[Infographic] How to create your urban garden?
Throughout my 18 years as a New Product Developer, I have seen a lot happen in the gardening world across Northern Europe, not just in the style of gardens, but also the plants used in them.
Let’s look at a few different trends and style remixes that are happening in gardens right now!
We often think about those brightly coloured schemes in parks and municipal areas as soon as someone utters the words ‘bedding plant’. After all, it’s how Marigolds got a bad name for themselves! But, the master plant breeders have been mixing up a few things in the kitchen, and the humble bedding plant has had a makeover!
The colour palette of bedding has been transformed, and none more so than with the ‘Strawberry Blonde’ Marigold! By seeking out some unknown germ plasm, breeders has given the blooms a rustic, almost pink tinge. Softer and more likeable than those harsh citrus colours!
Another genus experiencing a remix is Cosmos, with the front runner variety being ‘Xanthos’, with buttery flowers and a branching habit, which means less plants covering more space. In fact, bigger bedding has also become de rigeur, as the chunkier plants can cover more space for less dollar! Begonia ‘Big’ is the poster boy for this ‘landscape bedding’ movement.
Of course, the Mediterranean has been heaven for chili growing for many years, thanks to the warm, dry climate. In fact, chili plants will often come back every year when grown there. The UK especially have now caught up with this chili movement and have found ways to grow successful crops of pungent fruits, which they then transform into a medley of dishes, with chili jam being a favourite.
Each year in the UK, there are countless chili festivals where 100’s of varieties could be on show, from the mouth-numbing Naga Jolokia to calmer varieties such as Poblano Ancho.
A chili plant is decorative, well-shaped and can even be grown on the windowsill. I particularly love them in rustic, slightly chipped, terracotta pots- bringing that Mediterranean style further north!
For an easier to maintain garden, shrubs are always recommended. They come back every year, are large and structural, and don’t have to take up that much space. A new trend that’s bubbling up in Northern Europe is of dwarf, patio shrubs and they look just the same, only in miniature!
The ultimate in dwarf shrubs has to be the Buddleja ‘Buzz Series’, which comes from one of the UK’s most innovative plant breeders. This shrub is perfectly suited to growing in a patio pot, never exceeds around a metre in height, and drenches its stems with nectar-rich blossom for months on end. The breeders have also selected mainly sterile varieties, which means they flower longer than standard Buddleja varieties!
Another of my favourite dwarf shrubs is Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’, with technicolour foliage and scented autumn blossoms. The shape of the plant also lends itself well to a spot of playful topiary too! It’s the box alternative you’ll need sunglasses for!
There’s definitely a trend across Northern Europe of people wanting to spend more time outside, and there’s nothing better than lunch al fresco with some friends! The styles of outdoor furniture have really developed in the last few years to include waterproof wicker effect suites and some really lovely weatherproof sofas.
Once you run out of space in your borders, you’ll start looking at placing plants onto your balcony or patio, and once that’s full, you start clothing table tops! Many German plant breeders have recognised this gap in the market and the foremost specimen for European table tops has become the Calibrachoa, which some might see as a ‘mini Petunia’.
The Calibrachoa has delicate growth, which forms a neat cushion, smothered in bell-like blooms in almost every colour of the rainbow. These mini petunias are long flowering too, and can adorn many an outdoor buffet display!
Spending a lot of time in the Netherlands, I am always pleased at how many front gardens are impeccable and tidy. There’s a real sense of pride. The planting style helps this, as it’s kept clean and simple, with evergreen shrubs and reliable herbaceous plants.
Choices such as Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’, Pachysandra and Nepeta all have strong, structural presence which really comes into it’s own when planted en masse, giving an adorable patchwork look. Yes, many of us are plant collectors and want to fill our garden with as many of our finds as possible, but maybe the rear garden is the place for that, and kept the front simple and- above all- easy to care for!
Michael Perry is a well-known European plants expert and product developer, with a career spanning 18 years and around 300 new plants! He lectures worldwide and is a regular on British television, thanks to his enthusiasm and likeable approach to gardening. You can learn everything about him in his blog mrplantgeek.com
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