Forgive me. Some of you may not be as obsessed with the petals of haute horticulture as the rest of us. But I hope you non-botanical people will allow us to chat amongst ourselves for one small post. Because we need to talk about a very important topic. What's hot, what's not and what's being relegated to the gardening compost heap in 2013.
The following is a whimsical list of what seems to be 'IN' and 'OUT' in the grand, gorgeous world of gardening this year, although as I put it together it's bound to be more faux-cical than factual. Gardening trends also change faster than the seasons so please don't lynch me if you plant dahlias and they end up being shunned by something more on-trend, such as brussels sprouts. (Apparently very big this year.)
Finally, I'd like to apologise, most sincerely, for being low under the radar of late. Since these Garden Tours have taken off faster than summer jasmine, I've had to focus a lot of energy on ensuring they're run in a professional manner. Still, it will all be worth it. Nothing will please me more than seeing the cheery faces of 24 lovely gardeners at the end of each successful tour. As Luther Burbank once said: "Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful. They are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul."
GARDEN TRENDS FOR 2013
GARDENS AS FASHION COLLECTIONS
Did you see the recent Spring/Summer 2013 collection by Valentino? Hamish Bowles called it "a joyous celebration of the infinite possibilities of the unfettered imagination." There were frocks inspired by formal gardens, by romantic flower plantings and even by ornate iron gates. (Created by raised decorative patterns on the surface of the fabric, to suggest the elaborate wrought-iron gates hiding the mystery within.) There were also ball gowns elaborately embroidered with flowers and birds (which rightly elicited a spontaneous round of applause), and woollen numbers stamped with designs taken from 18th-century garden design books for formal parterres, along with chiffon dahlias (dahlias are so IN), latticed ribbon-work and blooming skirts. Even Valentino was emotional at the sight of it all. Beautiful. Just beautiful.
GARDENS INSPIRED BY THE DEEP SOUTH
Have any of you been following Carolyn Roehm's work on her new Charleston house and garden? She's been detailing it in her blog – link here. Before she'd even bought a stick of furniture she'd purchased two 10.5″ caliper live oaks and two huge Magnolia grandiflora to plant in the front garden. Isn't that a woman after your own heart? Then she had to find a 100 ton crane (above) to lift the 18,000-pound live oaks and the 10,000-pound magnolias into place. (Makes our wheelbarrows efforts look rather tame.) She wants, she says, "a real old-fashioned scented Charleston garden": one with gardenias, camellias, jasmine, magnolia grandiflora, evergreen oaks (Quercus virginiana) and Ficus pumila. Can't wait to see what she does with the camellias and gardenias.
Vegie gardens have been in vogue for a while now, thanks to First Lady Michelle Obama, Her Majesty The Queen (yes, even she planted one) and of course long-standing supporters such as Rosemary Verey. (Whom I'll never forget meeting. Such a gracious person.) But people are actually designing gardens around them now. For the perfect example of this, see my favourite garden in the world, Villandry Chateau in France (above). As Stephen Lacey quoted in The Telegraph recently: “Designer friends tell me that even super-rich non-gardeners are asking for their gardens to include somewhere they can go foraging for a few edible rocket leaves and berries." Edible hedges are apparently big, too.
Sales of authentic, vintage and replica Victoriana gardenalia have gone through the greenhouse roof. Cute cloches started it, but now people are buying old-fashioned mini conservatories, seed boxes, and even antique tools on the Internet. This is Ben Pentreath's garden at his country house, The Old Parsonage. Isn't it charming? More details on his delightful blog here – Ben Pentreath.
Picking gardens were hugely fashionable last century. And perhaps earlier this century too. But then they were overtaken by the fad for formal French gardens and the English box hedge mania that went with it. Thankfully, beautiful picking gardens are coming back. And not designed ones either but gorgeous, blousy, toss-it-anywhere-and-see-what-it-looks-like stuff. It's the bohemian aesthetic. And it's surprisingly marvellous. Try Googling Sarah Raven's picking garden at Perch Hill for inspiration.
BLACK AND WHITE GARDENS
Several years ago there was a trend for white gardens. (Think Sissinghurst.) Then blue gardens. Now, black and white gardens are the biggest thing in botanicals, inspired, partly, by HRH The Prince of Wales' magnificent monochromatic design at Highgrove (which features white lupins and peonies and black grasses).* Black and white gardens are easy to eulogise, but difficult to create. Even Mother Nature is partial to colour. However, stylish gardeners are tossing down dark Tom Thumb hedging, black and white delphiniums and foxgloves, black-stemed violet hydrangeas such as the purple-flowered Hydrangea macrophylla 'Merveille Sanguine' (which translates to '****** Marvellous'), and the beautifully named 'Plum Pudding' Heuchera. Plus silver birches with their white trunks and of course Light Sussex chickens to tone in with it all. (*According to a garden designer friend, The Prince of Wales' gardeners have softened the black and white scheme at Highgrove to allow for a more relaxed cottage garden-style aesthetic with lots of scent and colour.)
SURPRISING SHOW GARDENS AT CHELSEA
Did you hear the news that Prince Harry is collaborating with a charity to produce a garden for the Chelsea Flower Show this year. I think that's fantastic. The prince is said to have a “keen interest” in the garden, which is being designed by Jinny Blom, and even if he doesn't have time to do more than nod approval at the horticultural blueprint, I still think it's marvellous that he's lending his name. Clearly the leaf doesn't fall far from the tree, after all. I do think Prince Harry might surprise us all.
GARDENING IN GENERAL
The Garden Centre Association (GCA) reported that November sales were up 11 per cent compared to last year. It's one of the retail trends that is going against the downturn. That's pleasing news, indeed. Keep on gardening, people. Good work. Well done.