It is customary around this time of the year to predict what will be high on the gardening agenda in the coming year. Garden writers, broadcasters and bloggers love to come up with earth-shattering predictions about “new trends”. I’ve already been told about, and asked about what we are likely to see at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2014. I’ve already read a blog or two about what’s hot on the plot this year. But is there anything new? There is a rather odd English saying “There’s nothing new in the State of Denmark”; I’ve never really understood where that came from but I get the point. What goes around, comes around, fashions come and go and reappear. All gardeners have their personal fads and fashions; plants, colour schemes, gardening styles. These change over the years. Personally I’ve been into roses, orchids, exotics, bonsai, shrubs, trees, bulbs and a host of different garden styles. My interest is often influenced by what becomes high profile at a moment in time, but that’s what fashion is all about.
Anyway here are a few of my thoughts on the top trends in gardening for 2014.
1. Planting for pollinators. The plight of bee populations has been high on the emotional agenda of gardeners for a number of years. There is undoubtedly more awareness amongst gardeners that we can do something about it by planting for a continuous supply of nectar and pollen in our gardens. It’s not just about banging in a buddleja that’s swarming for a few weeks in summer. It’s about planning for nectar throughout the year.
2. Wild birds. Here in the UK a few lack lustre gardening seasons have been a challenge for the horticultural industry. Feeding wild birds has become a lifeline or garden retail and is now worth probably more than growing media. Feeding wild birds has increased the interest in planting more bird friendly trees, shrubs and seed producing plants in gardens and I see this as an ongoing trend in 2014.
3. Going native. Meadows and so called wildflowers have been high profile for a couple of years or more. The idea of introducing more native plants into the garden palette is an extension of this building on the wildlife theme and reawakening the cottage garden style of gardening. Native plants are more likely to encourage insect species to make their homes in your garden, as native subjects are usually required for breeding. Maybe the biggest barrier is the perception that native plants are less attractive? Look closer!
4. The Return of the Shrub. This has been hailed as a trend now for two or three years. I’m backing 2014 as the real return, probably because I have a new book out this summer: ‘The Creative shrub Garden’ published by Timber Press. Watch this space. I hope this will make the perennial boys and girls look at shrubs in a new light.....
5. Green walls. We love the idea of green walls and there’s no doubt about the visual impact of a city wall dripping with ferns and evergreens. I could bang on about the environmental importance and insulation properties but in many ways green walls are new-age hanging baskets. They tick that challenge box with horticulturists. Gardeners love to make things difficult for themselves. Forget all this easy gardening nonsense; we love anything that’s high maintenance and a bit of a challenge.
6. Front gardens. If enough emphasis is put on the importance of front gardens then we could see the start of a real trend of improvement. The UK property market has been in the doldrums for the past few years, so folks haven’t been looking at the shop window appeal of their houses as much. What a difference we could make to the appearance of urban areas with a practical horticultural approach to front gardens. Please don’t frighten people away with rainwater harvesting schemes or high maintenance seasonal bedding plant solutions. Let’s be practical with a few hard-working low maintenance shrubs to start with.
7. Green and white. If I was going to back onecolour scheme for this year it would be classic green and white. Cool, calming, easy to live with and always pleasing.Green and White is always a favourite at RHS Chelsea Flower Show; that doesn’t mean it is cutting edge, it means its enduring, doesn’t date and is always a relief from the chaos colours that can prevail in the less orchestrated garden.
8. Trees. I have noticed an increasing interest in trees. We’ve lost quite a few in gales here in England this autumn and winter which reinforces the message that we should all plant trees not only for ourselves but also for future generations. Gardeners have been frightened off trees by insurance companies and misinformed media. This has to change; we need more trees and even the smallest garden has space for the right one.
9. Young Gardeners. There islots of emphasis on encouraging more young people to have an interest in gardening, and also to consider horticulture as a real career choice. I’m all for this as long as we don’t forget that gardening is an activity and a way of life for all ages. We all need to promote gardening to the current generation of gardeners as much as we need to encourage the younger generation. The focus of Royal Horticultural Society Flower Shows this year is very much on young designers. That’s great, but don’t neglect the old hands. I today’s world they need all the profile they can get.
10. Basic Gardening Know How. This is the trend I always hope for, and one that has been sadly neglected in recent years. I do believe that a major part of the declining interest in gardening is due to lack of basic knowledge and gardening skills. This is likely to continue if we don’t do something about it. Basic skills, like boiling an egg in the world of cookery are essential for success. So let’s not be afraid to show how to sow seeds, prick out, plant, prune and so forth. These tasks aren’t boring – let’s spread the word and make them a rising trend in 2014
Happy Gardening New Year