exciting opportunities for plant scientists to tease out the medicinal properties of novel plants. The Economist also sees medicine as a smart investment for 2023, and they specifically highlight psychadelics, including psilocybin. Yes, this chemical derives from fungi, not plants. However, I can already buy mushroom growing kits from my local farmer’s market. How long will it be before I can grow my own magic mushroom?
  • Real estate investments are likely to be challenged by higher interest rates and a potential recession. Citibank favours investments in multi-family homes, e-commerce space and select office space. One lingering impact of COVID is that downtown office spaces may remain under-used. We could see office towers start to be converted into urban vertical farms.
From USDA’s article “Vertical Farming for the Future”. Indoor and vertical farming may be part of the solution to rising demands for food and limited natural resources. Photo credit: Oasis Biotech
  • The Economist notes that India’s population boom is likely to change the global economy with the sub-continent’s population set to overtake that of China in April 2023. Unlike China, which has an aging population, the majority of Indians are of working age. Many economists see this as a sign that India’s economy is likely to boom in the next few years. However, many Indians still depend on traditional agriculture, which has prioritized the protection of indigenous and heritage species of food plants. Will these heritage varieties fall victim to India’s population and probable economic booms?
  • Other trends noted by The Economist are: the war in Ukraine; high food and fuel prices; the fight against inflation; the transition to renewable energy; and China’s uncertain post-pandemic path. All these tell me that growing more of my own food will be an excellent investment for 2023.
  • RBC sees an end to rate-hiking by central banks and Canada edging closer to recession in 2023. Rising interest rates have caused housing markets to soften but unemployment remains relatively low. Rising consumer debt and ongoing inflation will probably cause people to spend less. Reuters reports that the IMF recommends the Bank of Canada to hold interest rates at or above 4% throughout 2023.
  • Economist David Rosenberg sees a serious recession as rising interest rates cause home prices fall, making it more difficult for people to service debt.
  • Royce Mendes, the managing director at Desjardins Capital Markets, also sees troubled waters ahead for the Canadian economy, and he predicts that inflation will continue to bite and unemployment will rise.

My take is that folks who bought a house before interest rates went up are likely to stay put, which I think means more homeowners may consider investing in landscaping and learning how to garden.

To all my readers, Happy New Year and happy gardening in 2023!

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