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10-12 September 2018
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The top 2019 gardening trends from Glee

by: Alexandra Campbell 23 Sep 2018

I’ve just visited Glee, the horticultural trades show in Birmingham. The future is looking good for us ‘middle-sized’ gardeners.

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Products are being launched to make gardening easier.

But, above all, the age of the urban garden has arrived. The average size of garden in the UK is fifty feet long, but new build houses will have much smaller gardens. The gardening industry is responding with new products and plants.

Starring the urban garden

Fifteen years ago, when we first got a garden, the trends were driven by the large country gardens. Gardening advice to a newbie gardener might have included tips such as ‘no matter how small your estate, it’s essential to have at least three acres of woodland.’ (I’m not being quite fair, as that is from a very old book, but you get the idea…)

And I went to a lecture given by a top head gardener who referred to her own personal garden (one-third of an acre) as ‘absolutely tiny.’ That was almost twice the size of our garden which, at the time, looked worryingly big to me.

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Even five years ago, I did a media training workshop with a group of garden designers who were very reluctant to admit publicly that they mainly worked in small urban gardens. They seemed to fear that they wouldn’t be taken seriously unless they worked in large country gardens.

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That is no longer the case.  The urban garden and all its quirks are at the heart of the 2019 garden trends. The words ‘vista’, ‘drifts’ and ‘double borders’ have been replaced by pots, table planters, automated irrigation, robot mowers and smaller varieties of plants.

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Pot, pots and more pots

I spotted Burgon & Ball’s contemporary hanging pots, Laura Ashley and Sophie Conran’s designer pots, retro pots and recyclable pots (still not enough of these). There were pots as room dividers, country pots, traditional pots and more.

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Ingenious ways of growing things

There were a number of table planters at the show, and this can only be good news for anyone wanting to grow salads on their balcony or terrace. Some have easy take-on-take-off cloche covers, which makes me want them in my own garden in order to keep the pigeons off the spinach.

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I was interested, however, to see very few vertical ‘green walls’. Did I miss them at the show or has this been a very short-lived trend? I do like seeing plants grown up the sides of buildings (Stratford International Station has a good one). But I have my doubts as to how easy green walls are to look after.

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There were also ordinary-style raised beds with mini polytunnel-type cloche covers. You need to be careful about size with these. Smaller isn’t always better.

For example, I bought a reduced-size (4ftx 6ft) polytunnel a few years ago. I’ve found it infuriating because it’s very difficult to access when the plants are fully grown, so it just turned into a mess. My advice is either to buy a polytunnel you can walk into or a small enough cloche to remove easily. ‘Middle-sized’ does not work when it comes to cloches and polytunnels.

Although do feel free to contradict me.

2019 garden trends in plants

I spoke to Wyevale Garden centres, who said that the top trend is for bee and pollinator-friendly ‘cottage garden’ plants. But as gardens are so much smaller, they’re selling dwarf versions of popular plants. That includes Allium ‘Millenium’, which is almost as diminutive as chives.

‘Patio fruits’ are a big new trend. I like the idea of dwarf mulberries and blackberries. But I saw a couple of multi-fruit ‘patio’ bushes on a stand (I can’t remember which). I’m a little doubtful about this trend, as I’m not sure whether a fruit tree with three different kinds of fruit on the same rootstock will actually deliver flavour and a decent harvest. But maybe I’ll be proved wrong.

Plant foliage has been big in the world of garden bloggers for a while. And this trend is now ‘trickling down’ to the ordinary gardener. This is where the great country gardens do still lead the way. Head gardeners (see Philip Oostenbrink’s garden here) are developing, experimenting with and championing plants with distinctive shaped and coloured foliage.

The result is that when you and I go to the nursery or garden centre, we feel an irrestistible desire to buy phormiums. I know. I did it just recently. It was as if an alien had taken over my credit card. But when I got home, it seemed so right. That’s fashion for you. Even if you think you’re immune, you’re not.

Foragers’ cocktails and home-made tea

Romeo Sommers, the creative director of GLEE, identified a real expansion of grow-your-own in the 2019 garden trends. He predicts that we’ll be growing our own tea. That’s not just dipping some mint in hot water, but actually growing tea plants for our own home-grown green tea.

He said that restaurants will make an increasing point of growing their own ingredients, and telling diners about it.

And then there are herbs in cocktails. I love the idea of his phrase ‘foragers’ cocktails’, but even if you’re not brave enough to forage, you can pop sprigs of rosemary into your gin-and-tonic. My best gin-and-tonic this year had lovage in it.

And, of course, edible flowers are still big, big, big. Botanist James Wong sometimes fumes on Twitter that too many Instagrammers are using non-edible flowers on food and that someone will be poisoned one day.

Romeo Sommers also mentioned a growing trend for home dyeing fabrics using plants from your garden. I’ve written two posts about dyeing from plants here, but I think it’s a trend that has alot further to go. It’s perfect for anyone who enjoys sewing, crochet or knitting and who also loves their garden.

Gardens for relaxation – gardening goes high-tech

The small and middle-sized garden of tomorrow is for relaxing in, according to the research. So technology is automating garden jobs. The top two tech gadgets are automated irrigation systems and robot lawn mowers. Both can now be controlled from mobile phones. And both are more suited to smaller urban gardens rather than estates with three acres of woodland.

And eco-friendly…

As well as the recyclable pots, there were several new peat-free composts (the RHS endorses the Melcourt range) and also glyphosate-free weedkillers from Evergreen, SBM, Assured Products, Neudorff and more. Solar lighting can now be controlled from a smart-phone, and it’s more practical – Duracell say their best-seller in solar lighting is solar security lighting because people can install it without having to drill through a wall for cabling.

And colourful…

Small and middle-sized gardens can be easily seen from the house, and may partly be ‘outdoor rooms.’ So the idea of accessorising gardens with coloured furniture, fences, pergolas etc is growing. And Romeo Sommers believes more of us will extend our interior decorating themes out into the garden.

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Garden furniture ranges used to be ranges of wood, plastic or metal in natural shades, green or white. Now you can get chairs and benches in pastel pinks, citrus yellows and greens and more. Or you could paint your garden furniture yourself.

And of course Instagram…

Instagram has done a huge amount to publicise gardening and plants, particularly in urban gardens. It’s hugely influential in promoting dramatic foliage, houseplants and beautiful gardens. That seems set to continue. If you haven’t joined it yet, it only works from a smartphone. Get the Instagram app, sign in (it’s easy), then start following people (@the_middlesized_garden_blog, for example!)

Enjoy a video tour of GLEE’s 2019 garden trends here:


Alexandra Campbell blogger page

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