Each new year brings new ways for gardeners to experiment with their outside space. I’ve identified a few of the key ideas and garden trends for 2018. The unifying theme underpinning all of these trends is the ever-decreasing size of British gardens. Luckily, gardeners are tackling the challenges that small gardens bring in innovative ways. Even projects that would initially seem to require a larger garden – like growing your own food or creating a habitat perfect for local wildlife – can be achieved in smaller gardens.
- The climb of climbers
In order to make the most of restricted gardening space, gardeners will turn to utilising vertical space – and one of the best ways of doing this is by using climbers. Growing up not out is the cardinal rule here. Climbers are an essential part of the traditional garden, helping to hide unsightly features and adding another dimension to any planting scheme. Some good examples would be climbing roses, late-flowering clematis or even an early one, like viticellas (which have the added benefit of being pretty much disease free). These climbers make ideal companion plants to more traditional flower beds filled with spring flowering bulbs.
- Increasing usage of Pergolas
The trend of smaller gardens also means that available space will likely be used more intensively. Aside from the lawn, gardeners will be making the most of terraced areas, which can be covered with a pergola. The uprights of the pergola are absolutely ideal for smaller climbing roses (like the Parade, Aloha or Love Know), while the horizontal struts can easily carry an ornamental vine and honeysuckle. More romantically, using hanging wisteria turns any outdoor dining area into a private retreat.
- The decline of the Monkey Puzzle tree
Unfortunately, the rise of small gardens also means that some plant varieties will be favoured over others. Trees that grow to huge sizes are likely to suffer; one such example would be the unusual Monkey Puzzle Tree. Hugely popular in Victorian times, the Monkey Puzzle can grow to well over 40 metres. What was less understood then was that it lives for thousands of years and – due to its recent scarcity – can end up with a tree preservation order. With space at a premium, gardeners will start to become more aware about using the right plant at the right time.
- Container-grown herbs
With the trend towards self-sustainable living, organic vegetation and rising food prices, gardeners are increasingly looking to make the most of the limited space they have by growing their own produce. While most gardens won’t have space for full veg patches or a greenhouse, container-grown herbs will become an increasingly popular alternative. As many herbs are hardy, they can be easily grown in slightly more unconventional places, such as on small window sills or in wall-hanging plant holders. Growing your own herbs is cost-effective, they’re often tastier than their supermarket-bought equivalents and you know that they have been grown naturally.
- Bee-friendly small gardens
We’ll all be aware of the decline in the bee population. Growing awareness of this has led to many gardeners shifting their focus onto ways to make their gardens more bee-friendly. Luckily, many of the trends above tie into this – you really can turn your limited outdoor space into a garden that attracts wildlife. For example, bees love pot-grown thyme, while the intoxicating fragrance of a honeysuckle-covered pergola is truly attractive to bees. The kinds of shrubs and flowers that these creatures love – bluebells, peonies and sweet williams – are also easy to plant and ideal for smaller, cottage-style gardens.
- Space-saving sheds
If you’re tight on space, then outdoor buildings – like the traditional British shed – need to blend into your garden and not simply used to store your tools. Multi-use sheds – such as those that are part shed, part greenhouse for potting or custom-built sheds that incorporate a multi-tiered planter – will become more popular. While you needn’t go to the extreme lengths of the sort featured in Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces: Shed of the Year series, there are a huge array of possibilities when it comes to turning your utilitarian shed into a small garden feature. Why not try using a vibrant colour of paint or training a climber across the shed trellis?
I’m Julian Bosdari and gardens, gardening and plants have been a lifelong passion. This passion has ended up with my owning and running Ashridge Nurseries for over 20 years, during which time we have sold millions of plants to well over 100,000 customers, with free, expert advice as part of the package. Why not come and share my obsession with hedging, trees, roses, soft fruit, flower bulbs and the like at www.ashridgetrees.co.uk.