What's new in garden design?
Whet your appetite for the show gardens at next weekend's Bloom 2018 with the pick of the season's trends. Designer Leonie Cornelius harvests the cream of the crop from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Life outside - One of the biggest trends is for the garden to become much more than a planted space to enjoy. Now, your garden is about outdoor living, whether that means lounging or entertaining or cooking. The Morgan Stanley Garden, below, at Chelsea 2018 shows how to go big on your outdoor room. See page 8 for our tips on how to create your own.
Bang on trend this year is concrete, an incredibly versatile material for creating any shape, form or pattern, whether it is structurally as in Skin Deep, above, designed by Robert Barker, at Chelsea or as garden accessories. Yoruba Cement Planter, from €9-11; curiousegg.com; Conchita concrete and neon alphabet lighting, €137; outthereinteriors.com
Shades of things to come
There are two colour trends blooming in show gardens this year. One is a combo of vibrant shades of scarlet, yellow and dashes of lilac (as seen in Sarah Price's exciting M&G garden, below, at Chelsea). Here carefully managed 'wild specimens', a froth of yellows, include the humble yet striking Foeniculum vulgare, Galium verum and Helichrysum italicum subsp. serotinum, and many craftily interwoven grasses such as Briza, Carex and Stipa varieties. Dotted geraniums in pink and violet such as Geranium sanguineum and Geranium pyrenaicum 'Bill Wallis' give colour impact and Santolina rosmarinifolia subsp. rosmarinifolia 'Primrose Gem' adds true Mediterranean flair.
The other trend is a pastel scheme, reminiscent of the sorbet shades seen on the fashion catwalks. The David Harber and Savills Garden at Chelsea features a gorgeous mix of dreamy purples such as Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata 'Blue Barlow' (Barlow Series), Anchusa azurea 'Loddon Royalist', spires of Lupins and Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna' added to subtle peach pastels in the form of Geum 'Mai Tai. Here the dots of striking colour are cherry pink rather than red and provided by the gorgeous Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum'. Yellow also features.
Interestingly, both schemes feature pops of violet in them. Is this a nod to the Pantone colour of the year - ultraviolet?
Sometimes garden design is way too serious, but this year there's a surge in show gardens with a light-hearted approach. From a crazy upside-down garden by Mark O'Loughlin at Bloom to Peter O'Brien's cute treehouse, there is a real feeling of playfulness to many designs, something that the viewer can take inspiration from. But planting can be fun too - at Chelsea, the London-based landscape architect Hay Joung Hwang's LG Eco-City Garden, right, uses a fun and celebratory mix of planting in cheery yellows, whites and peach with dots of orange to put a smile on your face.
Good enough to eat
The trend of growing food is one that is set to stay (see Darina Allen). This year we see it becoming more central to the design of the garden, with fruit trees such as Pomegranate, centrestage, and a designed border made up of herbs, vegetables such as the humble pea, fruit bushes and fig trees seen in the Lemon Tree Trust Garden, above, at Chelsea, designed by Tom Massey. He mixes a clever and quietly beautiful mix of edibles with blooms. Foeniculum vulgare 'Giant Bronze' is a big part of the design, while the stunning silvery-green foliage of the Cynara scolymus 'Green Globe' Artichoke adds edible structure. Many other edibles appear including herbs such as mint, thyme and oregano as well as beans and chickpeas, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, all cleverly integrated into the scheme. This is certainly something that is easy to add in to your own borders and is great for wildlife too. Experiment with new (to Irish garden) varieties such as cucamelons, chickpeas, edamame and rainbow-coloured sweetcorn.
This year's trending flower?
It's got to be the rich red Papaver somniferum.
Small is beautiful
Where space is at a premium, particularly in urban environments, garden design has had to adapt and radically change the way it approaches space. Canny use of space and creating multi-functional designs plays a big role in how we design today. Using a clever layout and a rich planting scheme, Tony Woods' garden, left, at Chelsea shows us how a small space can feel like a haven in the middle of a city setting. Ornate rusted pergolas give privacy - and structure, while it's sustainable but in a low-key way, with permeable paving, rainwater loving trees, and even a living 'larder' of herbs and soft fruit, and an outdoor room to enjoy them in.
After a few years of being out of favour, rusted steel, such as Corten, is back in show gardens and this is sure to filter down to gardens everywhere. From the David Harber and Savills Garden, right, the Pearlfisher Garden by John Worland and The Urban flow garden by Tony Woods at Chelsea, rusted steel is a strong thread running through design and also features in numerous Bloom gardens. This material is so versatile in use and perfect in colour and texture for picking up the warm tones of a planting palette or contrasting with blues and purples.
Made to last
The move away continues from mass-produced products to craftsmanship and quality handmade pieces that really last. From custom-made outdoor kitchens such as the modern LG Eco-City show garden, above, at Chelsea by landscape architect Hay Joung Hwang, to subtly integrating furniture, the trend this year is showcase pieces that blur the boundaries between art and function, such as the Encompass Zero Aluminium Fire-Pit, €11,990 including delivery; encompassco.com.
Gardens are spaces where we can really get away from it all and the idea of consciously creating spaces that make us feel calm and 'switched off' is behind many of this year's show garden designs. Using water or soft planting, the designers seek to create havens for the viewer. At Chelsea, the Welcome to Yorkshire, above, and Silent Pool Gin, below, gardens are the epitome of this natural haven that draws you in and makes you want to spend long summer days relaxing by the water.
What sort of planting is big? Natural is the answer. Last year's Best in Show Chelsea winner James Basson featured a wild and natural look. This year, look out for soft grey-greens and swaying grasses. Favourite perennials include the Iris, the feathered meadow appeal of Lychnis 'Ragged Robin'. Trending too is the foxglove in its purple native form as well as in shades of whites and pastels.