Garden trends to watch

Michael Perry pinpoints the latest trends in garden plants gleaned from plant trials and behind the scenes at plant breeder’s HQ’s.

Flower Trials in The Netherlands
Flower Trials in The Netherlands. Image: Michael Perry
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I’ve been a plant lover (and geek) for over 20 years now, and like nothing better than touring a plant breeder’s quarters, my eagle eye looking out for exciting and different plants. One of the best times to do this is during the yearly flower trials in the Netherlands, when more than 50 companies put on a showcase for an eager influx of plant buyers!

Here are 10 plants and trends that I think have a very bright future!

1. Petunias

Petunia
Petunias. Image: Michael Perry

You might say: ‘not another petunia’ – but don’t be too hasty. Petunias are an excellent fail-safe for summer patio pots, and really soak up sunny balconies and the like. Most people’s first experience of growing is with a petunia, so fans are bound to fall in love with the latest round of genetics. You can almost have any colour, or colour combination, that you dreamt of. The Crazytunia Series are the front-runners in this new psychedelic movement, and you know the breeder had so much fun creating them. They might look fancy, but they’re pretty tough too, with the weather tolerance needed for great English summer performance.

2. Dahlias

Dahlia
Dahlia. Image: Michael Perry

Once the big, background border plant that your Grandma used to grow, dahlias have shrunk in size, and will fit into anyone’s outdoor space. The reduction in size means quicker flowering, and less wind protection is needed too, which can’t be bad. The vigour of the Dalina Series is particularly of note too, and these days most often grown from a plug plant than old-fashioned tuber. Furthermore, rather than just giving the later show (like the dahlia of times gone by), these modern dahlias bloom all summer long.

3. Alstroemeria

Alstromeria
Alstromeria. Image: Michael Perry

Rather underrated in our borders these days, the Peruvian lily is a brilliant choice for maintenance-free, long flowering blocks of colour. Some of the older varieties could be a little invasive, which gave Alstroemeria a bad name, but new types are compact and behave themselves a little better. Multi-stemmed plants can keep you in an endless supply of homegrown bouquets from June to October. The tropical colours of each bloom are not to be underrated either, almost looking like a garden orchid.

4. Osteospermum

Osteospermum
Osteospermum. Image: Michael Perry

Another Genus where breeders have been super busy, the humble Cape Daisy has come a long way since the mauves and whites we once had. The initial colour break into yellows and oranges (probably thanks to Dimorphotheca blood) means the range now boasts a citrus colour palette as well as the pastel tones. Let’s not pass over the crested, double-flowered forms either, with a central pompom of extra petals, which means that blooms last even longer. A wise choice for dry, sunny banks and containers you’ll forget to water, your Osteospermum world is getting bigger and bigger each year.

5. Carnations

Carnation
Carnation ‘Green Trick’. Image: Michael Perry

The range of niche carnations for sale as a cut flower has really increased within the last 5 years, and with ‘Green Trick’ probably being the most notable bloom of them all. Despite being bred for cut flower use, many of these fancy creations will also work perfectly well as garden plants. They are bushy, floriferous and have naturally slender sites, suitable for cutting. Save yourself some quids on the boutique bouquets.

6. Orchids with fragrance

Orchid
Scented orchid. Image: Michael Perry

When the DIY stores and the supermarkets started to flood the market with orchids at just a few pounds, it was hard to see where the orchid market would go next. Well, breeders have been beavering away, experimenting and testing with their noses. And, now, they are pleased to introduce a whole range of perfumed orchids. What a fantastic added benefit to an already useful, and simple to grow, houseplant. Scents can vary in strength, from rich honey to gentle violet.

7. Chili Peppers

Chili Peppers
Chili Peppers. Image: Michael Perry

If you like it hot, you’ll need to start growing your own chillies! They are a vegetable that looks decorative and just as at home in the flower garden as the vegetable patch! Breeders have blended the decorative varieties with edible ones and the results mean your chili choice is now vast, with every shade of red, yellow, orange- and BLACK.

 

 

8. Begonias

Begonia
Begonia. Image: Michael Perry

The need for fresh new patio plants has meant that breeders are now offering a certain Begonia as a clever ‘dual purpose’ choice! The Solenia Series is the type of Begonia you’re used to seeing in supermarkets, and it has now been tested and trialled outdoors too, with amazing results. Unlike most begonias, it will enjoy sun as well as shade, making it as versatile as a summer pelargonium!

9. Micro-shoots

Micro greens
Micro greens. Image: Michael Perry

The fancy chef-created dishes you find in Michelin-star restaurants are now achievable at home, thanks to an increased interest in edible flowers and the versatile world of micro-shoots. From peppery to fruity, you can add a punch of vitamins and mineral to your summer salads, or decorative your desserts. Remember, the goodness is often more concentrated in micro-shoots too, so even better for you.

10. Designer Mixes

Designer mixes
Designer mixes. Image: Michael Perry

Mixing your plants has become much easier in recent times, thanks to some clever formulas. You’ll find that most ‘3 in 1’ plug plants now offer 3 complimentary varieties, which all have equal growing habits and well-matched colours. The formulas also mean that one greedy plant doesn’t just take over the container, either. Talk about ground breaking.

Michael Perry

About Michael Perry

Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan. Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media - so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook.
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