We have the Olympics to blame for last year’s obsession with wildflower gardens. The trend was showcased at the Olympic Park to spectacular effect, and the display was a focal point during the games. Excited by the accolades about the wildflowers – and possibly even by the success of the games themselves – the Brits are now keen to continue the drift garden trend into 2013.
There’s another reason, too. The gloomy economy and ever-tightening budgets have shifted the emphasis onto seeds rather than plants, so meadow mixes that provide heaps of plants for very little money are definitely the go.
I’ve become a convert to seeds; my need for instant gratification has been overcome by frugality. I planted three types of basil in late November, but the cold weather, rain and an explosion in the slug population defeated them. Disgruntled, I bought a packet of basil seeds, figuring that by the time they poked their heads up the sun might have come out. I threw them in a barrel and now I have basil for Africa. Basil ice cream, my favourite thing, is back on the menu.
I’m also enamoured of the idea of mixing flower, herb and vegetable seeds together and scattering them over a big garden border to see what happens. It’s the joy of surprises. The weather and economy can also be blamed (or perhaps thanked) for supporting a return to growing food in 2013 and beyond.
Appalling weather has seen some newbie gardeners giving up in disgust, but the grow-your-own movement is gathering steam again and more people are relying on their gardens to supply fresh food. Predictions worldwide are for more composting, recycling and making-do – but sustainability is not just for the frugal.
A couple of English designers have been quoted as saying their super-well-heeled, non-gardening clients have asked for their estates to include areas where they can go “foraging” for a few edible leaves and berries.
Not a proper vegetable or fruit garden, you understand – that’s far too much work – but a bit of a berry garden and a patch of rocket instead. The perfect solution to this request is an edible hedge. Hedges have been on the hot list for the past three or four years, and those that produce food are the Next Big Thing. We’re lucky in New Zealand that we can grow feijoas, which make the perfect hedge.
They’re evergreen, they flower and they produce fruit, from which you can make fabulous fruit crumble and feijoa and coconut cake. Chilean guava is another good choice for the same reason.
You could consider creating a pleached hedge (weaving together the branches from multiple trees or plants) of fruit trees, which would deliver a double whammy in the style department, since pleaching is picked as another top trend for 2013. Apples, quinces, peaches and pears will do the business. Happily, some garden pundits are predicting a return to shrubs this year. I’m all for that.
Shrubs were sidelined during our affair with annuals, grasses and perennials and it’s time we paid them attention. If your garden’s bigger than a handkerchief, you need shrubs to give height and structure. It doesn’t mean you can’t have flowers as well – the list of flowering, fragrant, low-maintenance shrubs is very long. As soon as they’ve been established for a season, take cuttings and propagate some more. It’s another way to make your garden more sustainable.
Other trends tipped for 2013
Who hasn’t succumbed to romanticism and tucked a fresh flower behind their ear? Now the latest look for gardeners is fresh flowers on your shoes. Medicinal herb gardens are all the go in the UK, so if you want to follow suit, learn about the beneficial properties of herbs you can grow at home. And yes, you do need to swot up – it’s easy to poison yourself.
Use your lawn for old-fashioned games such as lawn bowls and croquet. The gentle (and sometimes fiercely competitive) pursuits are a great way to wind down in the late afternoon with a few friends. Improvising greens and courts is fun, as is buying bowling balls and croquet sets on auction sites. After a tipple or two, nobody notices the lawn’s not level.