Gardening as an industry is in constant motion. Contrary to popular belief, enthusiasm rarely slows. Instead, we adaptable humans simply plan according to the times. As we enter autumn, there are as many gardening trends as there are in May. So what’s new for the near future?
At present, it seems that the era of the urban garden is trending. The size of gardens has been gradually shrinking. Some people are lucky enough to be able to sell off a building plot and thus reduce the size of their garden. Others inherit a small garden with a modern property. The average size of a garden is currently around 15m long and it is generally accepted that this will shrink down to around 12m long within around 10 years. The wave of new building projects across towns and villages are resulting in maximum housing units using the minimum amount of land. Bearing in mind, also, that approximately 10 per cent of householders don’t have a garden at all.
If you have a small garden, you need to make the most of every bit - perhaps you could improve the steps by adding interest, as in the picture below.
Making the most of space
We have responded to the changing outlook by attempting to make the most of the space that’s available. Every centimetre counts! Screening has become one of the most important gardening trends as we strive to make our tiny gardens feel private. New products and plants that make small gardens more enjoyable are highly relevant during these changing times. Ways of pruning in order to make plants more desirable are popular. They include the pleaching of trees – which can basically form a ‘hedge on stilts’. You can see the effect in the picture below.
Topiary in the form of columns, spheres and shapes lends an organised air to small spaces and plants are often chosen for their architectural form. Plants that offer more than just one benefit are a definite gardening trend. Attractions such as repeat-flowering; scent; biodiversity benefits; shape and form, plus weed suppressing capabilities are just as important as the appearance. Small gardens don’t really have the space for plants that don’t offer multiple benefits. Borders are shrinking and where once the herbaceous bed could carry hundreds of shrubs and perennials which flowered in succession, the modern gardener needs to choose with care.
Trees, evergreens and groundcover
Trees are now chosen for their adaptability in small spaces. Those with invasive roots are understandably shunned by those with smaller gardens. There’s now a steady demand for specimen ornamental smaller trees suitable for diminutive spaces, including many different types of Prunus (particularly ornamental cherry), Sorbus (rowan), Malus (apple trees), Crataegus (hawthorn) and some Acers. Evergreen ‘lollipop’ shaped trees are immensely sought-after by those who don’t want to take up valuable space down near the ground but need the screening that a taller canopy provides.
There’s a rise in popularity of plants that stay the same during winter – i.e. evergreens such as Phormium that can still provide colour but not necessarily in the form of flowers. Groundcover that is pleasing to the eye tends to be planted in groups, including Heuchera in shades of reds and purples. When teamed with lime greens they can provide a spectacle during all seasons. And a gardening trend that shows no sign of fading is the ‘naturalistic’ style of perennial planting which fills the soil with swathes of spring and summer pleasure. Gone are the days that people want to see bare soil between their plants. And quite rightly so, as the opportunity for weeds is proportionately restricted.
Statues are enjoying huge popularity, as are stylish pots and containers that have become sculptures in their own right, forming an important feature within small spaces. Basically, the savvy gardener now chooses every single item for their garden with the utmost care. A statue or interesting old pot can form an important focal feature in a small space. Just don't use a jumble of too many!
The emphasis is now on ‘low maintenance’. Garden lovers are always pleased to look after their spaces, but most have working lives and need to make the most of their time. In smaller gardens it is perfectly feasible to be able to put the garden to rights over the course of just one weekend, leaving the rest of the month’s non-working days free for leisure!
With smaller plots comes the necessity to make sense of the space. In sprawling, country gardens there can be plenty of corners that are unused. But in an urban garden all awkward spaces need to work in order to earn their keep. They can form the basis for compost heaps or log stores for wildlife, or to fuel the fire. Seating areas need to be easily accessible, with maximum benefit of views over the garden yet screened from neighbours. Any lawns or play areas need to be secure and safe, yet attractively positioned so as not to dominate the view. Planning is key to maximising the opportunity that a small space provides. Planting needs to create an atmosphere, whether it be colourful, structural, naturalistic or a combination of all three.
With the rise in numbers of people renting their properties rather than purchasing, the popularity of indoor gardening has exploded. House plants are every bit as important to people as their perennials. They also tend to use more containers and hanging baskets so that every doorstep or windowsill can be adorned in lush planting. There are container plants that can stay in pots all year round and others that need to be refreshed as the seasons progress.
You can easily understand how gardening can become a year-round passion and the onset of autumn is no reason to allow the enthusiasm to fade!