The trends and tastes of the horticultural realm are as disparate as fashion or music.
Forever being refined, tweaked and nipped, garden design may turn like the seasons. From avant-garde to minimalism and back again.
Tangled wildflower lawns may win out over orderly plant beds.
One may plump for plant divas over low-maintenance peonies. Every gardener has their taste; their preferred tools and techniques.
But, it’s certainly interesting to explore the trends that have gained momentum recently.
We’ve looked at some big trends and put an eclectic group of horticultural experts on the spot. So what did they observe? Check out these 2019 insights...
Taking the outdoors inside was a predicted craze this year. And it appears trend reports from the likes of Grow Garden Media were on the money.
In a year that saw London’s Leman Locke Hotel experiment with houseplant suites, there's enough anecdotal evidence to suggest plant lovers did green up their gaffs.
Stewart Wilson is a UK plant consultant probably best known as PlantasticMrFox. He put a rise in houseplant popularity down to engagement with mental health.
“There is so much research out there that supports that living in a green environment can have a positive effect on people,’ he said. “I can say that it has helped me. Plants are very calming and assist in creating a positive reflective environment.”
He said clients were interested in hanging plants like the String of Hearts (ceropegia woodii), or tropical species like Alocasia.
“There seems to be a huge increase in popularity for tropical plants. They are beautiful after all. I just don’t think people realise how diva-like they can be,” he added. “But they are worth it if you have the time.”
Dave Green’s creations extend from town gardens to more complex and exotic motifs. The architect was behind the award-winning Oasis Garden design at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show.
For Green, 2019 was a big year for grasses and textural plants as people looked to reinforce their gardens as wildlife sanctuaries.
“People were very interested in creating a more natural look for their garden,’ he said, explaining that cenolophium was a plant that kept cropping up in design talk.
“A lot of people are saying they want areas with looser planting to have a more naturalistic look. I think it could be an appreciation of nature - a move away from bright and bold colours.
“Alongside that, many people seem to be very interested in encouraging wildlife like birds into their gardens.”
A true litmus test for popularity, the Chelsea flower show signalled an intention to showcase more eco-friendly gardens. The Society of Garden Designers called it in their 2019 trend report and yup, sustainability, and climate change were on our minds.
So what did this mean? Well, there are so many ways to improve your gardening. But creating homegrown fertilisers, buying local, reusing materials, conserving water and using permeable paving was a good start.
It’s something Dave Green noticed, too. This year saw a continued interest in natural material and upcycling, he said.
“In terms of hard landscaping, I think there is a bit of a trend towards trying to reuse material more.”
Rise of the machines
Scientists unleashed the rather peculiar ‘Trimbot’ this year. The battery-powered gardening robot will prune your hedges.
Such devices might be perplexing. But the boffins behind the tech could be onto something. Smart gardening and the use of tech on our lawns or shrubbery is on the up.
Market researchers Technavio reported a “rising demand” for smart gardening devices in its Global Gardens and Lawn Tools Market 2019-2023 analysis this year.
From sensors that keep tabs on plant health, smart sprinklers, to GPS enabled lawnmowers, there’s certainly a plethora of technology out there for gardeners who want it.
Social prescriptions, or non-medical treatment for patients, might not be a new thing.
But we did see several reports of ecotherapy being an effective tool for doctors. This year The Guardian reported how a medical practice in Manchester was providing patients with plants to care for.
Meanwhile, NHS Simmons House Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatient Unit joined a pilot scheme to take patients to allotments in Highgate.
Furthermore, researchers from Leeds Beckett University said they were confident in their analysis that nature is a way of “maintaining good wellbeing and tackling poor wellbeing arising from social issues”.
According to the National Allotment Society, there is a ‘growing appreciation’ for the role gardening plays in alleviating mental health issues.
“Our members tell us that a spell on the plot improves their mood. The current social prescribing initiative has seen the NHS prescribing time on therapeutic allotment plots,” a spokesperson told Candide Gardening.
In the year where some cities began to experiment with urban rewilding like flower-topped bus shelters, the plight of the pollinators was a topic that was never far away.
Through his support of pollinator conservation, Nick Mann of Habitat Aid has a pretty fascinating knowledge of what it means to boost a garden’s bee, butterfly and moth potential.
He said there has been “tremendous” demand for wildflower seeds in 2019 - particularly meadow mixes including wildflowers and grasses.
There appears to be an understanding that people can help pollinators while also maintaining control of their gardens, he added.
“People are understanding that they can make some simple changes to the plants they are sowing and that will have a positive impact on the local wildlife,” he said.
In terms of specific plant trends, it’s tough to nail down. But Mann does think provenance was important for many people this year.
“We’re seeing more people growing native plants in their gardens, which is definitely a new trend,” he admits, adding that non-native plants should be considered if you’re going the extra mile for bees.
“We’d encourage people to try to get something in flower all year long."
So, we’re talking plants like mahonia or viburnum tinus.
Listed among the best florists in London by Vogue, The Flower Appreciation Society certainly know a thing or two about floral trends.
The Hackney-based flower studio and its blooming cutting garden caught the eye of top brands and designers like Harvey Nichols, Laurent Perrier, and Simone Rocha.
Isabel Crossman is a designer with the company. She said that across weddings, hen parties and events, understated beauty was a common theme. And what was the ‘talk of the town’ amongst those in the event floristry business? Well, it was the dahlia - a staple of this year’s bouquets and arrangements.
“Purely for the huge variety of shape and colour it provides, from single petaled varieties to our favourite pompom ones ‘cryfield rosie’,” she said of the dahlia.
Rare fair growth
The Royal Horticultural Society has yet to release its statistics on flower show attendances in 2019. However, if they are anything like the smaller Rare Plant Fair then it will have been a good year.
According to organisers, the multi-location nursery event attracted more than 10,000 people this year. That’s the first time the 25-year-old UK event has reached such heights.
“In our case, attendances were up by 18 percent on last year and 17 percent on our previous best year, which we were very pleased with,” Ian and Teresa Moss said.
“For the first time, we attracted a total of over 10,000 people to all of our 13 fairs across the season, which is fantastic.
“Although we can’t offer specific statistics for events organised by others, anecdotal evidence from our nurseries suggests other fairs and shows also achieved strong attendances.”