It looks very much like the trend for black and amber shades in planting will continue unabated. Many garden design experts have been using the dark drama of black plants for years now, but combined with amber leaves and foliage too – the effect on landscape architecture is truly startling. We will be seeing much more garden design with amber shades and amber tones.
Low-risk, high-value plants will of course continue to be very popular in landscape architecture. Just as gardeners are being more careful with their water useage in these times of drought, they are also shopping smarter, and looking for greater value for money. In particular, they’re looking for low-risk, high-value plants that not only look good in the garden centre or nursery, but also have a tried-and-tested reputation for solid growth and flowering or fruiting.
Landscape design companies such as Kim Wilkie, Sarah Eberle and Jinny Blom regularly use plants that are bred to withstand attacks from pests and diseases, and that are also tolerant of the local climate and soil extremes. Of course designing for your clients in this way will provide far better value. And its not just garden designers taking this approach. Gardeners themselves are more aware than ever that choosing the right plant for the right situation is crucial if you want to garden in an environmentally sound way (and watch the bank balance too). Long-term colour, for example, can be easily and cheaply achieved by using continuously flowering shrubs such as hydrangeas, potentilla and spirea.
Water features are getting smaller in landscape design this season too. More and more people are moving away from large ponds and towards smaller water features such as a cut piece of stone, a boulder or a beautiful glazed urn with water bubbling from it’s top. The cost of time and maintenance is one of the issues here – the time is takes to look after a real pond (or to pay someone else to do so) is something we don’t have much of in 2012.
Garden design companies such as Randle Siddeley or Andy Sturgeon have also been using natural stone or metal a great deal in their water features this year. Ball-shaped fountains made of stone or copper are particularly popular as are beautifully weathered metal planters and pots or containers.
In colder countries, garden design professionals are keeping ornamental grasses each year, instead of cutting them back, so that they can provide winter interest to the landscape architecture. And for the same reason, garden design is featuring planting with winter berries, evergreens, barks of different colours and textures or deciduous trees and shrubs with dramatic forms.
It seems that landscape design clients and customers have grown tired of the stark, all-season gardens that were so fashionable a few years ago. This year, according to Randle Siddeley and other celebrated garden designers, its all about designing with a backbone of plants that look great year round, but in a scheme that is not at the expense of seasonal interest and colour.
And research backs up some of these trends too. The number of front garden design jobs (those landscapes you drive or walk through to reach a property) is also on a steady rise according to the Garden Trends Research Reports Early Spring 2011 survey (conducted for the Garden Writers Association Foundation in America). It seems more people are thinking about the public appearance of their properties (and very possibly house value) as well as their private gardens.
Vertical gardening is still a trend in garden design. The practice of growing plants up from the ground instead of out, or of planting them off the ground to start with on trellises, arbors, balconies and walls has become especially popular among those gardeners with small awkward spaces. One particular vertical gardening trend that looks likely in 2012 is green roofs. Green roofs help save on heating and cooling costs and actually protect the roof underneath from the degrading effects of the elements, so much so that some urban planning organisations in the US have even received tax incentives for green roof installations - A true sign of changing times in garden and landscape design.