I know that in terms of clothes fashion (trousers from Lands’ End, jumpers from Woolovers: job done), I am a big disappointment to my older and younger sisters who are both secretly wannabe Kardashians, but trust me when it comes to gardening trends I am dynamite compared with either of them.
So what are my predictions for what we gardeners should be turning our attention to in 2020?
1. Seaside plants. I don’t want to sound too apocalyptic but we do now need to prepare for climate Armageddon, and seek out plant species that can survive in hostile environments. Eryngiums (sea holly) and crambes (sea kale, the clue is in the names..) have deep tap roots that equip them to survive in rugged seafront sites, in turn baking hot or whipped by coastal wind.
So these two plants would be good choices inland as well; they are best grown hard, in an exposed sunny site. I have been quietly establishing a little community of seaside plants directly into the hoggin beneath the gravel in our car park. Cistus creticus is already getting stuck in and the lovely Bupleurum longifolium ‘Bronze Beauty’ is showing remarkable tenacity under duress too.
Add in some of the carpet sedums such as the pink and grey S.cauticola (the cliff stonecrop) evening primrose (I’ve grown a potful of Oenothera stricta to try) and perhaps a Convolvulus cneorum or two and you will have a low maintenance grouping that will survive whatever drought, plague or pestilence the weather throws at us this summer. So whilst Elaine will be dreaming of a visit to Mottisfont rose garden this summer and Caroline is trawling Dobbies for new begonia introductions, my perfect day out would be to Dungeness power station to study the shingle garden at Prospect Cottage created by the legendary Derek Jarman.
2. Ferns. E and C had great fun at my expense when I announced the creation of a stumpery in a piece of wasteland behind our garage last year but it’s been so successful that I will be urging others to turn their dark and dingy utility areas into fern filled grottos in 2020.
Ferns open up a whole new world to explore and it’s not until you have one or two yourself that you start to appreciate how many different types there are. There’s a whole new vocabulary to learn too: Dryopteris, Polystichum, Blechnum, Adiantum… And once you have grasped the rudiments you start to spot them wherever you go, adding the sense of satisfaction to even a simple walk through town, as happened to me in my lunch break yesterday on spotting a dainty fern on someone’s front wall (see our feature photo this week) and thinking to myself ‘what a nice little Asplenium’.
Whilst Laura is parading up and down the high street in sensible jumpers peering into people’s s drainpipes looking for ferns, I have much weightier issues on my mind. Plants make up 80% of the food we eat, over 70% of the drugs we use, and produce 98% of the oxygen we breathe. So let’s flipping’ well look after them better! Horticultural pests and diseases are now so rife around the world that the UN has declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health, and I think that more of us – concerned gardeners as we should be – are going to ‘get with the programme’ this year, so ….
3. Plant health. We know we should be reducing our reliance on pesticides and fungicides to provide the all-important plant health in our own gardens, so let’s concentrate on trying to boost the plants own immune system.
To that end, I purchased some Uncle Tom’s Rose Tonic this week. It’s a long time since I sprayed a rose against blackspot, but it is a disheartening disease, and picking off the affected bits only goes so far. So I am hoping this tonic will give my roses a splendid injection of Harry-n-Meghan We-Can-Go-It-Alone style, and shrug off the fungus this year. It only contains Potassium phosphite (a compound already found naturally in plants) and NOTHING ELSE. It has a most promising label and lots of impressive endorsements. I’m excited. I plan to spray the foliage feed onto one side of my Alnwick rose hedge, but leave the other side untouched as a control. I shall report back.
We asked Uncle Tom if he’d offer our subscribers a discount (something we’re going to do more and more). If you get our emails you’ll see the answer was ‘yes’!
4. Dwarf shrubs. So many people, especially in urban situations, have only a tiny private outdoor space – or maybe just a planter, an alley or a weeny balcony? There is a great deal of interest at the moment in dwarf hybrids of favourite shrubs which for ease of maintenance, form, and colour-impact take some beating. I’m thinking of things like ‘Lo and Behold’ patio buddleias, Cytisus beanii, Hypericum x hidcoteense ‘Hidcote’, Pittosporum “Irene Patterson’, Potentilla fruticose ‘Kobold’.
Dwarf doesn’t have to mean Dull; Little doesn’t have to mean Lifeless. I predict that dwarf shrubs will be BIG this year.
Er, can we come back down the register. I know we’ve got to save the planet but ‘Prepare for Armageddon’ is not an encouraging diary entry.
5. Going vertical – I agree with Elaine, the future is small for most gardens so I think in 2020 we’ll see peeps maximise their space by growing far more up their fences and walls. There are gazillions of clematis varieties so you can have something flowering pretty much all year round and fantastic climbing roses like my mate’s favourite R. Zepherine Drouin (‘The pink thing’ to me) which doesn’t have thorns and doesn’t mind a bit of shade. Like Alan Titchmarsh it never gives up, bursting forth time and time again throughout the summer. Once established and interwoven with a bit of evergreen ivy, these climbers also create a good barrier between you and nosy neighbours (Laura), preventing them from peering in to see if you’re growing any ferns.
6. Mess – yes at last my time has come – mess is on the rise! No matter how gorgeous we make our gardens, it’s dawning on us that wildlife is very happy – perhaps happier – in a thicket of brambles, weeds and overgrown grass. Not attractive for a small garden, but I think we’ll see far more communities stage local ‘coups’ to take over areas of ground in their neighbourhoods as wildlife sanctuaries.
There are a few good books around to get us thinking – Dave Coulson’s The Garden Jungle or Isabella Tree’s Wilding will pretty much turn you into David Attenborough overnight. Gardeners are good team players generally so keep us posted if this is happening in your area. If we’re heading for Armageddon, let’s tackle it together!
NB Louise’s Great Plant this Month is currently looking like the rest of our plants do in June!
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