In our annual Garden Design Trends Report for the Society of Garden Designers we asked some of its members to tell us what will be shaping the future of garden design over the coming months. From Rock Roses to Twisted Geometry, these are the styles, materials, patterns and plants to look out for next year:
ENVIRONMENTALLY HEALTHY GARDENS
Sustainable and eco-friendly gardens are nothing new, but as we begin to gain a better understanding of what this actually means, we will start seeing the creation of gardens that are “environmentally friendly to the core and not just as a style trend” says garden designer Tomoko Kawauchi MSGD.
“We need to enter the next phase of the movement” she says, by creating ‘environmentally healthy gardens.’ This means less emphasis on the naturalist ‘rewilded’ approach seen at last year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and a return to a more structured design style that relies on the “interplay between man-managed forms and nature”, believes Tommaso del Buono MSGD.
Helen Elks-Smith FSGD agrees: “Wildlife and insects don’t need gardens and landscapes to have a particular design aesthetic” she says. “They don’t care whether a garden looks ‘wild’ or whether it looks ‘formal’ – what matters is habitat, food sources and shelter. Creating a wild garden or trying to recreate a native environment is just one approach; there are others and it’s important that different approaches and design aesthetics are encouraged and allowed.”
As Tomoko Kawauchi points out: “it’s not really viable to design a small London courtyard as a wildflower meadow and a naturalistic-style of planting does not always work for town gardens or with a client’s lifestyle. I’m interested in creating an environmentally healthy garden without affecting my design ethos, which is contemporary and functional” she says.
– from 21st century cottage gardens to fruit pit mulches
Of course, there are things that can be done to create more sustainable gardens that will impact how our gardens look, as the trend to become more environmentally conscious continues.
Tina James MSGD notes that greenhouses and kitchen gardens are also having a surge in popularity as people become more interested in growing their own food; while Andrew Duff MSGD, Co-Chair of the SGD, goes one step further and suggests we will see “a much-welcomed return to the original cottage garden, remodelled for 2023, where function and aesthetics work as one and where sustainability isn’t a choice. A garden where seasonality and change is embraced rather than masked – a working garden.”
“Designing to maximise biodiversity is a must” says Rachel Bailey MSGD who says she would like to see gardens paved less and planted more and suggests layering them up to increase the variety and help create a mini ecosystem.
Andrew Duff also forsees a movement against artificial grass with a resurgence in the use of lawns and their natural alternatives; while Matthew Childs MSGD, thinks we will be paying much more attention to mulches in 2023. “It may not sound very exciting but we’re going to be thinking much more about how we dress the surface of planting areas to help keep moisture in and competing weeds out so that our planting schemes are more resilient to the changing climate.” Matthew says he will be using recycled building materials such as crushed concrete, as well as fruit pits and nut shells to form natural mulches and path surfaces.
The trend for recycled materials will also continue says Tomoko Kawauchi. At Charlotte Rowe Garden Design, where Tomoko is Design Director, they are exploring ways of using recycled materials in contemporary spaces including cutting existing paving into narrow strips to create new terraces and paths.
NATURAL SWIMMING POOLS & PONDS
Creating a sustainable garden needn’t just be about wildlife and Matthew Childs believes that as we move into 2023, we will see a trend for gardens to be joyful, fun spaces where people, plants and wildlife can be mutually beneficial to each other. A good example of this, he says, is the growth of chemical free, natural swimming ponds. “Fun for people and great watery habitats for wildlife.”
Helen Elks-Smith agrees and says she is seeing considerably more interest in natural swimming pools for 2023, while Jamie Innes MSGD is expecting to see more water features and ponds “for the amazing extra wildlife they bring to a garden and for endless hours of fascination staring into the microcosmos.”
DROUGHT TOLERANT PLANTS
– from Salvias to Rock Roses
As 2022 demonstrated, hot summers, unpredictable rainfall patterns and lack of water are becoming more and more familiar and with that comes a trend towards tougher, more resilient plant palettes.
For Matthew Childs, plants that provide year-round colour and interest and which create some joy in the garden will still be central to his designs, but he will also be looking for resilient plants, such as long-flowering Salvias, that are great for pollinating insects and wildlife. Tina James is also experimenting with Salvias, blending them with swathes of grasses to create energy and movement.
Marian Boswall MSGD hopes to see more trees, especially in city gardens “where”, she says “they can help clean the air and reduce the urban heat island effect”. She recommends the drought-tolerant crab apple tree as a perfect addition to any garden. “Its blossom feeds insects in the spring, and in the depths of winter, when the ground is covered in snow and there is little to eat, its tiny apples provide nourishment for birds” she says.
Tomoko Kawauchi predicts a move towards more gravel gardens, which she already makes a point of including in all her projects, as well as more drought-tolerant and gravel planting in general, such as the South African Dieramas; while Tommaso del Buono expects Rock Roses will come back into fashion because of their ability to thrive in hot, dry conditions – low-maintenance, fast-growing and with a profusion of flowers, they will grow over walls, paths, rockeries and in mixed borders.
DARKER SHADES WITH POPS OF COLOUR
The one trend not led by environmental factors, colours that look set to be big in the garden in 2023 include darker hues of blues, purples and greys, combined with small bursts of brighter colours.
Helen Elks-Smith says she will be using smokey blues and purples as well as soft greys and greens, with pops of colour to provide dramatic contrast; while Tommaso del Buono sees a move towards dark foliage, like the deep brown leaves of Anthriscus ‘Ravenswing’, alongside rich, dark flowers such as the deep purple Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’ and the very dark purple-black foliage and stems of Actaea ‘Brunette’.
For injections of colour, Tommaso del Buono will be experimenting with vivid pinks including the giant tree dahlia ‘Dahlia imperialis’ as well as various species of Nerines; while Matthew Childs also recommends annuals and species bulbs to ensure there is a pop of colour in the garden all year round.
Materials will be taking on a darker shade too. Tommaso del Buono has seen an increased popularity in darker natural stones and says he will be using much richer, heavier hues for paving and other hard landscaping to add depth to his designs and create a dramatic foil for greenery; while Helen Elks-Smith sees a leaning towards warmer brown and buff colours, influenced by the popularity in interior design of brass and copper fittings.
Pattern is also on the rise including geometry with unorthodox twists which Tommaso del Buono expects we will be seeing to make the whole more interesting and intriguing. “Using off-kilter symmetry and experimenting with proportions and perspective is exciting me at the moment” he says.
In more general terms, the big trend in Garden Design for 2023 is about thoughtful, clever design. As Helen Elks-Smith puts it: “Garden Design will become smarter, incorporating the changes that are necessary to protect the planet.” Lorenzo Soprani Volpini MSGD and Ana Marie Bull MSGD agree and believe we will start to see small adjustments that make the process more sustainable and eco-friendly. Their approach is to consider the carbon footprint of every product or plant, as well as to use local materials where possible and select types of material that are ethically produced.
This includes accommodating the infrastructure for cleaner, renewable energy which Matthew Childs believes will include a rise in innovative design solutions to include things such as ground source heat pumps, solar panels and charging points for electric cars; while Tommaso del Buono is already seeing an increased demand for rainwater harvesting which, he says, “has become more of a necessity than an accessory.”
Helen Elks-Smith also says she hopes to see “a move away from heavily hardscaped gardens to more of the all-important green stuff”, a sentiment that Tina James agrees with. “I think as we are all becoming more environmentally conscious the ‘less is more’ approach is the way to go when it comes to hard landscaping. I design terraces that are large enough and function well for the home without being too large. Large slabs with gravel between instead of pointing ensures good drainage, uses less stone overall and looks beautiful especially with edges softened by graceful planting” she says.
Andrew Duff sums it up: “2023 welcomes the need to immerse ourselves in the great outdoors, whether it is an open window across balcony planting, our own gardens, park, or the joyous countryside, the need to be outside will be paramount. Surrounded by artificiality at every level we seek real grass to feel beneath our feet, misshapen fruit to pick from a tree and the memory inducing power of scent. Our gardens will have to work harder than ever to meet these primeval needs.”
Images: Top: Garden by Tomoko Kawauchi MSGD (Image: James Kerr). Bottom: Garden by Matthew Childs MSGD.