Pretty pastel roses and sweet peas, soft grasses and old English hedgerow favourites – Jane Moore sets her gardening style predictions for the year ahead
While it’s true that gardening may not follow the whims and fancies of fashion in the same way as haute couture (thank goodness) it does still have its trends. No self respecting gardener likes to think they’re subject to these foibles but we are subtly manoeuvred into buying certain plants and embracing new ideas by the likes of the gardening press, the flower shows, garden centres and nurseries.
Think back to the grasses trend, still very much with us, the fashion for perennials rather than bedding plants, cloud pruning and the re-emergence of the box ball, now sadly retiring again due to the virulence of box blight. We gardeners even have our own version of high fashion with the horticultural catwalk that is Chelsea Flower Show producing designs that are ‘out there’ enough to rival the likes of Versace et al.
So, as we launch into 2017 I feel it falls to me, your gardening style guru as I like to consider myself (more Prada than Donatella I hope) to highlight the coming trends, point out the plainly passé and steer you through the chaotic waters of gardening ebb and flow to a horticultural high this year. If nothing else at least you can sound as if you know what’s what at the garden centre and among your friends as you airily pronounce this or that to be ‘the latest thing’ which, truth be told, is the approach I like to take.
Grasses show no sign of being mown down but they are melding into something more romantic and flowery. I’m calling it the Romantic Revival for reasons of alliteration and trend setting purposes.
Seriously, I think that at times of trouble people hark back to a simpler beauty of soft pastels, sweet peas and roses, all combined with a dash of grasses and structure to keep it modern. It’s all a soothing balm to the troubled soul with not a whiff of political confrontation, fiscal meltdown or anything quite so upsetting.
Species roses and the natural look are what it’s all about at the moment. The single blooms of Rosa mutabilis and Rosa moyesii look great in any setting and echo the wild roses of hedgerows and childhood days.
We’re also liking umbellifers – cow parsley is everywhere at Chelsea and has been for a number of years – but there are other less invasive umbels such as selinum and chenolophium beloved of top designers such as Tom Stuart Smith. They may take a bit of finding but ah, the prize of something few others have.
More natural looking plants include the lovely sanguisorbas which I don’t ever seem to tire of. I love their blue tinged multi- leaved foliage and their flowers – some like little red buttons or elongated white cotton wool balls, others like Lilac Squirrel with fluffy tails of lavender mauve.
And everywhere, everywhere are salvias – shrubby, herbaceous, semi shrubby – you name it they’re abounding. They come in lovely shades of sky blue such as African Skies (sadly all too short-lived at The Priory) or richer almost purples like Mainacht and Caradonna (which have a much better longevity altogether) and combine brilliantly with those other on-trend plants. Echinacea is now abounding in more varieties than one could possibly keep track of.
Decline and Fall
Fashion is a fickle thing and in gardening it’s often dictated by the prevalence of nasty bugs and beasties. I’ve seriously gone off viburnum because of the dreaded beetle decimating its leaves and lovely bulbous lilies, once real favourites of mine because of their statuesque habit and fabulous fragrance, are now only bought from the florist because I can’t bear the ravages of the lily beetle.
It’s taken a while for me to acknowledge the fact but box is also falling out of favour with me and many others because box blight is just so awful. I’ve been veering away from buxus in all its forms, knots, hedges, balls, cones and whatnot, for some time – I still plant it but not so often or so readily. But there’s good news as there are alternatives particularly when it comes to balls which are what I use more than any other shape. These days I’m tending towards the deep, dark, dense evergreen of the yew ball – perhaps a tad more expensive but very pleasing.
I’m also using sarcococca which clips beautifully once mature and gives the added interest of fragrant flowers in midwinter and shiny black berries. For the sunnier garden there’s shrubby myrtle which also shapes well and I’ve heard of hawthorn being used for hedging and shapes although it takes a few trims a year to keep it in shape.
Finally I must make a plea for the humble shrub which has been pushed aside by the prevalence of the perennial in the modern British garden. As a professional gardener I love shrubs – their hardiness, their simplicity, the fact that that they look after themselves with only a bit of pruning. Compared to perennials with all that cutting back, chopping, lifting and dividing, they really are a lot less bother.
So let 2017 be the year you treat yourself to a little less work in the form of a flowering deutzia or philadelphus, a splash of autumn colour with a cotinus or a euonymus or even a bit of winter interest with my old friend the dogwood. Your back will savour the rest and your garden will look all the better for it.