Starting off with the therapeutic benefits of green spaces, the connection between gardens and our well-being has been proven; it’s a theme I wrote about last January and I’ll keep returning to it. It’s been heartening to observe how our appreciation of green spaces, and how good they are for us, has deepened over recent years. Many of us have sought sanctuary in the great outdoors and turned to gardens, plants and growing, for respite from the impact of the pandemic.
Waterfeatures bring peace and tranquility to a space, welcoming birds and other wildlife (e.g. ponds) to outdoor spaces where we can sit and relax or view from the kitchen window. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how often clients will discuss including these features during our initial conversations.
Not forgetting the therapeutic benefits of regularly tending to your plants and watching them grow. A meditative distraction from daily life duties, my heart rate slows just thinking about it!
Planet friendly gardening: working with, not against the site
It probably won’t come as any surprise that the environment, climate change and sustainability feature in the trends. From finding low carbon solutions to sourcing materials and choosing planting schemes that will thrive in our ever changing, increasingly extreme weather patterns. However, I do wish there was a more coordinated way to recycle / return plant plastic pots after planting. We’re behind the times with this.
Reuse, recycle and repurpose
One aspect of this is making a conscious decision to work with locally sourced products, materials and plants. It seems obvious, especially here in Yorkshire, where we’re blessed with a fabulous number of suppliers to turn to, but it starts even closer to home than that, with the garden in front of you.
Reusing existing soil, plants and materials in the garden and finding ways to incorporate them into the design, is a conversation I engage in more and more often. From a design perspective, reducing ‘interventions’ like bringing new materials onto site, really exploits the skills of the designer.
Working with the site and trying to keep ground changes to a minimum calls for a little more creativity. A word of caution though. It might be better for the environment, but it isn’t necessarily cheaper. Working round and using existing materials and plants can be less time efficient for the contractors than say taking everything away and importing new material.
Planting schemes: bringing the Mediterranean to Yorkshire?
Increasing extreme changes in the weather are creating some interesting challenges when it comes to designing planting schemes. Some garden designers are turning to Mediterranean plants that will thrive in warm weather, but in Yorkshire we need our plants to be able to cope with the increasing bouts of wet weather too. Not to mention snow, early and late frosts, gale force winds and the rest!
One thing is certain, it makes selecting plants a lot more interesting and the answer, I think, is to allow for some experiment. Substituting Mediterranean species with plants you’re more used to seeing in a Yorkshire back garden is one answer.
Lavender plants are an eternal favourite with homeowners and can grow well locally. I anticipate that they’ll need replanting after four years or so, if not trimmed well (don’t cut into hard wood!).
An alternative plant which grows reliably well is Nepeta (coming in a range of cultivars). Although somewhat of a ‘marmite’ plant, bees love it, there’s scented foliage, lilac flowering, and it will respond to cutting back mid-season – it will then put on another flush of foliage and flowers. It can be cut back hard to the ground in winter too. Not one for putting in front of a border, edging a lawn perhaps, its sprawling habit is great for softening path edges. It can complement roses beautifully too.
A special mention here for tapestry lawns, a fabulous alternative to the traditional grassy lawn. Using a mixture of different ‘mowing-tolerant’ species they are low-maintenance, great environmentally and are beautiful too. Take a look at how a client in Steeton experimented with a clover lawn in their garden.
Jewel colour gardens
I get particularly excited about colour and how it can be used in garden design. In this previous blog, I talked about how plants can be used to create a colour palette and mood in the garden.
What really interests me is using colour against the backbone of an evergreen and deciduous structure to create a layering effect. Seeing how colours contrast against a background or blend with other materials and structures in the garden, for example, house walls or fences.
I find yellow needs to be used carefully, maybe as an accent colour, repeated occasionally amongst the other plants to enhance the plant combinations. While purples with apricots (and sometimes oranges!) is a favourite combination of mine.
I take my cues from clients and their colour preferences and then interpret those into colour combinations that complement each other. Sometimes clients have a set, restricted colour palette but I usually encourage them to include accent colours that they might not normally think about.
But I’m always experimenting and there’s always room for pollinator plants along with colour. Colour and wildlife definitely go hand in hand as drivers for plants in your garden, whether in pots or borders.
Bringing the inside outside: boutique hotel syndrome!
Outdoor kitchens, TV and sound systems, fire pits and water features. Making space for entertaining in the garden might not be new, but after two years where we’ve not been able to go on holiday as easily and our social lives have switched to the back garden, is it any surprise that we’re borrowing ideas from the world of interiors to make the experience that much more comfortable, enjoyable and special?
From my own experience (with my teen boys), fire pits have featured heavily, not only to keep us warm outdoors but acting as a focal point and adding to the sociable mood of a gathering. There is the negative impact burning wood has on the environment however – but I’ll talk more about that another time.
There’s been a huge rise in hot tub hire these last couple of years, it’s an outdoor jacuzzi! Blending relaxation with socialising, a hot tub has been another hit with teenagers, and the family, as an alternative, fun way to meet up.
“One of the positive effects of the pandemic is that people now understand the therapeutic effects of gardening. They want to create a sense of sanctuary in their garden, to be surrounded by plants and to be enveloped by nature and to increase biodiversity.”
Bringing that inside-out feel, is ever more commonplace as many more homes, year on year, have bifold (or even trifold) doors installed – or even just larger windows than in the past. Pre-Covid, when client consultations started inside the house, I could pick up on a client’s style, almost by accident. Style clues could then be subtly woven into the design, as well as taking in key views from within the home. But with meetings moving online and only visiting the client’s outdoor space, this hasn’t been as easy.
As restrictions recede, I’m looking forward to meeting clients inside their home again and picking up on those style vibes from inside their home.
Thank you for reading!
Photo credits: Ian Lamond Photography
2022 gardening predictions: what trends will we see? Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) December 2021. https://www.rhs.org.uk/garden-inspiration/seasonal/2022-gardening-predictions
Garden Design Trends 2022, The Society of Garden Designers (SGD), January 2022. Garden Design Trends 2022 | Garden Design Trends 2022 | Society of Garden Designers (sgd.org.uk)
The impact of gardens on our wellbeing, Melissa Morton Garden Design, January 2021 https://melissamorton.co.uk/the-impact-of-gardens-on-our-wellbeing
Colour science in garden design and how hue can influence mood, Melissa Morton Garden Design, November 2018 https://melissamorton.co.uk/colour-science-in-garden-design-how-hue-can-influence-mood/
The value of colours in gardens and how they’re used in planting design, Melissa Morton Garden Design, December 2018 https://melissamorton.co.uk/the-value-of-colours-in-gardens-and-how-they-can-be-used-in-planting-design/