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January is a great time to take a lo-o-ong, hard look at your garden.
Is it trendy? Does it need a colour revamp? What should you be planning for 2016?
Just as in the fashion industry, trends in gardening are closely linked with the seasons, fabric colour palettes, film sets, music, food and major global events. The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this August has already inspired colour palettes in the paint industry with deep blues, garden-fresh greens and bold yellows dominating.
Incorporating nature into your garden remains a focus for landscapers in 2016. Food gardening is still huge, water features are a glorious luxury and creating water-wise gardens is absolutely essential.
Take a look at what’s trending this year for gardeners.
Blue is very fashionable this year. Given sunshine and good soil, the tubular blue flowers of agapanthus are a must for colouring up and beautifying our summer gardens.
Wind, drought and heat-resistant, they are among the most rewarding of our summer-flowering perennials for borders, on banks, in indigenous and water wise gardens, in block plantings, in broad sweeps as groundcovers or even in pots.
If agapanthus is the belle of summer sunshine, then hydrangea is the ultimate blue–flowering summer shrub for shade. Depending on your soil type, the florets can be blue, pink or mauve. Growing requirements are shade and moisture-retentive, composted soil, and watering the root area and foliage in hot weather.
Other fashionable colours for 2016 include pearl-white neutrals and “pops” of other colours. Pink remains a favourite and rose-water pink, peachy-pink and cheeky flamingo pink are top of the pops.
Petunias will be the height of trendy landscaping. As well as pretty pastels, use the deeper shades of petunias to give depth to pastel planting schemes.
In sync with nature
The desire to introduce nature into suburbia will see more natural landscapes with layered planting, where each plant is selected to support the ecosystem. Because of the concern in the decline of pollinators, there is an increase in butterfly, bee and bird gardens, where plants are grown for their pollen and nectar.
The changing face of gardening is also reflected in water and plant conservation, low maintenance water-wise landscapes, the removal of invasive alien plants and replacement with plants to suit local conditions. Responsible gardeners are ensuring that their gardens are chemical-free, especially where edibles are grown and where there are pets.
Homeowners are choosing environmentally friendly pools with separate swimming and regeneration areas, where aquatic plants planted in gravel filter absorb any nutrients found in the water. This miniature wetland attracts birds, insects, frogs, and dragonflies that eat mosquito larvae.
In touch with technology
By connecting with today’s internet technology, gardeners can get instant information and a wealth of creative ideas. There are numerous websites and apps that provide gardeners with an enormous variety of resources from weather station data to garden design software.
Staying in touch with fellow gardeners on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and various blogs and forums allows gardeners to make worldwide contact with other gardeners.
Today’s outdoor space is not only for plants. It is a multi-purpose place for entertaining, for relaxing and as a retreat; as a secure space for children to play and to exercise, and where they can grow their own manageable mini-gardens.
An outdoor kitchen takes entertaining to the next level. These, however, are not new. In some European countries, communities have been sharing outdoor ovens for centuries. Cooking outdoors can be as simple as a few countertops next to the gas grill, or a state-of-the-art kitchen with shelter from the elements
. With predictions for poor harvests because of drought and the increasing cost of food, the trend continues for home kitchen gardens and the satisfaction of ensuring the family has organic fresh, nutritious and chemical-free food. Jane Griffith’s book Jane’s Delicious Urban Gardening has ideas and practical information on growing a productive organic food garden in the city.
Gardeners are increasingly aware that changing weather patterns and drought conditions have made it imperative to reduce the use of water. Responsible homeowners are installing tanks to collect rainwater and investing in a grey-water system where household water is re-used in the garden. Grey water comes from baths, showers and hand basins, as well as washing machines that use biodegradable soap. Dishwater is not suitable as it contains grease and fats.
How to save water in your gardens
* Choose plants indigenous to your region or drought-resistant plants from other countries.
* If you have vast areas of lawn, consider replacing sections with hard landscaping to create a “no water zone” in your garden.
* Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil. Choose a living mulch like ground cover or organic mulches like bark chips, nut shells or compost.
* Feed your soil and improve its water holding capacity by digging in plenty of compost.
* Limit the number of thirsty plants you have in your garden. Plant them near the patio so they can be watered regularly.
Kay Montgomery, Independent HOME