Think up rather than down, adopt a Monstera, grow your own, think about wildlife and celebrate the woodland – Jane Moore makes her predictions for the trends that will be dominating gardens in 2020
Hurtling headlong into a particularly momentous December, gardening is perhaps the last thing on anyone’s mind. The combined weight of Christmas and heavy-duty politics are enough to overload my poor little brain but, on the other hand, perhaps some gardening is just what we all need. Let me encourage you all to look forward, beyond whatever this loaded month holds, into a hopefully brighter new year. So let’s take a look at the big trends – horticulturally speaking – that will shape our gardening in the year ahead.
Think up rather than down, bringing the garden to life on fences and walls. Use climbers, planters, hanging baskets – anything you can think of – to create living walls. This is a key trend, particularly in urban spaces and there are more products than ever available to help you achieve it. Instead of going for classic flowering plants and bedding, the look is much more wildlife friendly, typically with grasses, seed heads and bird boxes nestled among the foliage.
There are several different styles you can go for, firstly the classic one using trellis or wires with climbers such as ivy, clematis and wisteria. You can also go for planting pockets such as the Easiwall range from Treebox, described as ‘green walls’ and ‘vertical allotments’. Alternatively, the WallyGro range of Pro Pockets or Eco Planters fixed to the wall can contain all sorts of plants from bedding plants to herbs and grasses. The great thing about the snazzy Eco Planter range is that it works just as well indoors as outdoors, coming into its own when filled with lush, leafy houseplants.
Houseplants are back in vogue in a big way. So dust off your macramé plant hanger and buy yourself a new spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) because houseplants are the thing to have. For younger people and flat dwellers who are short of time, space and money, they make a lot of sense and do much to brighten up your environment. Trends in the horticulture industry indicate that houseplants are the biggest boom area, which means there should be plenty of interesting ones around.
I’m still very inclined towards Swiss cheese plants (Monstera deliciosa), with those fantastic holey leaves, or prayer plants (Maranta leuconeura) which are great for darker rooms, as well as the old faithful spider plant. Other easy-going indoor plant species include Dracaena, almost like an indoor Cordyline with lovely coloured foliage, and Philodendron, the epitome of lush foliage. And don’t forget the ubiquitous seasonal poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima). This one really is just for Christmas – while you can keep them going, persuading them into flowering again is very tricky.
Eat the garden
Plant-based eating is here to stay and it’s only going to get more popular. Growing your own is enduringly satisfying and great fun too. You don’t need to grow everything you eat, but just try a few salad leaves, herbs or even some potatoes and you’ll be delighted with the results.
If you haven’t much room, stick to a few pots of culinary herbs, such as chives, mint and tarragon or a window box of edible flowers like violas and nasturtiums. Simple vegetables to start off with are cut-and-come-again crops such as mixed salad leaves and rainbow chard or quick croppers like baby turnips, radishes and beets. But do grow things you actually want to eat – there’s no point in growing fantastic beetroot if you can’t stand the stuff. Just think, no food miles, no pesticides and as fresh as can be.
I can’t tell you how handy it is to have a few fresh, ready-to-pick vegetables at hand when you haven’t had a chance to get to the shops for a while.
Sustainability is the thing this year, as it was in 2019. In 2020 we’re all going to be planting and planning for pollinators, using less plastics in the garden and thinking way more about wildlife. Plants will suffer, I’m afraid, as those that can’t justify their existence in my garden on the grounds of being good for wildlife, are taking up valuable space that could provide seeds for birds, pollen for bees or nectar for butterflies.
High on this list are many of the plants in my kitchen garden. Most of the herbs and edible flowers are good for pollinators, particularly free-flowering herbs like marjoram and thyme. Many of the ‘free-seeders’ do the same, the lovely bright Calendula, Viola and Nigella species, and Verbena bonariensis will seed themselves around the garden and pop up in all sorts
of nooks and crannies.
If you haven’t already got a pond, your thoughts may turn towards a manageable water feature to attract wildlife. It doesn’t need to be big, just a bit wild, with plants coming up to the edges and plenty of cover in the pond for tadpoles and newts.
And if you haven’t built a compost heap yet, then what are you waiting for? Not only is it handy for getting shot of your green waste and fertilising the garden, but it’s a mini ecosystem in its own right.
I’m supporting the increased use of hydrangeas and all things woodland. Think ferns, dainty cyclamen, primroses and Dicentra creating a naturalistic carpet beneath an upper layer of elegant hydrangeas such as the lace cap varieties Hydrangea serrata ‘Tiara’, Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lanarth White’ and the lovely mophead Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ayesha’ with its tightly furled flowers.
When it comes to choosing plants, we’re all going to be thinking more about sustainability and less about flower power. These two things are not by any means mutually exclusive, although it is important to choose plants carefully. When you think about it, a lot of the woodland favourites tick all the ecological boxes in terms of sustainability and being wildlife friendly. And by creating layers of planting, you’re setting about making you garden a safe habitat for all sorts of little creatures as well as making it look good.