A great place to look for trends or themes in garden design is at RHS Flower Shows. Though it is difficult to tell if these are genuine patterns for designers in the ‘real world’ or reserved for the flamboyance of the shows, they are the closest thing we have to a garden design catwalk. They are also a good way to recognise recurring trends that reappear in cycles over the years. With the build up to next year’s shows already starting, here are a few of my favourite themes from this year:
Water features – designers regularly surprise us with water features with a wow factor, building jets, cascades, fountains and a host of other imaginative designs that can form the cornerstone or focal point of many styles. This year at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the twist on water features was having underwater detailing, allowing another surface in the garden to become a feature in itself. This was achieved to particularly good effect in Hugo Bugg’s RBC Waterscape Garden and, one of my favourite 2014 show gardens, Paul Harvey Brookes’ BrandAlley Renaissance Garden (above left).
Box alternatives – a design theme centred on plants spotted at Chelsea this year was the use of clipped shapes, and especially the use of alternatives to box (Buxus sempervirens) for trimming into shapes. Mounds of Pinus mugo were used in Nicole Fischer and Daniel Auderset's The Extending Space garden and Luciano Giubbilei included (loosely) clipped balls of Fagus sylvatica in the Laurent-Perrier Garden, right), both used to great effect for adding interest and structure to planting scheme. This is most certainly a style or trend that gardeners could recreate at home in their own gardens.
Loose and informal planting – almost meadow-like in some instances, this type of planting was seen right through from established garden designers at Chelsea to those starting their careers at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park in the Young Designer category like in Sam Ovens' creation 'The Sky’s the Limit' (left). This is something that seems to appear cyclically at the shows but I predict that more ‘formal’ planting will make a return in the near future.
Materials and textures – designers also turned the spotlight on creative mixtures of materials to make them a feature in their own right. A couple of good examples this year: the burnt wood that featured across many gardens at Tatton, such as Ian Price's garden 'Elemental'; the creative ways to arrange and use wood for wildlife at Hampton like in the Vestra Wealth's Vista garden; and the varying types of grey stone such as slate and granite used to create geometric forms at Chelsea in gardens like Matt Keightley's Hope on the Horizon garden (above).
One thing’s for sure: show garden design constantly evolves and throws up exciting ideas that are a great way to inspire us all. I would not be at all surprised if we see a slight shift toward more formal styles of planting in 2015, and I’m sure there will be a plant or two used in force (this year it was irises and agapanthus), a particular material used creatively and designers continuing to use strong, geometric forms, shapes and lines to structure their gardens.
Always, however, the shows throw up surprises and delights, and I cannot wait to see what will be on 2015's garden design catwalk.