The garden might not be looking its best right now, but January is the perfect time to make plans for your patch.
When it comes to the garden, January is the month for planning, whether it’s picking a show to visit, dreaming up ideas to revamp a border or simply deciding to give your shed a lick of paint. It can be hard to muster up enthusiasm when it’s still cold and grey outside — so, for a bit of inspiration, here’s our guide to the year ahead.
Out and about
With sponsors slow to come forward, the early talk about 2017’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show seems rather lacklustre. There’s a new kid on the block, though, with the stunning setting of Chatsworth, in Derbyshire, providing the stage for a new RHS show that promises to champion design and horticultural innovation (June 7–11, tickets from £21.50, or £17.50 for RHS members; rhs.org.uk).
If you find the larger gatherings too busy, try a more intimate affair such as Gardens Illustrated magazine’s festival, this year in a new location: Westonbirt School, in Gloucestershire. There will be a range of classy specialist nurseries, a garden design clinic and speakers including Tom Stuart-Smith, Cleve West and Roy Lancaster (March 25 and 26; entry free, events from £14.50; gardensfestival.com). The writer and television presenter Toby Buckland is also hosting two garden festivals: first at Powderham Castle, in Devon (April 28 and 29), then at Forde Abbey, in Somerset (September 16 and 17, tickets for either from £8.50; tobygardenfest.co.uk).
Or head to the food writer Mark Diacono’s Otter Farm, in Devon, for one of the one- or two-day courses, where you’ll be taught by some of the best in the business. Get tips on garden design from James Alexander-Sinclair, learn how to capture your borders on camera with the award-winning photographer Jason Ingram, or discover unusual edibles (from £190; otterfarm.co.uk).
The Garden Museum in the ancient church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, in central London, reopens in spring after an extensive Heritage Lottery Fund redevelopment. It will have five new galleries, the first archive of garden design in Britain and a recreation of Tradescant’s Ark, a collection amassed by father-and-son plant-hunters in the 17th century.
There’s also a new courtyard garden designed by Dan Pearson, with rare and exotic plants inspired by those hunted by the two Johns Tradescant, who are both buried in the graveyard of the church (gardenmuseum.org.uk).
There’s a definite trend among florists and British flower growers for voluptuous old-fashioned varieties such as roses, peonies and hydrangeas, and a return to soft, romantic colours such as apricots, pale pinks, nudes and buttery yellows. Sarah Statham, a Yorkshire florist who runs Simply by Arrangement and has more than 13,000 Instagram followers, suggests the rose ‘Gentle Hermione’ in the palest of pinks: it has an intoxicating scent and is “really easy to grow, as it’s rain-resistant”.
Her other recommended roses include the soft apricot ‘Wollerton Old Hall’, the butterscotch-hued ‘Golden Celebration’ and the pale coffee-coloured ‘Koko Loko’, a prolific flowerer (available from jonestherose.co.uk). Statham also loves intersectional peonies, or itohs, which are hybrids of tree peonies and herbaceous peonies (available from kelways.co.uk). And her favourite? “It has to be the soft apricot flowers of Rosa ‘Julia’s Rose’, with their delicious spicy scent.”
Get your greens
Pantone recently announced that Greenery is its colour of 2017, which coincides with the increased popularity of shrubs in our herbaceous borders. This is great news for those who have struggled with the trend for grass and perennials that has been so popular for the past decade.
David Mitchell, outdoor buyer for Wyevale Garden Centres, says: “We’ve seen an uplift in sales of old favourites such as forsythia, photinia and camellias, and now is a great time to be looking at the gaps in the garden that could do with some year-round structure.” His overall recommendation would be the viburnum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’, with white lace-cap flowers in spring, red summer berries, then a second flush of blooms followed by fiery autumn foliage.
According to Richard Lawton, sales manager of Hillier Nurseries, shrubs are perfect for those looking for low-maintenance planting. As for his suggestions for 2017, he is a fan of Weigela middendorffiana ‘Mango’, which has creamy yellow flowers and lush foliage, and the repeat-flowering lilac ‘Bloomerang Pink Perfume’.
The interior-design trend for copper has found its way into the garden, with its warm tones making it a great colour for planters. Cox & Cox has a set of three copper-coloured containers for £75 (coxandcox. co.uk). Carry on the theme by planting them with grasses such as Anemanthele lessoniana or Carex comans ‘Bronze Form’ and the compact Dahlia ‘Art Deco’, which has warm orange petals.
“Softer, more neutral paint tones that complement the colours of nature are proving popular garden shades,” says Charlotte Cosby, head of creative at Farrow & Ball. “Easy-going multitonal blues, greens and greys, such as Pigeon, have a relaxed feel and are perfect for gardens.” She also suggests “painting your railings in our spring/summer 2017 trend colour, Studio Green, as an alternative to black. Its dark botanical hues will combine your garden features and the landscape while maintaining a smart look and feel to your exterior space.”
Keeping plants watered when you go away has always proved tricky, but that’s set to change as advances in home technology make their way into gardening. Hozelock’s Cloud Controller, for example, allows you to manage the watering from anywhere in the world via an app on your smartphone. It won the RHS product of the year prize at the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show (£115; homebase.co.uk)
House plants are back in fashion, thanks in part to a new wave of beautifully styled plant shops such as Botany, Grace & Thorn and Prick, which describes itself as London’s first “cacti and succulent boutique”. Cacti, succulents, air plants and bold, structural foliage are all perfect for Generation Renters struggling to flex their green fingers. Try adding hydrangeas to your mix this year.
Outdoor container gardening offers the same space-saving and portability benefits as house plants. Julia Leakey, head of buying at Crocus, suggests containers that are raised up on legs, giving a better sense of space. Try its new Sphere aluminium planter on legs (£36; crocus.co.uk).
When outdoor space is limited, it’s not just finding room for plants that’s the problem. What on earth do you do with all your equipment? The Hindo indoor/outdoor shelving and storage range, from Ikea, is perfect for displaying your plant collections and storing your kit in a courtyard garden or even on a balcony (from £35; ikea.com). So there’s no excuse not to think green in 2017.