Far be it for me to set myself up as a gardening soothsayer: about all you can say about the coming year with any sort of certainty, let’s face it, is that the weather will be occasionally surprising and not at all ‘normal’, someone somewhere will be killing a slug, and Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen will be at Press Day at Chelsea.
But since I’m not one to shy away from sticking my head above the parapet, quite frequently getting it rapped sharply by assorted arrows in the process, I thought I’d make a few predictions.
Fresh from the Garden Press Event last week, in which all things new in the world of horticulture were dangled enticingly before the garden press to distract them away from their coffee and the fencing (and I don’t mean the garden variety: it’s a long story) in order to convince them that this – yes, this – is the next Big Thing.
Of course only a few will fulfil such promise, and part of the fun is trying to spot which those might be. Here are the top trends I think we’ll be hearing more of over the next year.
Garden design tools, for example, are moving steadily from the clunky to the cool: Plantify is the new kid on the block with its new online design tool launching at the end of March.
It’s the latest in a long line of increasingly good online design tools accessible to ordinary gardeners, yet offering a satisfyingly high standard of graphics and at the same time being properly useful. A personal favourite is the ever-wonderful GrowVeg.com, which helps me work out what I’m growing in my veg patch each year.
There’s one innovation Plantify has which raises it above the mildly irritating and increasingly old-fashioned offering from the BBC (not enough plants, not enough detail, not enough anything, really) and the product-centred Garden Visualiser from Marshalls.
And that’s the frankly inspirational idea that you can use Google Earth to produce a to-scale outline of your garden. I have been, I’ll confess, terrified to the point of paralysis about trying to measure my former quarry with its near-vertical banks and countryside-wonky edges. But Plantify did it within minutes (including the position of a couple of established trees).
There’s more: the intention is that once you’ve decided what you want to plant, it’ll be automatically costed using current nursery price lists, and then if you want to go ahead and buy, however many nurseries your purchases are scattered across, Plantify gathers them all in one place and delivers the plants to your front door. Now – if it works – that’s impressive: and surely a sign of things to come.
The return of ‘new’ old veg varieties: Eat your heart out, heritage varieties and exotica: nostalgia veg are the next big thing. Spotted on my rounds (and in some cases, snapped up for growing chez moi): samphire, asparagus pea, and Scorzonera ‘Duplex’.
All vegetables grown hundreds of years ago (or in the case of samphire, gathered from the seashores as a delicacy to use with fish): and now, after a spell in the doldrums, being rediscovered. Others to return to favour lately include cardoons, seakale, strawberry spinach, and salsify.
And now there’s solar-powered irrigation, here to solve that ages-old problem of lugging watering cans back and forth when you don’t have any mains water available. The only potential drawback I can see with Irrigatia’s new system is that you’d have to keep your water butt topped up somehow: but as long as you can get around that, your allotment watering is sorted.
Meadows: I am stewing up a little bloglette on the wider subject of meadows, so I’ll restrict myself to saying that this a Jolly Interesting Subject which I suspect may well be one of the debating topics of the gardening year this year.
So more of this later: but I just wanted to point out that you can now buy meadows on a mat. Discuss.
Peat-free innovations: Spurred on by the government’s impending (though voluntary) phase-out of peat in gardening composts by 2020, peat producers are – at last – expanding their range of peat-free growing media.
It’s long been a bugbear of mine that I can’t get hold of a good peat-free seed compost. I am very nearly entirely peat-free, and have pretty much always been (one of the few areas in which I turned out to be an early adopter – but I won’t bore you with all that). But the very nearly comes in because I use John Innes seed compost, which is soil-based but also peat-based.
That’s mainly because I haven’t been able to find anything better. I’ve been thinking about sieving my New Horizon but can’t quite bring myself to risk a trial sowing.
Now I discover Sinclair’s, who extract vast amounts of peat but are also in a Jekyll and Hyde sort of way the country’s leading producer of peat-free and manufacture New Horizon, do a peat-free sowing compost.
I had a long conversation with the nice lady on their stand and even she admitted that it’s in its early stages; knowing how long it took them to get peat-free reliably right, I suspect we may have a little way to go before it’s threatening my consumption of John Innes.
But I plan to hunt some down (it’s not available in any of my local garden centres – another area where there might be some room for improvement): perhaps I’ll even be brave and do some trialling with some sacrificial seedlings. I will be reporting back.
The swoon-inducingly gorgeous hanging seats designed by Stephen Myburgh have led the way in what amounts to the usurping of the hammock by nest-like cocoons hanging from free-standing frames (or occasionally from the ceiling or a handy – though presumably sturdy – pergola).
There’s now a cheaper and more hammock-like version too; the Cacoon, inspired by and I think made out of sails. Even John Lewis have ‘pod chairs’, for goodness’ sake. Roll over, hammocks: your days are done.