The reality of the last two years is that our homes have become the main settings of our lives, used as living and working spaces as well as much needed sanctuaries away from the pandemic. As we have been forced to slow down and spend more time there, our gardens have also gained far more significance, with garden design trends focused more and more on health and well-being.
But what will we be drawn to in 2022? Each year we ask members of the Society of Garden Designers to tell us what will be shaping the future of garden design over the coming months. From patchwork paths and tapestry lawns to natural swimming pools and up-cycled greenhouses, these are their predictions for 2022:
“I’d say that the trend for next year is the immersive, natural, wildlife garden and, to be honest, this thrills me to the core!” says designer, broadcaster and author Ann-Marie Powell MSGD who says her studio is receiving lots more enquiries from clients wanting natural, loose gardens. “People want gardens that look like they are ‘of nature’ rather than the more obviously designed spaces.” says Ann-Marie, who predicts that ’nature-scaping’ and ‘curated wildling’ will be the buzz words of 2022.
This theory is echoed by Ana Sanchez-Martin MSGD of The Garden Company who says, “I am hoping that more and more people will be jumping on the ‘Rewilding wagon’! 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.”
THE WABI SABI GARDEN
“I think we will begin to see many gardens being designed following a wabi-sabi philosophy, meaning that people will be embracing a less perfect aesthetic” says Filippo Dester MSGD from Garden Club London. Following trends more frequently associated with a minimalist interior design style, Filippo believes this will lead to a greater focus on natural materials, rich in texture and neutral in colour. “I think the deeper meaning to wabi-sabi will be seen in the approach to garden design”, he says. “We will begin to accept the beauty of the ‘imperfect’ and the ever-changing nature of materials such as stone and wood and the plants themselves, veering away from the sleek, immaculate look that often characterises urban gardens.”
With more people holidaying at home in the UK, Fi Boyle MSGD has found that the focus has turned to having the luxuries that you might ordinarily go away to enjoy, incorporated into your garden instead. “Pools, particularly natural swimming ponds, are definitely one of these luxuries, she says. Ben Chandler MSGD of Farlam & Chandler agrees. “With possible further restrictions on travel, our gardens will continue to be personal sanctuaries and a kind of modern-day pleasure garden” he says.
“I aim to incorporate ‘interior’ elements into my designs, and not just undercover but as part of the open garden” adds Oliver Bond MSGD. “This includes fireplaces and built-in outdoor kitchens, but we are also experimenting with entertainment features, such as TVs and sound systems.”
Ana Sanchez-Martin has seen a growing trend for what she calls ‘the ‘boutique hotel syndrome’. “We are finding that more of our clients are asking for elements they would usually enjoy on holidays,“ says Ana. “We have seen a marked increase in people requesting swimming pools, outdoor kitchens, firepits, outdoor heaters and lighting.” But she adds a note of caution: “Some of these can have a detrimental effect on the environment, which people don’t always realise, so discussing this with our clients is very important” she says.
“I would love to design and plant a ‘tapestry lawn’, as an alternative to the normal grass lawn” says Ana Sanchez-Martin, who explains that they are created using a combination of many different mowing-tolerant plant species. “Like meadow lawns, they are low in maintenance and of higher ornamental and environmental value. The need to mow a tapestry lawn can be reduced by up to two thirds compared to a regular grass lawn and, as a consequence, a greater number of both plant and insect species are able to inhabit the lawn. In small urban gardens, meadow lawns are not usually very practical, but a tapestry lawn could be a great solution for city gardens.”
Designer Filippo Dester says: “I’m looking forward to trying out new ideas and materials for permeable surfacing. I’m planning on using Oak setts more, as an alternative to clay pavers, and experimenting with different ways of recycling existing stone paving combined with aggregates and low planting to create sustainable and ecological surfaces.”
Ana Sanchez-Martin is on the same track, saying she will be adding texture and interest to the garden by planting low mat-forming species in-between stepping-stones or as a path edging. “I want to experiment with plants such as Pratia pedunculata (blue star creeper) , Carex divulsa (grey sedge) or Sesleria caerulea (blue moor grass) instead of the more familiar Alchemilla, Thyme or Stipa,” she says.
LOW CARBON GARDENS
“I feel there is a big movement towards good environmental schemes, supporting wildlife and reducing our carbon footprint.” says Jilayne Rickards MSGD. She says the move has been driven by garden designers and their clients and from “a greater awareness of the terrible climate situation mankind has created’.
Ben Chandler believes the rising cost of importing goods and the increased awareness of carbon footprint means there will be an emphasis on locally sourced materials, plants and products. “ I hope that means more support for smaller specialist plant nurseries and brings opportunities to local makers and craftspeople when it comes to sourcing furniture and accessories for the garden,” he says.
When it comes to hard landscaping, Oliver Bond says he is always looking for more efficient ecologically-friendly and less impactful ways of creating hard landscape elements, whether through sustainable materials, greener logistics or less intrusive methods of installation. “We have been looking into a universal pedestal system to replace mortar beds beneath garden patios” he says. “It reduces the amount of construction materials required, decreases the impact to the garden and improves storm water management too.” Ana Sanchez-Martin agrees, saying she foresees an increased use of permeable bedding mortars as well as highly permeable paving systems, such as Trailflex, and the continued use of ground screws for deck or timber structures instead of using concrete footings.
For Ann-Marie Powell, using even more plants in order to lock carbon into the soil is a top priority. “It negates the requirement for extra imported hard landscaping, looks beautiful and attracts beneficial insects too, so it’s a win-win” she says. “I would love to find more suppliers who grow their plants peat-free too.”
When it comes to planting, Ana Sanchez-Martin is trialling alternative growing mediums and substrates in difficult soils, such as heavy clay. She says, “Instead of importing tons of organic matter or man-made topsoils, as recommended for decades, new research shows that growing plants in 30cm of coarse sand or on crushed concrete and brick with just with 50mm topsoil, in combination with appropriate plant selection, can yield great results. It’s a very exciting approach which feels both sustainable and practical.”
Echoing this planting style, Filippo Dester says “I think the trend we’ll keep seeing will be a focus on Mediterranean and drought- tolerant planting. We are experimenting with new plants that are indigenous of warmer climates to create alternative planting palettes, whilst constantly re-imagining how the already tried-and-tested species can be mixed with more traditional choices to create innovative, interesting schemes.”
RE-USE, RE-CYCLE, RE-PURPOSE
“Recycling and up-cycling is a trend that is set to continue into 2022. Sustainability, whilst not new, is increasingly important not only to us, but to our clients too,” say Ann-Marie Powell who is escalating the use of repurposed materials by crushing them, for paths, terraces or driveways while also using less cement in the garden, and selecting materials that have the lowest carbon footprint.
“I love upcycling existing elements within a garden rather than adding to landfill, says Ana Sanchez-Martin.“ Last year I managed to save a beautiful old Victorian greenhouse working with a wonderful craftsman who helped me repurpose it and give it a new lease of life. It was a labour of love to clean and restore the old cast iron and design and make new fittings for it, but the result was beautiful to the eye and kind to nature.”
Jilayne Rickards agrees saying: “Using pre-owned furniture or ornamentation gives a garden automatic character and, even within a contemporary setting, something aged acting as a counterbalance is wonderful to see.”
Jilayne says her approach to garden design is to do as little as possible with the site rather than remove everything and replace with new. “Try and work with existing soil rather than replacing it, use existing plants that are healthy and useful and plant to support the existing wildlife whilst trying to increase biodiversity,” she advises. “All this can make it beautiful too!” Ben Chandler agrees saying: “Using reclaimed materials sourced from the local area can create a truly sustainable, vernacular as well as a bespoke and unique garden.”
Experimenting with colour is one of the most exciting things about creating a planting palette for a new garden. For Ann-Marie Powell it’s always about bold, exciting colour. She says: “I have a penchant for acid yellow mixed with warm oranges and deep blue-purples right now.” The purple/yellow colour combination is something that designer Oliver Bond is excited about too. “It is a fantastic colour scheme to bring bees into gardens,” he says, “and it creates a vibrant blend that stands proud against a cascade of green foliage.”
Fi Boyle is a big fan of grouping vibrant jewel colours together too. She says: “I love to combine strong magenta reds like Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’ with moody purples, deep blues, and limes, adding in plants that have coloured stems and leaves such as Salvia ‘Caradonna’ with the dark purple stem or Sedum ‘Karfunelstein and Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’ for a stunning effect.”
The last word on colour goes to Jilayne Rickards who thinks that colour schemes could be on their way out to be replaced with planting schemes that support pollinators. ‘I think people would rather see wildlife than colour schemes right now’, she says.
Society of Garden Designers Vice Chair Andrew Duff MSGD sums up by saying: “The overarching trend for 2022 is that good design does not have to cost the earth both in terms of budget and the environment. For me the line on the piece of paper is very important and how this translates into a garden can be quite flexible. It can be the difference between recycled York stone or permeable gravel, yet the line remains.
Upcycling and rewilding can be misleading in terms of aesthetics and for most clients a garden’s aesthetic is a priority. In 2022 we will see gardens with a strong underlying structure which allows for a wilder planting scheme. Although native planting will be at the forefront next year, the actual layout of the planting will follow those large drifts of contrasting colours and textures, we have seen coming through at the garden shows recently. We will be looking more to nature for inspiration, learning to embrace the seasons and celebrate them more. Winter gardens will be particularly dominant next year with designers embracing the simplicity of the skeletal shape of deciduous trees and the bareness of soil awaiting the wonders of spring.“
Images: Top: Garden by Ana Sanchez Martin MSGD. Bottom: Garden by Fi Boyle MSGD. Photo credit Biotop/iophotography