The garden shows are one of the best places to pick up new garden ideas.
And BBC Gardeners World Live in Birmingham really focusses on encouraging those of us with small and middle-sized gardens. The show gardens are relatively achievable and the ideas are practical. It’s friendly and realistic, while also being inspiring.
In terms of garden trends, two major new directions are jungly, tropical-inspired garden style and naturalistic, nostalgic meadow garden planting.
The 10 best new garden ideas at BBC Gardeners World Live
- Jungle or tropical inspired small gardens
- Indoor-outdoor plants. No greenhouse needed – take tender plants indoors for winter!
- Meadow-inspired, naturalistic planting for borders – very pretty and airy
- Think texture as well as colour when planting
- Nostalgic or country-style garden accessories
- Outdoor cushions to echo and add impact to the planting
- Lots of upcycling and recycling
- Make a visual statement with unusual walls and fencing
- Container planting comes of age – create borders with pots for small or rented outdoor spaces
- Mix up hard landscaping materials
The tropical jungle look for small gardens (and interiors)
The tropical or jungle look is emerging as a top plant lovers’ style for small gardens. You can pack in lots of plants and it carries a visual punch. Award-winning garden designer Kate Mason’s border was sponsored by eBay, so everything in it had to be available online.
Pick a strong colour and work around it for this look. Kate loves purple. Its opposite is orange, so she’s picked these two colours. She also points out that the tropical, jungle look can be very much about foliage. ‘I want all my gardens to be wildlife friendly, too,’ she says. So she added in pollinator-friendly plants, such as echinacea and angelica.
You can take the tropical look forward with your furnishings as well. Rattan, swinging seats and classic teak all work well with this look. While rattan and teak couldn’t be described as ‘new garden ideas’, they’re looking very contemporary at the moment.
New garden ideas – indoor-outdoor plants
Many exotic looking plants are quite tender and won’t survive outside during our winters. But if you don’t have space for a greenhouse, then move some house plants outside during the summer. Kate does this with Sanseveria (Mother-in-law’s tongue). She also brings the huge leafed Colocasia ‘Black Magic’ inside, which she says looks wonderful in the house in winter.
Different varieties of a particular plant may have a different tolerance to cold. So when you’re thinking about buying tender plants like colocasias, check the variety. ‘I’ve tried to over-winter Colocasia Black Magic outside,’ says Kate. ‘But it’s never come through the winter very well. The other Colocasia does better – if you have a sheltered garden in a milder part of the UK, then protect it with a pile of mulch and it often will come through.’
The other option, if you don’t have a greenhouse, is to treat tender plants as annuals. In colder areas, dahlias are treated as annuals and bought again as new every year.
Every summer I put some of my indoor plants outside. Most, such as Sparmannia Africana or House Lime, do well. Some plants look a bit sad inside in winter because it’s their dormant period. Don’t expect Begonia luxurians to look good in winter, for example.
Meadow inspired border planting
Meadow grasses are wonderfully wildlife friendly and look so pretty. But, as I have discovered this year, it’s not always easy or practical to turn a small patch of lawn into a meadow area. So I loved garden designer Tina Worboys’ idea of creating a meadow feel in a border.
She’s combined cottage garden plants and wildflowers to give a delicate effect. And she’s made it look meadow-like by picking flower shapes you’d see in a meadow, such as Ammi major instead of cow parsley.
Think texture as well as colour when planting
We’re all getting more aware of how texture can influence the success of a border as much as colour. Texture is whether a border is airy or dense. You can create texture by contrasting foliage patterns and sizes.
But you can also create texture with flowers. I particularly liked what Kate Mason did with her flower colour choice. Have you ever been unable to choose between two gorgeous, but quite similar shades of flower? Have them both! It creates a really beautiful textured effect, and you could work it with other flowers too.
Here Kate combines Echinacea ‘Coral’ and Echinacea ‘Adobe Orange’. They really are quite alike, but the slight differences between them add texture to the border. The grouping really comes alive.
Nostalgic or rural garden accessories
Of course, there’s nothing ‘new’ about nostalgia. But sometimes we crave simple, old-fashioned style, which conjures up memories of times when life seemed happier or safer.
So there were several willow or chestnut hurdles and low picket fences at the show.
Victoria Legge created a border inspired by Great Dixter, re-imagined for small gardens. It’s famous for its chestnut hurdles (among many other thins!) When you visit the garden, you’ll often see a clump of annuals held off the grass with a short section of low chestnut hurdle fencing. So Victoria picked up this feature with mini chestnut hurdle fencing, just on the edges of her border.
‘Low mini fencing is particularly useful for annuals,’ she explains. Cosmos, tagetes or helenium, for example, start off the season as quite small individual plants and suddenly explode into a great clump that can topple forward. You don’t need to edge the entire bed with it.
Elsewhere in the show, I saw the same effect with very low picket fencing. Unlike metal supports which are better once covered with foliage, these look good even before the plants grow.
Accentuate your planting with outdoor cushions
Outdoor cushions are now available in lots of different colours. They make a particularly strong impact in small gardens or on terraces. There were several show gardens where the cushions really added punch to the pretty planting.
Yellow and blue are considered opposite in terms of colour theory. Here garden designer Lynn Cordall partners yellow and blue to create one of the prettiest gardens at the show. The cushions really pick out the yellow.
I immediately started googling ‘waterproof outdoor cushions’ and have put together an outdoor cushions list of some I like the look of on the Middlesized Garden Amazon store. Links to Amazon are affiliate so I may get a fee if you buy through them, but it won’t affect the price you pay.
Recycling and upcycling is big
I can’t pretend that either recycling or upcycling are new garden ideas. But they are growing in popularity for three reasons. Firstly, we’re all more aware of waste and the need to reduce landfill. Secondly, it’s usually cheaper than buying new. And, thirdly, supply chain issues mean that we often can’t get our first choice of pergola, fence or garden ornament.
The garden designed ‘for cycling enthusiasts’ by Hana Leonard and Armstrong Landscapes made the most up recycled bike parts. I don’t think many people would want to have a mini velodrome track around their garden, but there were ideas in this garden which you could adapt whether you like cycling or not.
For example, there were garden ‘flowers’ made of recycled cogs, sprockets and chains. They also created a pergola out of old bicycle wheels. So it’s definitely worth thinking ‘what can I do with this?’ before throwing it away.
Make a statement with walls or fencing
The vertical space in your garden is an important element, especially if your garden is small. Traditionally, using vertical space has been about having climbers or trees.
But one of the most powerful new garden ideas is to make major visual statement with your walls and fencing. Landscapers Gunns & Roses focused their show garden design on a busy young couple in a refurbished 1960s home. The major design element is the ‘brutalist’ 1960s wall at the end of the garden, which reflects the architectural trends of the time.
If you create a big visual impact with your fences or walls, then you don’t need to try so hard with the planting. In this garden it’s mainly low maintenance grasses.
Borders in pots for rented homes, courtyards and balconies
If you love the border effect, but you’ve only got a small space, Kitty Chew’s Border on a Budget shows you that you can plant perennial border flowers in pots.
Kitty used the perennials we’d normally see in a high summer border, such as echinacea and crocosmia, but in pots. She created a border-style colour theme. This would be ideal if you rent your home and want to be able to take your garden with you when you move. Or it would suit a courtyard or a balcony.
Claus Dalby grows over a thousand dahlias in pots. Check out this post for how he creates a dahlia border in pots. He places the pots much closer together than you see here, so that you can hardly see the pots. Most plants can be grown in pots, provided that you feed and water them regularly. Claus uses a slow release feed in his pots so that he doesn’t have to keep feeding them.
Mix up your hard landscaping
It’s very difficult to keep a small lawn going, especially you have children or socialise in the garden a lot.
So there’s a trend now to have more hard landscaping, but also to increase the planting by making borders bigger. One of my favourite new garden ideas is where designers break up a larger terrace or patio by mixing the paver patterns.
It’s always a good idea to start with the architecture of your house when choosing hard landscaping materials. But that often offers quite a wide range of options.
I saw this on the Marshalls garden and also the APL Garden designed by David Stevens.
There is an environmental cost to all hard landscaping, of course. Stone and gravel is mined. Concrete and porcelain is manufactured. However, concrete is generally a relatively low carbon product and is often produced of local materials. Marshalls have a sustainability policy and you can also calculate the carbon impact of products you choose with their online calculator. But there are no easy answers. You would probably need to do more research to understand the issues.
If you’re looking for qualified professional landscapers to carry out your garden design, the APL has a directory which you can search by postcode.
Two bonus new garden ideas…
These are two more specific new garden ideas which I really liked. One was placing a firepit in a water feature – it seemed like a stylish way of keeping it safe.
The other was a ‘fisherman’s shed’, designed by Julianne Fernandez, which opened out into an outdoor kitchen. You could adapt this idea with other themes or colours, as it would give your outdoor kitchen protection from the elements. And it saves space.
This was built by Teasels Landscapes in a garden to echo the British seaside.
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