Garden designers and specialist growers have had to press the pause button this year on Chelsea 2020. But there are still dominant garden trends for us all to take inspiration from

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2020 may have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but the world’s most prestigious gardening show has gone on...albeit online.

If you’re looking for inspiration for your own garden, balcony or plant containers, these are the six dominant trends for 2020 and beyond. 

Incorporate one or some of these in your garden, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a beautiful sanctuary that enhances your wellbeing while showcasing the latest planting styles. 

Naturalistic planting

“The dominant trend in gardens is naturalistic planting, not just in show gardens but in our gardens at home,” says BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Monty Don, seated in front of his own gently swaying cow parsley. 

Fellow presenter and garden designer Joe Swift agrees that this softening of ‘uptightness’ is the key garden influence.

We’ll be seeing less clipped box hedging (for those whose bushes have not been decimated already by blight and box moth), manicured lawns and regimented flowers, and more naturalistic borders. 

Think native trees like silver birches, with a mid-layer of shaggier shrubs and ornamental grasses. Think flowers like foxgloves, camassias and angelica for vertical height. As well as easy self-seeders such as poppies, valerian and Mexican fleabane daisies. 

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 “Go wild, go free, be natural,” extorts BBC presenter and landscape designer Mark Lane.  

The key is controlled chaos. Easy-going, relaxed, but not a weed pit.

Flowers do not necessarily have to be British natives but they all share a naturalness that creates a magical atmosphere. And an antidote to the stressful times of coronavirus.

“There’s a real move away from rigidly defined garden design trends – Japanese, prairie planting, traditional herbaceous borders and so on – to a more democratic, imaginative and relaxed approach,” says garden designer Catherine Rampton.

“The rise in sharing images has prompted designers and gardeners to be deliberately more iconoclastic, bend and break the ‘rules’ to go for their own interpretations and mix up the aesthetic. 

“Clipped forms and the blowsier cultivated flowers like peonies and oriental poppies are still there, but as a foil to light and airy plants like verbascums, sweet rocket and umbellifers such as cow parsley and fennel. It’s a curated native look.”

A place of peace and sanctuary

“You don’t need a massive garden to find a moment of peace in your own space – a place to have a quiet morning cup of tea or glass of wine in the evening with the sun on your back,” says Chelsea gold-winning garden designer and Gardeners’ World presenter Adam Frost. 

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“Create a comforting enclosure somewhere in your garden. Build an arbour covered in scented roses to tuck yourself inside, or add trellis to your fence covered in honeysuckle and clematis to give yourself a sense of privacy and a place for quiet contemplation.”  

Bring wildlife in

Biodiversity has been a gardening buzzword for years. Put simply, it means encouraging more wildlife into your garden. But with so many of us staying home this year, the positives for our own wellbeing have finally caught on too.  

Unable to see family or friends due to the coronavirus lockdown, the simple joys of watching goldfinches squabbling over a bird feeder or tadpoles nibbling at the side of a simple water trough are immeasurable. 

Is true mindfulness. When, for a moment, you can forget the woes of the world and simply be. 

Making your garden a biodiverse sanctuary could not be easier. 

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Plant a tree and put in a bird feeder to encourage more birdlife and put in more pollinating plants like lavender that will hum with bees all summer long. 

You do not have to compromise on the way your garden looks, but your garden plants will be healthier if you encourage a richly biodiverse habitat. Birds and frogs will seek out slugs, ladybirds will dispel greenfly from your roses and your garden will be a hive of activity. 

Raw, natural materials in hard landscaping

The new garden influence is for hard landscaping to be as close to nature as possible. It echoes the need for authenticity, sustainable durability and a connection to the natural world. 

In a shift away from angular-rendered, white raised beds and porcelain paving, the trend that’s set to last is for patios, fences and paths to have a more natural, organic look and feel.  

Think corten steel and green-hued bronze planters, natural stone and stock brick walls, cobbled paving and charred timber cladding. 

“Charred wood is the new cedar,” says garden designer Catherine Rampton, who used Toasted Wood in a recent Acton garden. 

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“It has a beautiful density of colour, matt but with a sheen, especially when water droplets are on it. It’s sustainable, stunning natural and ties in well with brick and corten.” 

A more affordable alternative is Cuprinol’s Black Ash. 

Vertical gardens will continue to be a popular trend, especially for balcony and small-space gardeners.  

One of the RHS Chelsea Garden Products of the Year is a genius, long-term and attractive fixing sheet for wall gardening. So no more sagging fabric planters or worries about dripping walls. The Green4Air Infinity Greenwall can be fixed easily to most surfaces, is waterproof and weatherproof and each sheet can hold 128 Green4Air pods. 

Rich, bold colours 

Just as with our interiors, we’ll be seeing less greys and slate in our hard landscaping. Bolder, warmer richer hues like terracotta, blush pinks and peacock blues are coming to the fore. 

So, if you’re planning to paint your garden shed or the wall next to the house, why not go bold with colour for an instant mood-lifter?

Sustainability and grow your own

During strict lockdown, compost bags and seeds were like gold dust. Perhaps demonstrating our need to be outside and growing things. 

Growing your own produce is a trend that’s set to continue throughout this year and beyond. Start with tomatoes and strawberries, as they’re easy pleasers!

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It’s also a great way to encourage your children into the garden and beat the lockdown boredom. 

Mixing edibles with flowers is a new favourite with garden designers. 

The glorious colours of chard, the frills of lettuce and bright-leaved herbs like oregano all have a place in our garden borders. 

Putting a pot of herbs like thyme and oregano next to your doorstep or on your balcony is an easy and sustainable win.  

The spectacular Chelsea Flower Show, thronged with tens of thousands of visitors and the heady scent of the Great Pavilion packed with every style of plant, will return next year. 

But in the meantime, get outside, embrace some of these garden trends, support local garden centres and order online plants and seeds.

 Enjoy your garden. 

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Some of the show gardens we did not get to see this year – but can still take inspiration from

The M&G Garden 

The M&G garden was designed by Harris Bugg Studio for the show’s sponsors.

It offered natural beauty and a sustainable green space where we need it the most: the busy urban environment.  

The M&G Garden design featured plants and trees chosen for their tolerance to urban climate extremes interspersed with unusual and delicate planting to inject moments of ephemeral beauty. 

A naturalistic pool, surrounded by violet-blue Iris sibirica, aids run-off and prevents flooding. 

More than 100 linear metres of metal sculpture traces its way through the garden, echoing the transformation of a city’s industrial past. Its bronze-copper colours and matte and gloss textures contrast with the plants, trees and water.

The Facebook Garden: Growing the Future 

Designed by Joe Perkins, this garden was intended to highlight the benefits of increasing the UK’s tree cover to help combat the changing climate, ensure biodiversity and leave a flourishing legacy for future generations. 

It was designed to be a tactile garden made of timber, with a naturalistic planting palette and a contemporary and comfortable atmosphere inspired by the British countryside. 

It was to feature a rolling meadow, a woodland bank in the form of a planted timber crib wall, and rising beyond, a woodland edge of trees and shrubs that overhang a freeform timber canopy and deck. 

It champions timber, both as a versatile and beautiful material and as a vital part of the response to the changing climate. 

The Florence Nightingale Garden 

Designed by Robert Myers, this garden was themed ‘nurture through nature’. It was inspired by the idea that the shortest road to recovery leads through a garden. 

Designed as a restorative space, it’s enclosed on three sides by a sculptural timber pergola, has a reflecting pond and is planted with plants with strong medicinal properties which were used in the 19th century and are still used in medicine today. 

In addition, Florence Nightingale’s story is referenced in art seen throughout the garden.

The Garden for Friendship 

By gold-winning designer Jo Thompson in collaboration with BBC Radio 2 presenter Zoe Ball, this garden shows how quickly times have changed. But it gives us hope for the future when we’ll again have opportunities to be more sociable. 

The eagerly-awaited garden’s concept celebrated the opportunities to make friends through gardening, by getting involved with community gardening, sharing plants and discussing top tips with neighbours.

The design included ideas for small gardens and spaces to inspire people at home, and shows how we can all make a difference, and a friend, one plant at a time.

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