As we plan for new beds, borders, patio plantings and hard landscaping, it’s a good time to find out what followers of fashion will be doing to their gardens in the New Year.
But does the average gardener really follow trends? Well, we no longer see the sky blue fences that once graced many a garden in the classic makeover show Ground Force, and the popularity in certain annual bedding plants has diminished in favour of more low-maintenance, permanent planting - but do true gardeners follow fashion?
“I think fashion in gardening is a fallacy because people will buy their favourites and it’s wildly influenced by what’s in production,” says Andy McIndoe, plantsman, lecturer for www.my-garden-school.com, writer and blogger, who won 25 consecutive Gold Medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show as managing director of Hillier Nurseries.
However, certain trends will continue in the New Year because of people’s awareness of the importance of protecting the planet.
“People are growing fewer bedding plants and more and more seed-raised perennials, opting for varieties that are single flowered, naturalistic and attractive to bees and butterflies. Wildlife planting will continue to increase in popularity,” he says.
The recent news that more than three-quarters of the UK’s butterflies have declined in the last 40 years should only encourage this trend, with more people planting varieties including scabious, buddleia, Michaelmas daisies, thistles, wild rocket and catmint, along with other insect-attracting plants.
“All of the shaggy, natural-looking plants are popular, along with any of the single daisies such as leucanthemum. Gaillardia (a great nectar source) used to be a rather zinnia-like subject but it’s still very popular,” says McIndoe.
“Anything to do with bees has become cult, which has had a huge influence on the garden chemical market. People are really wary of anything that isn’t nature-friendly and organic.”
People are not as enthusiastic about having immaculate lawns as they once were, McIndoe observes.
“People aren’t as fussy about having a perfect green sward and unfortunately those that have small gardens and want a perfect lawn are increasingly using artificial grass, while others opt for alternative landscaping surfaces such as gravel or paving.”
While the trend in ‘grow your own’ is ever popular, more gardeners are looking at ornamental vegetables that they can mix with flowers in beds and borders.
“The association with celebrity chefs such as Raymond Blanc and Jamie Oliver, who want their gardens to look good as well as produce great crops, has done well for the profile of mixing flowers and vegetables.”
David Mitchell, plant buyer for Wyevale Garden Centres, predicts that peony roses, dicentra, ferns and grasses will be popular next year, along with impulse herbaceous perennials.
“Hot colours like Papaver nudicaule ‘Spring Fever Red’, Dahlia ‘Fifteen Love’ (deep orange-red flowers and dark foliage) and Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ (mixed colours) should do well, as should dark colours like Salvia ‘Amistad’, ‘Love and Wishes’ and ‘Joy’.”
McIndoe says: “Today you are seeing a lot of lilac blue, rich purple and soft greens, in a trend which will continue through the year. You may get purples and blues in tulips in spring - it’s not about yellow daffodils.” Time-strapped householders will continue to want low-maintenance plants, he continues.
“People want very simple, low-maintenance gardens and it will be a big challenge for the people designing them to come up with the goods because often they are not using enough good, basic, hard-working evergreen plants which actually are low-maintenance.
“It will be time to make good use of reliable stalwarts like euonymus and Viburnum davidii. They may be mistaken for boring, but people are really happy with the overall results once these plants are in the ground.
“The landscapers and designers need to work on their plant knowledge and specifically the right plant for the right situation rather than just following what the catwalk designers are using.
“Show gardens influence what people plant, but they represent a moment in time for a wow effect, not a long-term garden scheme.”
Mitchell says that customers interested in convenience and guaranteed results are likely to find solution-based concepts useful, like recipe cards for herbaceous borders.
Shrub lines grown as trees are expected to be popular in 2016 and will encourage us to think differently about Cytisus battandieri (pineapple broom), Sambucus ‘Black Lace’, Ceanothus ‘Trewithen Blue’ and Osmanthus burkwoodii.
“I’m predicting a renaissance for traditional shrubs using their unique windows of impact to get colour every month of the year as customers realise they tick another two boxes alongside colour - great value and easy to look after,” says Mitchell.