What’s hot in the garden now?

What will the best-dressed gardens be sporting this year? Homes & Gardens finds out from leading designers and plantsmen

To quote Vanessa Remington, curator of Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden, at the exhibition’s opening in The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace this week: “If I have learned one thing while working on this exhibition, it is that there is nothing new in gardening.”

Indeed, the idea that there are trends in gardening, vis-à-vis those in the fashion world, is wide of the mark. Things do not happen overnight in horticulture, and rarely in garden design. If we read in the fashion pages that everyone should be wearing leather one week, or swapping penny loafers for tasselled ones the next, we hardly blink; in fact, many of us obediently head for the shops because we want to be “on trend”. How often, though, do you see nurseries selling out of a plant one weekend, or hard landscaping merchants reporting a rush on a certain paving stone? The answer is rarely, but this is a practical response to the fact that we do not change our gardens just like that.

Trends in the gardening world are a different beast. We like to see things grow and to enjoy the fruits of our labours, which means that any theme will naturally take time to appear and, unless it is particularly outlandish or impractical, it will usually stay around for years.

Take green roofs and living walls (above, by Randle Siddeley), for example. French botanist Patrick Blanc created his first living wall in the late 1970s, and completed the installation of the one growing on the exterior of the Athenaeum Hotel, London, in 2009, but between those years he was pretty much a lone crusader of the art; it was not until 2012 that the concept became anything like a trend in Britain. Now, of course, living walls and green roofs are commonplace and such are their ecological credentials, they have not only reached “must-have” status, there is a drive to make them a mandatory garden element of any future (particularly urban) new-build or regeneration project.

The trends – or themes listed below have been identified by various leading garden designers and plantsmen in the course of their daily work over the past 12 months. All, the experts believe, are set to change the look of our gardens and ways of gardening…but gently, of course.


Structural plants Use distinctive shapes, such as yuccas and agaves, or a thistle-like

Cynara cardunculus (above), to break up large-scale, single species perennial plantings, says garden designer Adolfo Harrison.

Unusual evergreens Take advantage of the increasing number of plant fairs and specialist plant catalogues to find lesser known species. Try Luma apiculata (Chilean myrtle) and Arbutus x andrachnoides (hybrid strawberry tree) to provide focal and talking points in the garden.

Unusual edibles Encouage children to grow eye-catching, tasty fruits and vegetables. Self-confessed all-round plant geek, garden designer and creator of Homegrown Revolution James Wong suggests Acmella oleracea (electric daisies); you could also try ‘Black Russian’ tomatoes, ‘Autumn Crown’ F1 Hybrid pumpkins, kaffir limes and Fuchsia ‘Gummeberries’.

Trees, conifers, shrubs and perennials Try working them back into planting schemes, in place of endless meadows of perennials, says garden designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin, who also says we should create year-round interest, using long-life, sustainable planting instead of less cost-effective short-season plants that flower just once. Look close to home instead of overseas for planting ideas that will endure local weather conditions. For maximum, sustainable impact, be inspired by rural settings.


Recycled materials and objects Instead of breaking these down into raw material to make into something entirely different, keep things simple and find new uses for the object or material as it is. In the Heritage Garden at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, for example, garden designer Ann Keenan has designed a bench using old Champagne bottles and cases (above), while old oak whisky barrels have been turned into small pools to draw birds and other wildlife into the garden.

Flexible timber and sheet accoya® Try using woods, including accoya® (a softwood that is treated with an acetylation process to create a high-performance sustainable wood that is, among other things, a barrier against fungi and pest attacks, is UV resistant, dimensionally stable and naturally insulating), that have been steam-moulded or bent to create organically shaped fencing, decking, garden structures and accessories, in the style of buildings designed by architect Frank Gehry.


Outdoor showers Pools and pool houses are back in fashion, with everything you need for the full luxury spa experience, says garden designer Kate Gould. Outdoor showers come with hot and cold water feeds, while the water features span plunge pools, fountains and hot tubs.

Subterranean rooms Planning is required and limits apply but the trend for extending living spaces continues with offices and garden rooms dug out beneath the garden itself being particularly popular requests, says designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin.


Portuguese pavement Inspired by the original 19th-century wave-patterned mosaic squares and pavements of Lisbon, garden designer Jon Sims suggests using the black and white setts in small spaces and with more intricate designs.

Dry stone walling Use slate and sandstone to give this traditional craft a modern look, and commission experts such as Richard Clegg to create contemporary bespoke features like this sculptural water feature (above) for a domestic garden.

Video Of The Week

Garden joinery use laser-cut timber to make garden structures and features with an intricate, ornamental appearance.

Find more gardening inspiration on the Homes & Gardens website.

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