Plant trends

Posted: Monday 24 June 2013
by Adam Pasco

I’ve been polishing my crystal ball in preparation for a seminar I’m giving this week, on plant trends, at the HTA National Plant Show.

Foxglove 'Illumination Pink'

I’ve been polishing my crystal ball in preparation for a seminar I’m giving this week, on plant trends, at the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) National Plant Show. I like to keep my finger on the pulse of plant and gardening trends, so I can inform people and keep them engaged. It’s equally important for retailers to do so, too. But who, exactly, is setting the trends?

Shows like RHS Chelsea play a part in trend setting, and the move to more natural planting, with bees and other wildlife in mind, certainly proves to be popular. Prior to the show, I was amused by a press release telling me about all the native wildflowers I would enjoy in one of the show gardens. Among them, was Capsella bursa-pastoris, which in my book is a troublesome weed, called shepherd’s purse.

Cow parsley also featured heavily at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. (James Alexander-Sinclair recently mentioned it in his blog, regretting the day he sprinkled its seeds with gay abandon into his borders), but let’s leave discussion of the fine line between wildflower and weed to another time.

The winner of RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2012 was Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’. If you have one, you’re in good company. Thompson & Morgan tell me they’ve sold over 380,000 plants so far. They put much of its popularity down to winning the ‘Plant of the Year’ title. I wait with interest to see if this year’s winner (Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’, grown by Dutch nurserty, Van Son & Koot) does as well.

To celebrate RHS Chelsea Flower Show’s centenary, plants were nominated from every decade and put to the public to vote for their favourite. Among nominations for ‘Plant of the Centenary’, were some of my favourites, including Rosa ‘Iceburg’, Russell lupins, perennial wallflower ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ and Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’. The winner of the category was Geranium ‘Rozanne’, a hardy variety that is worthy of a place in every garden.

My vote went to a nominated shrub that is particularly important to me - Rhododendron yakushimanum. I used to work for a specialist rhododendron nursery called Slococks, at Knaphill in Surrey. When I left, to go and study horticulture at the University of Nottingham, they gave me a Rhododendron yakushimanum. It is compact and slow growing, flowering every year at around the time of RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Despite this, I’m pleased to see Geranium ‘Rozanne’ topped the poll for the ‘Plant of the Centenary’ award. Bees love it too, so in terms of matching trends in flowers, you can’t go wrong.

How I'll cover everything I'd like to share about plant trends in my 30-minute seminar this week, I really don't know. I hope my audience won't mind if I go on a little longer. And at the end of the day, trends are only trends if the public follow them. What are your gardening predictions for the year ahead?

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