Just like fashion, garden trends come and go, and we have the horticulture catwalks to thank for that.
International garden shows, such as the Chelsea Flower Show, are precursors to the garden world's hottest trends. This year we are hot for flowers, food gardening and foraging, among other things.
While pretty blooms come and go, variegated foliage is spectacular year-round. That is, if you like that kind of thing. Some gardeners find variegated leaves unnatural and gaudy, but others love them. Either way, we are seeing an increase in the number of multi- coloured plants being introduced.
Not so long ago Carex 'Everest' and Beschorneria 'Reality' appeared on the market - both strappy-leafed perennials with variegated foliage. And a very attractive culinary sage, Salvia 'Silver Sabre', was introduced just last month. The leaves are a crisp cream and green for most of the year though they develop pink tones in cooler weather.
Older variegated plants are coming back into fashion too, such as Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegated'. It has starry, greenish-white flowers with a flush of pink, and green leaves with creamy yellow margins.
Variegated plants are typically less successful in shade than in sun because they lack chlorophyll. Chlorophyll converts sunlight energy into sugars to help plants grow and survive. For this reason variegated plants are also slower growing than their green-leafed cousins.
There is something particularly satisfying about picking your own blooms. Cut flowers, especially old-fashioned ones, are on the rise - hydrangeas, for example, have skyrocketed in popularity over the past couple of years, as have sweet peas and dahlias. Other favourites include candytuft, dianthus, hollyhocks, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and rosette succulents, which look spectacular in a bouquet. Some might say sweet peas have never been out of fashion, though it is only recently we have seen a revival of the cut blooms being sold in florist shops and markets again. Dahlias are rarely seen in florists' shops because the blooms do not open once cut (for longer vase life and better transportation, commercial cut flowers are best cut at bud stage), but they are a big hit in the home garden.
If you don't have a lot of room in the garden, pack your flowers into your vegetable patch and harvest them along with your produce.
Self-sufficiency was the big word last year and that is never more so for 2013. Foraging in your own back yard has never been easier. Fruit trees, vegetables and herbs are flying off the garden centre shelves as homeowners, and even renters, grapple with the economy or simply fall in love with the romantic idea of being self- sufficient. This comes amidst another great trend - to preserve your own. Bottling , pickling, making jams and chutneys is sooo trendy right now.
The self-sufficiency trend has seen clever ways of incorporating mini orchards in back yards. The commercial growers are accommodating us nicely with a range of dwarf fruit trees and thornless berries.
Edible hedges and espaliers are also a happy concept for urban gardeners. Feijoas, olives, citrus, and red and yellow cherry guavas all make fantastic hedges, and apples and pears great espaliered.
Pleached trees look to be a trend for 2013 too, after their continual appearance at the Chelsea Flower Show.
These are huge. Literally. The bigger the better. Whether it is a planting of one variety or several, a cascading floral spectacular is just the thing. We have recently seen the introduction of a number of trailing plants ideally suited to baskets. The new Antirrhinum 'Candy Showers' (from Egmont Seeds), for example, is a new series of trailing snapdragons. The Plentifall series of trailing pansies (also from Egmonts ) was bred for its spreading habit. The flowers spill over the sides of pots and baskets, or spread along the ground, creating a quick, high- impact groundcover that may spread up to 60cm. In hanging baskets they may trail a good 75cm.
Then there's the new 'Lucky Lantern' abutilon series (from the Living Fashion range and available from garden centres), a compact range of abutilons that grows about 50cm wide x 50cm high. The bell-shaped flowers hang down and look beautiful in hanging baskets.
Permeable pavers, water butts and retention detention tanks are all part of an eco warrior's tool kit, as are recycled materials - recycled timber for raised beds, old plastic and metal for tunnel or green houses, and home composting. A growing trend is permeable pavers, which fits in nicely with local councils' push to reduce stormwater outflow and manage pollutants. Permeable pavers allow rainwater to filter through them, reducing run-off, filtering contaminants from the water and returning water to the earth, retaining moisture in the soil. They're great for driveways, patios and pathways, or even your own outdoor bowling alley.
There is one more trend we gardeners may see this year. A rise in eating! With all this good produce we're producing, eating locally never seemed better.
- The Southland Times