Garden design trends for 2018

We gaze into our crystal ball and predict what’s going to be big in backyards in the New Year…

Grasses

Ornamental grasses will continue to add texture and depth to garden schemes. Tough and long-lasting they are great value for money and we feel sure they will persist in naturalistic ‘New Perennial Movement’ schemes, planted en masse with drifts of perennials. We envisage grasses will also play a role in the rising tide of sustainable and environmentally friendly design, both in corporate and domestic schemes, like those pioneered by designers such a Professor of Planting Design Nigel Dunnett at Sheffield University. Grasses also tap into the Japanese idea of ‘wabi-sabi’, the idea of natural imperfections and gardening in balance with nature. That said, we see a reduction in the types of grasses used. Stipa gigantea, Miscanthus sp., Calamagrostis sp., and Anemanthele lessioniana all have a role to play – but the drawback is that many lose their shape in our damp winters and look limp and messy, especially the early flowering varieties. We find Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’, Miscanthus malepartus, Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', and Stipa gigantea, Anemanthele lessoniana the most versatile ornamental grasses which overwinter well.

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Shrubs

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With smaller gardens (and smaller wallets), there will be a continuing demand for high performance shrubs, with plants that offer more blossom for their buck. Some interesting recent new introductions include semi-evergreen Daphne x transatlantica 'Eternal Fragrance', with its fragrant pinky-white flowers, and compact evergreen Magnolia 'Fairy Cream', with its spectacular fragrance, which can both be grown in large containers. These two standout plants look good all year and flower their heads off. Gardeners are simply not satisfied with a two to three week flowering time these days – with nothing else interesting happening the rest of the year – and instead, they are calling for plants that have the 'wow' factor for longer periods, and big shrubs that look good now, not in three years time.  

Screening

We’ve been incorporating a lot of pleached trees and panels into gardens this year thanks to the way they create instant impact in small spaces – and screen the seemingly unscreenable (we’ve used ivy on wire mesh panels to instantly disguise an electricity substation, for example!) We’re sure their popularity will not diminish in 2018. In fact, an increasing number of new varieties are becoming available from evergreen shrubs, Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’, with its green and white leaves, tinged with pink, to Magnolia and even amelanchier trees, with its white star-shaped flowers and rust coloured leaves.

Technology

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We think (and hope!) there will be more automation in lawn care, with robotic mowers and extended battery times on equipment so that this can become a feasible option for larger gardens too. Increasingly electrical garden tools such as professional hedge trimmers, brushcutter/strimmers and blowers are now battery powered or cordless and this looks set to continue. We can only hope the robotic mowers will lead to a reduction in the use of artificial turf, however (an ‘unmentionable’ among gardeners and designers!) as it seems so unnatural and has so many negative implications for wildlife. We predict there will also be a rise in garden tech that’s connected to your mobile such as smart controllers for water irrigation systems.

Lighting

People have been bringing the indoors outside with atmospheric garden lighting for decades, whether to allow them to socialise after dark, to enhance garden features, or simply stop them tripping over the cat on the way to the greenhouse. With alfresco living set to be big for 2018, we expect to see a rise in the popularity of garden lightning with increasing availability of low-voltage lighting and particularly LEDs (much better than halogen as they don’t emit heat and damage foliage). Not so long ago lighting was an expensive business and required significant power usage, not to mention ugly cables that had to be concealed. Now, for the equivalent of a 100w bulb, you can illuminate a whole (small) garden. Prepare to see more fibre optic walls, fairy lights strung artistically through multi stem trees, solar hanging light bulbs and LED grow lights.

Growing your own

The rise in veganism is sure to translate into an upward trend in veg and fruit growing – but we feel this will be limited to certain areas. Generally, there seems a misconception about what can be achieved in a kitchen garden and people do not want to spend the amount of money (or time) it takes to maintain a large vegetable plot to a high standard. However, outdoor kitchens and pizza ovens will become more important, as well as the fresh food to go with it. We envisage a rise in container veg and herb gardens in particular. Perennial herbs such as sages and rosemary can easily be incorporated into a garden design alongside other plants, and they have a long season of interest compared with other edible crops. We’ll see more experimentation in herb beds too, with exotic herbs such as Lemon Grass and Kaffir Lime included in schemes. We predict there will be more fruit growing too, both as espalier and cordon fruit trees but also standard currants and gooseberries.

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New materials

Interiors trends inevitably end up outdoors – and we’ve seen a rise in the use of external porcelain floor tiles. Lighter and thinner than ceramic, the outdoor versions are frost proof and resistant to temperature changes meaning you can seamlessly link them with your indoor space, and they look great in smaller city gardens. There are lots of textures and shades available and their tough exterior means they do not need to be sealed and are resistant to fading and scratches – which means they require minimal maintenance.

Localism

Native plants will be increasingly important in 2018. Local sourcing has been a trend in food and drink for a long time, but with Brexit looming and the cost of plant imports likely to rise we’re likely to see designers and gardeners sourcing plants and garden materials closer to home. Plants such as olives, lavender, and rosemary etc may also start to be imported in smaller quantities as plant nurseries worry about the biohazard of new virulent pests and diseases from Europe.