The 2016 growing forecast

The 2016 growing forecast

Patricia Vine reviews the current trends in garden design

Gardening has always been subject to the natural elements of sun, wind and water that change with the seasons. These seasons have been observed by gardeners by the first cut of the lawn every spring and the end of summer the time to harvest the fruits of their labour.

But all of this is changing quite dramatically. Unpredictable seasonal temperatures and rainfall, combined with extreme events such as drought, flooding and storms are bringing new challenges to gardeners.

As a result, they are making the link between investing time and money into managing nature now to create “greener” gardens that will ensure a sustainable legacy for their children.

Health and wellbeing

Gardening and plants have a big impact on health, and more and more people are seeing the benefit of plants on mental wellbeing.

Growing for health and wellness, planting more trees and embracing small spaces are just a few of the top trends expected to shape our passion for gardening this year. The focus on growing perennial flowers from seed is set to continue rather than buying bedding plants from garden centres.

Anything related to wildlife planting has become increasingly important, especially those plants which encourage pollinators.

The recent news that more than three-quarters of the UK’s butterflies have declined in the last 40 years will only encourage this trend as well as anything to attract and sustain the bee population.

‘Real food’

The ‘real food’ movement is encouraging people not just to buy locally, but also produce their own food where they can. More gardeners are looking at ornamental vegetables that they can mix with flowers in beds and borders especially where space is at premium. The growing trend for edible gardening in containers will become even more popular this year, with seed and plant companies recognising that not everyone has an allotment or kitchen garden at their disposal.

Growing fruit and vegetables in patio pots and window boxes will allow those with the smallest growing spaces to enjoy the pleasure of growing for their table. Fruit trees grown as standards and bush varieties of peas, beans and mini sweetcorn are all great ways of incorporating this trend in your garden if you don’t want to give over whole beds to edible produce.

Urban gardening

This year, the ‘grow your own’ food movement under the umbrella of “urban gardening” is for everyone. People are taking back control of their food supply by planting vegetable, herb and fruit-bearing gardens, in the smallest of urban spaces. Trees and shrubs will trend for two reasons, in urban landscapes to create layers which provides over-looked gardens with privacy and to attract wildlife such as birds and small mammals. Nest boxes are also growing in popularity as town-dwellers aspire to restore their contact with the natural world.

Low maintenance

Easy to care for gardens are set to continue to be a key theme. For most people, the amount of time they can spend caring for their garden is becoming increasingly limited as commuting times and pressure of work increasingly cutting into our leisure time. People want gardens that are easy to maintain, yet are pleasant, relaxing places where they can entertain friends and family. Well-manicured, perfect lawns are becoming less popular.

Such lawns are very time consuming, so there is now a more naturalistic approach and they need to be mown far less frequently. Alternatively, many home owners are opting to remove front lawns and reduce the amount of lawn space in back gardens. Instead, they are opting to use gravel, rock, brick and paving especially in the front gardens, which are often used for extra car parking; with decking, gravel and paving becoming more common in the back.

Entertaining outdoors

A green space is seen as important, but people want more areas in which they can sit and entertain in comfort Linked to this is a growth in the provision of covered areas, which will provide shade in summer, and shelter during spring and autumn evenings.

Pergolas and terraces are forecast to be popular additions to decking and patios in order to match the move towards greater entertaining at home. What’s more interest in the use of locally sourced materials is beginning to blossom, reflecting eco-friendly concerns.

More innovative and creative ways are being sought to use standard materials such as stone and wood to define the boundaries of flower beds and garden spaces. For example, fence panels have been used horizontally as screens, dividing one section of the garden from another, to create interest and provide additional privacy.

With the desire to entertain is the need for outdoor lighting; enabling people to use their gardens for much longer in spring and autumn. LED lighting is becoming very popular as it is both energy and cost efficient. As technology becomes smarter people are using their phones to control outdoor lighting systems, as well as automatic irrigation systems, keeping their plants in tip top health. With the Queen’s 90th Birthday this year, expect to see many celebrations in gardens right across the country, whatever the weather!