Seaweed compost supplements and “manure” made from beans will be among the top garden trends of 2023, the Royal Horticultural Society has predicted.
As regenerative gardening becomes fashionable, experts in the horticulture charity’s gardens have been demonstrating how to tend beautiful plants in a more eco-friendly way, protecting the soil rather than extracting it from it.
People will also learn how to attract creatures previously malignant as pests into their garden for the unexpected benefits they can bring. The RHS said its garden advice service was receiving more inquiries about encouraging a greater abundance of wildlife to their gardens to fend off more troublesome species. These include wasps that predate on caterpillars, slugs that can help recycle decaying material, and aphids that provide food for ladybirds, and lacewing and hoverfly larvae.
Dr Mark Gush, head of environmental horticulture at the RHS, said: “Regenerative gardening is all about improving the environmental conditions so that biodiversity can flourish. At our gardens we apply a no-dig technique, use cover crops and apply a mulch so that soil – fundamental to growing – is nourished and protected; releasing nutrients throughout the year, minimizing evaporation and and regulating temperature.”
Home composting has long been popular for many gardeners and those who have wanted to move towards having a zero-waste household. But the RHS believes the practice is to become even more popular along with other ways of protecting the soil.
Matthew Pottage, the curator at one of the charity’s gardens in Surrey, said: “It’s been a revelation at RHS Garden Wisley that it’s all about the soil. We have moved away from digging across the garden and also allow leaves to sit on beds. We now have a deeper understanding of soil ecosystem and the benefits this has to plants.
“Since we opened the world food garden using regenerative gardening, it has been a huge success, needing less weeding, with better soil health, and better plants, as well as better moisture retention. Following these really positive results, we’re moving to the same system in our orchard.”
This year’s drought in the UK has made gardeners more aware of the need to protect their plants from prolonged dry weather. Gush said: “Allowing some areas of lawn to grow taller, and diversifying the plant species therein, not only encourages biodiversity, but also encourages deeper rooting, thereby making lawns more resilient to periods of drought because of access to deeper soil water reserves during dry weather.”
Other ways the RHS has predicted gardeners will future-proof their spaces for extreme climates include gravel gardens and “xeriscaping” – gardens designed to minimize future watering. There are a few plant swaps that gardeners can make to retain the same feel, including using choisya instead of hydrangeas and phygelius in place of fuchsia.
Gardeners are also planning to flood-proof their properties, and at the cost of hard landscaping soaring, the RHS forecasts gardeners will turn to plants to add structure to their patches. Green walls, hedges and swimming ponds are all expected to increase in popularity. Searches for myrtle on the RHS website were up by more than 500% in the autumn, and the fragrant evergreen shrub would be well suited to Mediterranean borders, hedges and screens.
Guy Barter, chief horticulturist at the RHS, said: “In 2022, the charity predicted the rise of red-fleshed apples, which this year benefited from extreme summer temperatures making them sweeter. Next year we expect gardeners to garden more than ever with nature and the environment in mind, a trend that has been swelling year on year and is set to become the main concern of Britain’s gardeners.”
Other trend predictions by the RHS
Dried flowers. Along with pressed flowers, they are back in fashion as part of a rise in traditional skills and crafts including natural dyes, scything and foraging.
Changing lawns. Gardeners will save time by giving up parts of their lawn to pollinators and other garden wildlife, letting borders grow long or looking into lawns that require less water and maintenance. This includes tapestry lawns made of low-lying, intertwining flowering plants such as yarrow and self-healing, and mini wildflower meadows with native plants like yellow rattle and cornflower. Plants previously thought of as weeds, including dandelions, are also embraced for their ability to blend into their green surroundings. Many seed companies are focusing on drought-tolerant varieties for lawns, including tall fescue grass and microclovers, which means these lawns stay green without even watering in very dry areas.
Gardening goes tech. Apps and social media are becoming even more important as gardeners share what’s happening on their patches, participate in courses and workshops digitally and are prompted into action to plan and plant using apps. This also helps map plant health problems.
Thriving houseplants. As a warming climate causes us to dial down the central heating, houseplants will flourish. The hot and dry air of centrally heated homes is bad for most plants, so more unusual exotics such as cymbidium and dendrobium orchids and scented leaves will perform better in a cooler home.