2005 is the year of the wildlife garden with at least seven of the show gardens incorporating an ecological element in their designs. However, we are not talking unkempt and abandoned, but a more restrained wildlife look that can be easily integrated into a modern design. Relaxed planting, featuring generous drifts of native plants, such as poppies, ox-eye daisy and cow parsley or cultivated varieties of indigenous species that attract bees, butterflies, birds and other wildlife to the garden are the order of the day in a number of gardens including the Wildlife Trusts Lush Garden the Moat and Castle Eco Garden and the RSPB/SITA ET Real Rubbish Garden. Modest garden features, such as bird baths, nest boxes designed to keep visiting wildlife happy have replaced ornamental sculptures and dominant hard landscaping.
Recycle and reclaim
It's in with the old and out with the new as reusing materials is a key element in many designs. Old car parts and reclaimed timber are just two of the materials being used to highlight the issue of sustainability in gardens. And many gardens are literally pushing the boundaries of design: would you substitute a traditional wooden fence for industrial gabions and metal cages filled with rock in your own garden? Well, don’t knock it until you’ve seen the results in Stephen Firth's Beyond The Pale garden. In fact gabions are one of the must have items of the show, filled with all kinds of materials from traditional stone cobbles, polished pebbles and plants to old flowerpots and terracotta tiles.
The days when all gardeners would strive for the perfect lawn could be numbered. One of the key trends of this year’s show was for unusual and innovative flooring. From the clean lines and coordinated colours in Room 105, pale stones with copper edging in the Dahl Foundation Chocolate Garden to stainless steel mesh with pebble infill in the pavillion. Some of the more off the wall (or should that be floor?) ideas include compressed glass chippings in Simon’s Garden, large pink stepping stones in the Crystal Cobweb Garden and revolutionary squidgy tiles that give a walk-on-water effect in David Domoney's Reflections.
Angular shapes are also prominent this year. Christopher Bradley-Hole’s In the Grove featured raised beds and squares of grass seamlessly floating on a sea of chunky stone blocks, while large wooden cubes were a central feature of the Merrill Lynch garden, woven through the sections of planting like an informal pathway.
Designers have long been extolling the virtues of gardens as an extension of the home and this year we see the outdoor room concept evolve to the next level - an extension of the workplace. Small gardens such as Room 105 and Marcus Barnett's The Gallery Outside double up as outdoor galleries, using plants to showcase black and white photography, while several designers have created the ultimate garden office to inspire people working from home.
Plants in fashion
Angelica archangelica featured as a bold architectural plant in The Savill's Garden and the RBPB/SITA ET Real Rubbish Garden while in the Laurent Perrier Garden it was used as a plain greenback drop to the bright planting. A more subtle, understated star is Persicaria bistorta 'Superba' which was woven into the planting of many of the small gardens and was also used as a prominent plant for a moist or shady spot in the show gardens of Julian Dowle, Diarmuid Gavin, Elma Fenton, and Kate Frey. Other plants in fashion this year include Arum lilies in a variety of shades from purest white to dark maroon, Cirsium and Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’. Yellow was the predominant colour in both the gardens and the pavilion.
Black is the new black
In contrast to the softer, wildlife style, there is a lot of bold and adventurous planting on show. Look out for dark-leaved plantings of species such as Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens', Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace' and black phormiums that have been widely used for dramatic effect in many gardens including Fleming’s Nurseries Float, The Spiral Garden and The 4head Garden. Edible plants that can be admired and also eaten, are also the order of the day.
Explore all the show gardens with our 360-degree tours and take a closer look at all the small gardens.