Thursday, January 10, 2013

Garden Design Trends 2013

Once again, Cleve West's Best in Show Chelsea garden shows what themes will dominate design in 2013
Oooh, goody!  The 2013 Garden Trends report is out at Grounded Design.  Another post where I stare into my glass ball and pretend to be an expert prognosticator.  Trend predicting is, of course, utterly obnoxious. But I love trying to articulate the zeitgeist without any real accountability (everyone forgets the trends one week later).  With that confident assertion, here are my predictions for 2013:


1. The New Romanticism, Simplified

Yes, I know this was last year’s theme for my trends, but the the romantic mood that has swept over garden design will persist in 2013. As Western states teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, and we increasingly experience the world through our smartphones, people will turn to their gardens for a spiritually authentic, but emotionally-soothing experience.  We crave something real from our gardens, but not too edgy.  This year’s romanticism will be simpler and less fussy than previous romantic periods in history.   Historic revivalism (a la Downton Abbey ) will continue to influence designers, particularly Victorian gardens (check out Cleve West’s Best in Show Chelsea Garden last year for an example), but these styles will manifest themselves in simpler, sleeker ways.  The elegance of the past gardens is stimulating, yet comforting.  Other romantic trends such as exoticism, a renewed interest in the emotional experiences of gardens, and the glorification of wildness will be big themes in designs this year.

2. Nostalgic for Nature

Nigel Dunnet's Olympic meadows were a game changer for planting design
Nature has always inspired garden design (see my recent post on "nostalgia"), but gardens in 2013 will express a particular longing for certain iconic naturalistic scenes: meadows, prairies, forests, and wetlands. The meadows at last summer’s London Olympics are an excellent example of the kind of stylized natural scenes that will trickle into gardens and landscapes this year.


3. Interplanted Everything

Even a strikingly clean, modern garden like Thomas Hoblyn's Arthritis Research Garden shows how highly-mixed schemes are in.

Massing is out.  Highly interplanted, mixed schemes are in. It’s not just Oudolf anymore.  Designers across the world are using richly woven tapestries of plants to express an ecological aesthetic.  Michael King’s “perennial meadows,” are a great example of the kind of highly-designed, intricate palettes that will be popular this year. 

4. Community Gardens

Sarah Price's Daily Telegraph Garden is inspired by wild plant communities in North Wales
No, I’m not talking about the allotment-kind of community garden. I’m referring to designs inspired by wild plant communities.   Designers looking to add a bit of ecological aesthetic to give their designs context and credibility will use wild plant communities as inspiration for their palettes. Take Sarah Price’s gold medal Daily Telegraph Garden. Her entire garden was inspired by the upland streams and rills of North Wales and Dartmoor.  Her meadow flowers feature intense splashes of color using tiny, lacy flowers found in rural England—showing that even a small garden can have the breezy spontaneity of a larger, wild landscape.

5. Sustainable Aesthetic

Sustainability has moved mainstream.  Unlike ten years ago when there were only three rain barrels on the market and the Prius was the only hybrid worth driving, today consumers have choices when it comes to being green.  This is particularly true when it comes to landscape architecture and garden design.  It’s no longer enough to do functionally sustainable landscapes, but they must be beautiful as well.  Sustainable gardens will no longer look wild, but will also blend into contemporary and traditional garden styles.  

6. Nursery Trends: High Value Acquisitions

While the lethargic economy will continue to affect nursery demand, people will continue to buy plants, even expensive plants.  Garden consumers want value, not just cheap.  Sales of rare specimens, heirloom plants, sculptural shrubs, and unusual multi-stem trees will increase this year even as the general demand for more generic specimens will be sluggish.  Nurseries that cut back selection due to hard economic times may miss out on an emerging niche market.  

7. Lower Maintenance Everything  

Ugh, here’s a trend I’m not particularly excited about. While interest in homegrown gardening (edibles, chickens, less lawn) will continue to go mainstream (particularly in “blue” states), people will increasingly look for lower maintenance strategies for gardening.  This is particularly true for public gardens and landscapes.  As governments and municipalities slash budgets, each agency must stretch their limited staff by cutting maintenance.  Even though public investment in horticulture will continue to hover at an all-time low, designers who can respond by creating beautiful landscapes that thrive on less input will be the winners in this economy.  

51 comments:

  1. #4 - grabs me in how you describe it - hoping for more of those. One might doubt it from my posts and endless pics from my patio or where I work out, but there is 0 nature across endless miles of Abq. The right people could do something great by doing this - should happen by 2213, or so.
    #7 - ugh, but at least NM is leading the US in this department! We cannot always rank with WV or MS on everything. (smirk) But not only will those who design such spaces in tighter budgets rule (they already are gaining ground), but those who can finally get better maintenance in the radar screens of such designs, will really rule. (guess what I'll do)

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    1. Yes, NW is leading the way with plant community based design. The rest of us are slowly catching up.

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  2. I do so enjoy being ahead of the curve, what with my romanticized and sustainable nature and all. I think your point #6 is particularly insightful: having struggled as a small business owner through this terrible economy, despite selling something people actually NEED, I believe that need drives market pressures downward. Consumers will find the lowest price possible, and sellers are only too happy to lower prices on necessities to the point of self-defeat. This is bad for everyone who serves 'need;' you can't make up in volume what you are losing on the per each, and if the next guy is charging less, so must you. At the same time, there does not seem to be a limit to what people will pay for what they WANT (even if they are financially distressed). It isn't just high value items like rare or choice plants, but items of high 'perceived value' (like smartphones, for instance). We are a culture which entertains itself by buying stuff, which is not unusual through history, but the difference seems the top-to-bottom nature of our urge to acquire...frequently to the detriment of the ability to afford necessity. Nice stuff.

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    1. It is an interesting summary of economic desire. It IS all about "perceived value", right?

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  3. I've just been thinking about how I need to do MORE massing in my garden, and then I read your post. Am I out of step, or just ahead of my time - maybe massing will make a comeback. I'm generally comfortable with all your trends, but do you think that wildness and elegance can coexist in the name of romance, or are they two parallel and separate roads to similar destinations?

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    1. Jason,

      No I was being a bit facetious about massing being entirely out. SKR (below) makes some really excellent points about how highly mixed schemes are designed to read as a single carpet. The Arthritis Research Garden example actually contrasted a carpet of interplanted perennials with a bunch of clipped geometric hedges. The balance of intricacy and legibility is very pleasing.

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  4. Your #6 Nursery Trends prediction does not follow the historical precedent for a sluggish economy. Having grown up in a family nursery business I have a bit of insight here. Sales of fruit and nut bearing plants always increase while ornamentals decline. In lean times more people are willing to invest in productive plants with sustenance value.

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    1. I'll defer to you, Olga. I was just citing several nursery owner contacts who reported high sales last year in niche, speciality items even while general sales dropped.

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  5. Gardening, once the hobby of the wealthy, has trickled down to become an interest of many, regardless of socioeconomic status. Consequently, two income families, with no time to maintain a garden, and those with very wide horizons, for whom gardening is just one of many passions, both desire them. The need of low maintenance gardens for groups such as these is great. The importance of this phenomenon is mirrored in the popularity of garden manuals that simplify and instruct, as opposed to traditional books that inspire. That said, the fact that public spaces will also become low-maintenance, due to budget considerations, is indeed sad, very sad.

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    1. Well said, Allan. As someone who barely has time to maintain my own garden, I understand the economic and functional reasons for lower maintenance landscapes. I'm not really an advocate of high maintenance gardens, just deeper engagement by everyone with land.

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  6. I don't know that I would say massing is out, Jason. Look at the Olympics image. Sure, it may not be a monoculture, but it is a visual mass. The arthritis garden has formal masses everywhere and the interplanted bed is most successful when the impressionistic form reads as a solid textural mass. it's more like mass evolved to my eye. But I don't think you'll want to plant a square of just 100 Festuca glauca.

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    1. Excellent reply. Agree completely. There are many design strategies for keeping visually legible plantings--even if the mix is highly mixed. Great comment.

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  7. While it makes me sad, your #7 is entirely true...more and more people (who aren't gardeners) just want a design-y space to make them feel cool while they're lounging around a fire pit sipping cocktails...sigh.

    Otherwise, I like all your predictions! I connect well with the idea of the emotionally-engaging, romantic landscape. I love the "community" planting idea...very intriguing...and I've liked the examples I've seen online. I think it probably takes quite a bit of skill to do it really effectively...or, in my case, lots of trial and error ;-)

    Happy 2013!

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    1. Well, my "predictions" may be nothing more than wishful thinking. But I enjoy guessing, nonetheless. I totally agree with your comment about #7.

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    2. Scott, I don't agree completely with your dismay that some people may want to enjoy being in a garden but not want to have dirt under their fingernails. The history of gardens is filled with owners who funded but did not actually build or work in their gardens. I believe we need to be more inclusive and welcome all kinds of interactions. Of course, I have to admit to a bit of self interest. I'm a garden designer.

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  8. I hesitate to comment because I agree with most of what you say. I'm glad skr made that clarification about textural massing as opposed to individual plant massing. An important distinction.

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    1. Yes, I'm afraid I was not very clear about that idea.

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  9. Great post and predictions, Thomas! Easy for me to say after you've put them all together, but these seem spot on. There is nothing wrong with pretty, and at the end of the day we all seem to respond to uncomplicated charm, which is perhaps tantamount to nostalgia for nature and Romanticism on a small scale. Lately all my clients seem to want something loose and dreamy, low maintenance, tidy, budget conscious, food-producing, etc. My task is to get creative within these parameters, even if sometimes they pull diametrically. #6 is important in this context. Having great plants available makes this possible. Knowing how tough it is for growers, especially when the margin of gain is so narrow and the cost of doing business so high, I understand why they grow conservatively. Nevertheless, I think this skews the feedback they get about how well they can sell what they grow. The market data can't be harvested because the universe of possibilities in plants is so narrow. It's a conundrum I encounter and consider regularly.

    In response to the comments about interplanting vs. massing, I think it's about people appreciating a layered and rhythmic planting, something that moves and sings, even within the context of grand massing. Not entirely exclusive concepts.

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    1. "I think it's about people appreciating a layered and rhythmic planting, something that moves and sings, even within the context of grand massing. Not entirely exclusive concepts," Beautifully said as always.

      Your list of client requests is all too familiar. I find small sites especially challenging to do "romantic." It takes space to get all those layers.

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  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  11. I had to laugh at the "romanticism" comment, not because I disagree, but because not only have I listened to my sister-in-law confess in slightly embarassed tones to suddenly finding her inner romantic when it comes to planning her garden, I have disovered a longing for soft, wafty, pastel planting myself that is most disturbing. I was glad to realise that I definitely want lots of spiky forms to counteract it all, but it is slightly worrying to think I might just be another victim of the zeitgeist.

    On "massed" vs. "interplanted", having failed with the latter due to not managing to balance it with enough structural repetition to get any coherence, I suspect it may be a lot harder to make look good for us amateurs. Maybe there will be a new market for books teaching us how to do it well...

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    1. The interplanted look is definitely harder, Janet. The images I showed in this post from gardens shows (designed to look good for a few weeks only) don't really help to explain the complexity of mixing different plants. To be honest, if I evaluate my experiments with interplanting over a long period (3 years or more), the success rate has not been terribly great.

      But I've learned from those many failures and do think it's possible to do it well. It just requires much more design than I initially understood.

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  12. Great trend for 2013!! Garden design or landscaping with lots of green plants is nothing but an excellent way to save environment.

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  13. Interesting post. To a great landscaping year, inspite of all the attacks of the weather.

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  14. So nice to find your Blog today. Interesting articles. I like it. Here on the shores of Lake Michigan I am always working to find other ideas that I can use or at least learn from. Thanks. Jack

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  21. great article...Thanks for bringing us up to date with these new design . I do think families will spend more time at home with the new economy. Saving money, time with family, and highest and best use of space both inside and outside the home makes a lot of sense.

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