If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space, be it a rambling garden or a compact balcony, now is the time to think about using it to its full potential. From bright blooms to pretty pots and fruit trees to wildflowers, we asked the experts about the garden trends they’re passionate about this year.
A major theme that emerged when we spoke to the professional about garden trends, was biodiversity. As RHS Young Designer of the Year 2021 Freddie Strickland says, “It’s really about celebrating all kinds of plants – different styles of garden are fantastic for biodiversity. My message is: you do you! Plant what you like, enjoy those plants and it will help wildlife too. Just don’t put concrete everywhere!”
Top garden trends for 2022
Here are some garden trend ideas to get you started…
“If you want to make less of an impact on the environment, a simple way is to choose peat-free compost,” says Sally Nex, author of How to Garden the Low Carbon Way. She adds, “Also stop digging so much – it’s less work for one thing! Mulch instead of dig – make lots of natural compost and feed your garden with that.
“Then save as much water as you can in the winter. You can buy a water butt, but I haunt my local reclamation yard to buy things like second-hand cattle troughs and heating tanks. I raise them up on bricks, attach them to my downpipes and fill them up during times of plenty. I also try not to bring any more plastic into my garden. Rather than buying plants in plastic pots, I plant bare-root perennials in the autumn.”
“Trees are so important,” says Freddie Strickland. “There’s a tree for every space, no matter how small, and by increasing our national canopy we’re doing incredible things for the planet and for people too.
“For smaller gardens, I love Malus Adirondack (crabapple), which grows very upright and has incredible sprays of flower as well as fruits – you get a lot of bang for your buck. Prunus Amanogawa (cherry tree) is another favourite. If you want something even taller, try Liquidamber, with its slender silhouette.”
Cottage gardens embody a loose, informal and pretty style, with a mix of heights and colours and are a popular garden trend at the moment. Michael Perry, also known as ‘Mr Plant Geek’, says, “I’m a big fan of mass planting, with perennials that look great through every season. Cottage gardens aren’t limited to the countryside. By using dwarf and shorter varieties of plants, you can have the cottage look anywhere you want.”
Alice Vincent, author of Rootbound: Rewilding a Life, is also embracing a romantic look in her garden, “The bare-root roses I planted last spring will now be reaching their second year, and I’ve shuffled them around to train along the back wall. They’re both ‘Generous Gardener’, a full and fragrant soft-pink rose – I can’t wait to see how they turn out.”
Forest food gardens
Arit Anderson, presenter of Gardeners’ World and host of the new podcast Growing Greener, says, “This year I’m excited to see if I can plant a forest food garden. I’m introducing more edibles – that doesn’t just mean a veg patch, but also fruit trees, and Corylus (hazelnut trees). The principle of forest food gardens is that every plant has its place, for instance Achillea produces dyes. I think we’ll be exploring the edible, medicinal and therapeutic benefits of plants much more.”
Isabelle Palmer, founder of The Balcony Gardener, says: “Planting window boxes and containers has become a massive garden trend as people have spent more time at home. For balconies, go for hardy plants that can withstand the wind and sun – I like ilex, hydrangeas, ivy, laurel, bay, pittosporum and ceanothus.
“Start small with one or two plants and build up your confidence – and most importantly, water pots every day in the summer. There are good container composts on the market, which contain water-retaining molecules. I also add small clay pebbles that protect the roots and help with drainage.
“This year, I’m looking forward to growing Salvia Salmia Dark Purple, and a trailing rosemary. For cover, I love Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, which is so easy to sow in pots. And Dahlia ‘Art Deco’ adds a real star appeal.”
Gorgeous rented gardens
Matthew Pottage, curator of RHS Garden Wisley and author of How To Garden When You Rent, says: “Even if you’re only going to be living in a rented space for a short period of time, investing in your garden is worth it. Seeds cost less than a cup of coffee. Slower-growing, potted plants that are transportable are great, as well as annuals and short-lived perennials.
“And annual bedding plants such as begonias, busy lizzie, French lavender, pansies and lobelia are quick and easy ways to add bursts of colour. This year I’m growing a hybrid of an Agave with a Manfreda – known as a Mangave – it’s a really beautiful succulent and I look forward to seeing how it grows for me.”
Making space for wildlife
“You can make a huge difference to the fortunes of the wild creatures around you,” says Sally Nex. “The latest report on hedgehog numbers in cities show that their populations are now stabilising, simply because people have been managing their gardens for hedgehogs. We can all help by cutting a small ‘hedgehog highway’ in the fence or building a hedgehog home in the corner of the garden.”
It’s important to think about pollinators too, says Sally: “Even if you have a small garden, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a little patch that’s left unmowed for a month. The grass will grow longer and you’ll get dandelions and buttercups, which are incredibly valuable for pollinators.”
“There’s a real trend for jewel-like colours in the garden,” says Isabelle Palmer, on current garden trends around flowers and foliage. “People are moving away from pale pinks and whites, and there are more reds, dark pinks and yellows.”
Freddie Strickland is also a huge fan of yellow. He says, “Yellow is the most incredible colour for wildlife and there are so many different shades. I like planting Cephalaria gigantea – which is very tall and vigorous and needs a large garden; the more compact Weigela middendorffiana; Rosa xanthina ‘Canary Bird’, because everyone loves roses; and Edgeworthia chrysantha, an amazing shrub that’s really kicking off at this time of year.”
“Garden mirrors are flying off the shelves”, says Claire Wilks, Garden Trading’s senior buyer.
She explains, “Adding a mirror to your outside space might seem an odd thing to do, but it has both practical and visual benefits. Styled well with plenty of surrounding plants and flowers, the mirror can simply act as a beautiful accent feature, but it also works well in smaller gardens to reflect light back and give the illusion of a larger space bathed in sunlight.”
“Your garden changes every day, whether it’s a new shoot, a new flower, or a new bird arriving, and that’s so special,” says Arit Anderson.
“We need to take gardens away from just being a visual space and making them into living, active spaces. Think about what you want to see in your garden each season. New bulbs coming up in the spring bring me hope, and that’s what we need in life.”
GH LIVE – Join our Good Gardening talk on Friday 24th June and have your horticultural questions answered by our expert panel including RHS Chelsea gold-medal winner Juliet Sargeant, regular BBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time panellist Bunny Guinness, and gardening journalist Pattie Barron. Discover how to make your garden more sustainable, attract more wildlife to it and start growing your own – as well as learn about the importance of gardens for our mental and physical wellbeing. More about this event and tickets here.