Do You Care about Garden Trends?

January 30th, 2017 | 23 Comments »

Do you pay attention to garden trends or do you think they are a pile of baloney?

Every year about this time, I read an article telling me what’s in and what’s out. Hot new plants are described. I read that there’s a colour I can’t live without, or that shrubs are making a comeback. (When did they ever go away?)

These articles appear in magazines, newspapers and on-line sites in countries around the world.  Sometimes they are based on surveys, sometimes on opinions, sometimes on catchy phrases. Alliteration abounds. As do odd conclusions.


I lifted from this photo from an on-line article in the English newspaper, The Telegraph. The cut-line that ran with the photo reads "This year, look out for cacti, price wars and carrot yoghrt," says Matthew Appleby.
I lifted this photo from an on-line article that ran in the English newspaper, The Daily Telegraph.


The cut-line on the photo reads, “This year, look out for cacti, price wars and carrot yoghurt.” What? I only look out for cacti to avoid being pricked. As for carrot yoghurt…

So are journalists telling us something significant in their annual trends reports or are these pieces just lazy fallbacks?

In the U.S., Garden Design magazine says that natural materials are in, which seems less like a trend than a necessity in a garden. Natural dye gardens, where  plants are used to make dyes for colouring textiles, yarn, and clothing, are also touted. But who has the time (or inclination) to revive what sounds like a 60s throw-back, and not a very interesting one at that?

In England, the Daily Telegraph doesn’t stop at the standard top ten trends but doubles up (doubles down?) to 20. New plants are there (natch) along with back to the basics. Add blander brassicas and I scratch my head. Which is it to be, novelty or the fundamentals, the exciting or the unobjectionable? Or am I being picky to think there’s a disconnect?


Little Sparta (1 of 1)
Order, Disorder, Future: is this a disconnect? And can you arrange the words at Little Sparta to say whatever you want them to say?


What constitutes a trend, and whose views determine what is or isn’t? Garden Design consults landscape architects and designers. The English magazine Gardens Illustrated adds a horticulturalist, a critic and several garden educators. Together they bring many years of experience gathered from different contexts. Should I expect consistency in the trends they report?

(Last year’s Brexit vote is making a mark. Last year Gardens Illustrated consulted garden professionals from the U.K., Germany, Sweden and Chile. This year all were from England.)

Londoners needn’t be good indicators for what is happening in Scotland; the same holds true for gardeners from the east coast to the west. Add national variations to the mix and significant differences should surely occur. To a certain extent they do. Minimalism and simplicity are said to be the trend in Australian gardens, urban jungles in the U.K., and mixing the old with the new in the U.S.


Recycled wine bottles provide a shiny backdrop to a bust of Queen Victoria at the Gibberd Garden. Does this constitute using the old with the new?
Recycled wine bottles provide a shiny backdrop to a bust of Queen Victoria at the Gibberd Garden. Does this constitute using the old with the new?


But when overlaps occur, we can begin to pay attention. Whatever the source, and whatever words are used to describe the phenomenon, there is a generalized concern with plantings that accommodate climate change.  There is — and has been for some years — an interest in greater biodiversity and sustainability. Attracting butterflies and pollinators, using wildflowers and native plants, turning lawns into meadows, being mindful of the impact of our actions: these are trends that aren’t trendy fashions but essential actions.

Trends or Movements?

You may want to take part in a recent discussion about trends and movements in garden design. The debate focuses on New Perennialism and, specifically, the use of ornamental grasses and the designs of the Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf as seen on the High Line, Oudolf’s iconic design for the abandoned railway line in New York City.

Tony Spencer started the conversation with a post he titled Tempest in a Flower Pot. The discussion widened with a critical piece written by Bridget Rosewell for the English website ThinkinGardens, The High Line Revisited. 

Multiple points of view are expressed with style and passion, and  the comments that follow make for provocative reading. Why not chip in?

Happy Birthday to Site and Insight!

Inverted branches stride across a field, recalling the first inhabitants of this land.
This photo appeared in my first blog post, Introducing Glen villa. It shows part of Abenaki Walking, my tribute to the original inhabitants of the land where I live, the Abenaki Indians.


This week I’m celebrating an anniversary. Four years ago I wrote my first blog post and since then I’ve written  well over 200 pieces, averaging slightly more than one post per week.

I’ve written about Glen Villa and other gardens in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Italy and France. I’ve written about people, plants and plans, about art and garden design.. I’ve shared my ideas and I’ve asked about yours.

To the many who have responded to blog posts through comments on this site or less publicly, I send a big thank you. I value your comments and appreciate the time we have spent on line together.






Reading the Garden

January 17th, 2017 | 15 Comments »
Those who can't garden, read. On grey winter days, nothing beats sitting by a fire and reading garden books. For the last few days, I've been devouring Garden Revolution: How Our Landscapes Can Be a Source of Environmental Change. This 2016 publication by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher was top of my Christmas wish list; I'm only partway through but I'm enjoying every page. The book lays out sensible ways to garden ecologically, and, as it turns out, I was already applying its principles of natural evolution to guide the transformation of  the Big Lawn


Garden Goals for 2017

January 9th, 2017 | 10 Comments »
Setting annual goals for the garden keeps me on track and helps me avoid jumping from one thing to another, something I'm all too prone to do. Last year I set 10 goals for myself and discovered, looking back in last week's post, that ten was too many. So in 2017 I'm cutting my ambitions in half and setting five goals for the year ahead. 1. Finish The Upper Room The bare bones of The Upper Room, the new area in the garden that honours my mother and her beliefs, have