Garden Trends / Foxy Flowers For 2017

IQ-Quarry-Garden2560x800It may be pertinent to update this post through summer 2017 but after two garden festival visits, the heavyweight trends for this year seem pretty clear cut. Here’s where to discover which interesting ideas to incorporate if you’re going for a full on garden re-design this summer and also which are the foxiest flowers to plant!


To talk about trends in gardens is a little odd isn’t it, as gardens are by their very nature slow growing, rarely radically changing from year to year like a wallpaper or even every decade like a kitchen or bathroom. However people do both rethink their outside spaces and ask designers install whole new ones, so trends and new design styles emerge outdoors just as they do in.  These are my calls for this year but remember that just like indoors, your style should be your own and not dictated by a passing fad.

  • Mixing up old and new, traditional and contemporary. There are simply no rules anymore and to rigidly stick to one or the other somehow seems very old hat. Much more eye catching is the intentional yet devil may care attitude of throwing the unexpected together. Think roses against a concrete wall or maybe a slender aluminium picture window and smooth floor against a rough stone wall. Be brave and mix it up a little, as though your garden has evolved and layered it’s personality, capturing ideas through the years.RHS Wedgewood Gardens Sam Ovens Chatsworth
  • Reclaimed materials and natural wood. Using any timber outside which isn’t pretreated is always a faff as it needs to be protected, sealed or painted to ensure longevity, but the look is either so natural or so cool (or both?!) that it’s worth it. I adore using chunks of timber outside and get mine from a local tree surgeon, but you can find great pieces at salvage shows, timber yards or even just lying round the garage.


  • Oxidised metals and rusty finishes. I wrote about this emerging industrial trend in 2016 and it’s set to continue as a firm 2017 favourite. However, unless you wish to end up with a garden like an old car factory, make sure to use a more organic or romantic planting scheme to soften the look. I like how the Curves and Cube garden used lattice cut steel for an organic and feminine feel to such a severe material, it worked brilliantly.

RHS Curves and Cubes David Harber

  • Grey as a garden backdrop. This started in 2015 and is definitely a keeper, following on from the now accepted interior wisdom than grey is the new neutral. It’s not brave anymore, it’s de rigeur, even outside. Dove grey, steels or charcoals all look utterly amazing as a foil for lush greenery, both in traditional or modern gardens.


  • Hewn, quarried or aggregate stone of all forms are massively popular in the show gardens, whether smashed to smithereens like the flooring above, dry stone walled with contemporary styling, boulder-like blocks just casually strewn around or aggregate used in unusual ways. Get stoned man, that’s where it at 😉


  • A focus on wildlife. You don’t have a bee hotel / insect mansion / bird house / wormery / wild flower patch yet? Tsk, for shame.. Always remember that any garden is actually owned by it’s wildlife and we’re just the temporary guardians. (More on this in the Foxy Flowers section).



Where are all the alliums this year?! Well, if you plant them in my garden they mostly died. Honestly I must have spent over £100 on the buggars and 4 have flowered. Not impressed. They either don’t like my soil, rainy city  or personality so I’ve sacked them off and so it appears have 2017 garden designers ’cause there were hardly any purple spheres to be seen standing tall above the show gardens. So if not alliums, what will you be buying…

  • Foxgloves. Literally everywhere. Digitalis delights are the tall order of the day and everyone is in love with them. I bought a boot full last year for the Baths garden and they’ve all thrived, providing height, movement, pollen for bees and colour. There wasn’t one particular colour which dominated, though white was popular amongst designers, and they come in so many different colours there’s something for every garden. Inexpensive, pretty easy to grow and quick to naturalise if they like their spot, foxgloves are a striking addition. Remember to feed and water, and keep away from small children / pets playing areas as digitalis are toxic.


  • Lupins. Maybe to give back the height lost when someone decided alliums were so last year, lupins provide lofty yet strong racemes in late spring / summer (the yellow flowers below). A little like foxgloves, their show of colour is lengthy and tall as opposed to allium ball like.  Just keep those chomping slugs and snails away. I’ve had some issues with lupins, and got anthracnose on one of mine in a communal garden. I’m hoping the new ones planted will flourish!
  • Salvias. Also seeming to be very popular in show gardens this year are those much loved hardy perennials that it is SO hard to kill, the salvias (those skinny purple flowers in the image below). Tough enough to withstand sever winter battering and then bounce back after a spring crop, they keep on flowering through the summer. Alan loves ’em, which is good enough for me.
RHS lupins
Yellow lupins and purple salvia. OK, yes, and a few alliums 😉
  • Wicker. There’s often a synergy between what’s hot in interiors and things I see as popular at garden festivals. One of the most beautiful gardens was the Belmond Enchanted Gardens by Butter Wakefield, a magical, bordering on wild space fronted by an artistic sculpted willow fence entwined with scented jasmine. A totally gorgeous idea. Equally stunning were the living willows, woven careful into walls and stems to form bases for the greenery. I’d never seen anything like this to purchase so easily and they were causing quite the furore on their stand. It’s official, wicker is back from the 70’s folks.


  • Black Accent Florals. Very subtle but equally noticeable to me as a designer were the various plants and flowers with shades of the deep and dark  going on. Maybe to complement all the grey backdrops or maybe because they just look so damned cool. We visited Chatsworth on the weekend and I’ve never seen one plant sell out by Sunday lunch , never mind by late Saturday morning, but the stunning ‘Black Tower’ Penstemon’s (left, below) had all been scooped up by eagle eyed gardeners. Grrrrrr. I did manage to grab some dramatic Iris Chrysographes (centre) and have my eye on finding one of the black stemmed elder  (right) but I don’t know it’s name. Yet.

Black Accents trend gardens 2017

  • Pollinators. Generally speaking, if you’re not focusing on insect friendly plants and flowers for your garden this year (and well, every year) then you should just pack up your gloves n wellies and give it up. It shouldn’t just be (bee?!) a fad either, for me this is an integral part of designing an outside space and something we’ve designed into Moregeous Mansions as we build and plant. Fantastic to see it such a priority at the flowers shows too!

That’s enough for one year isn’t it? 🙂

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