Exploring 2021 garden design trends

For many of us, planning ahead isn’t as simple as it used to be, and even the garden design world has been impacted by the pandemic. However, planning your 2021 garden doesn’t have to be stressful. We look at what 2021 might have in store for your outdoor spaces…

The upcoming festive season is going to be considerably different this year, and there’s no doubt about it – we’re going to have a lot of spare time to fill over the Christmas break without the usual social events and dinner parties. While many of us might be feeling disappointed, we can still find joy in the simple things; like sending loved one’s hand-written cards, arranging Christmas flower bouquets, or baking in the kitchen.

It could also be an excellent time to start making plans for the garden. Winter is the best time to redesign your garden while all the plants are dormant and allows you plenty of time to make arrangements if you’re looking to change the hard landscaping. This year, we’ve all learnt how to stop, pause, and observe our gardens and outdoor spaces in new ways. During the lockdowns, we’ve used our gardens as a welcome retreat from the long days stuck inside.

Working from home took on a whole new meaning, and we learnt to appreciate the mindfulness benefits that come from feeling connected to nature. As a result, the pandemic created some unexpected garden trends in 2020. For example, in the first few months of lockdown, there was a considerable demand for grow-you-own fruit and vegetables, which is showing no sign of slowing so far.

When it comes to gardens, ‘trends’ are not that simple

The concept of garden design trends is an interesting one, and it’s not always easy to make predictions as there are so many factors that influence the landscape and horticulture industry. A good designer should focus on how suitable a plant is for a specific environment, so therefore a garden’s design is usually an evolving process. The designer will base everything on what new plants are on the market, what style the client wants, the soil conditions, budgets, and maintenance requirements. If a ‘latest trend’ is religiously adhered to, it’s likely that the other considerations are being compromised somehow.

When a new trend emerges, it takes time for the growers and the nurseries to catch up and cater to the new demand. Plant growers and breeders are always introducing new plants into the market. Yet garden designers will usually have their go-to palettes, or a ‘toolbox’ of plants that they know, trust, and use regularly. When nurseries introduce new plants to the market, it can take time for them to take off as garden designers need to know and understand these new plants. Specifying unknown plants can be a risk, as the success of their project is entirely reliant on the designer’s knowledge of plants and where to use them. 

Image credit – West Country Nurseries

Good nurseries will understand this and like to sell variants of well-known and well-loved plants. For example, a designer who extensively uses Genus Buxus might want to start using Ilex Crenata. New varieties of plants might bring new colours or shapes to the market. Still, breeders will have also endeavoured to enhance specific, attractive qualities such as disease resistance and drought tolerance.

In the UK, our climate is changing, and garden designers must consider our new weather conditions. We’re consistently having scorching hot summers and wet winters, so designers need to be specifying plants that are drought-tolerant and can survive waterlogging in the winter months. It’s a tricky balance to get right, and it’s a topic that the industry is still deliberating over. 

Cancelled RHS flower shows have had an impact

Typically, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show tends to mark new trends for the year ahead. Garden designers understand that they can’t replicate a Chelsea show garden in a real, domestic setting, but the event does still set trends to a certain extent. Homeowners will spot trends at the show, love them, and ask their garden designer to recreate them. 

What most people don’t realise is that the designers who are creating a show garden will always have to take the season and the weather conditions into account. For example, the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show is in June, which many considered to be a very transitional month when it comes to plants. Designers who are competing at the show will have to stick to a specific range of plants to achieve the best results, and the weather conditions will also impact this at the time. 

The pandemic forced the RHS to cancel their flower shows this year, and interestingly, trends have appeared more organically. Homeowners have been more interested in plants that offer year-round seasonal interest, rather than just opting for the plants that look their best at the time of the shows.

What are the predicted trends for 2021?

Trends are tricky, and it’s easy to see why garden designers might steer clear from them. For this reason, experts agree that it’s not overly clear what the 2021 garden trends are likely to be. Therefore, it may well be worth sticking to the more consistent, longer-lasting, timeless looks. Wild, natural gardens that encourage wildlife are proving to be a popular choice, time and again. 

RHS Hyde Hall Garden in Autumn – Image Credit – The RHS

Homeowners want to get more out of their gardens, with lower maintenance requirements. Instead of choosing neatly manicured borders and brightly coloured planting schemes, consider long, natural grasses, pollinator-friendly plants and herbaceous perennials which can be left to root in and take their own, natural form. Dan Pearson’s work is an excellent example of this style, and last year he was awarded the 2019 Garden Designer of the Year award by House and Garden (which was proudly sponsored by Westbury Garden Rooms.)

When it comes to natural stone and hard landscaping, trends can take even longer to evolve, mainly as so much of it is imported from faraway places like India and Asia. An experienced garden designer will know that there’s nothing worse than specifying a new stone material that looks wonderful, but few contractors will touch it when construction starts. Just like plants, it’s about sticking to materials that are tried and tested, and well known. 

There is, however, a rise in demand for lighter colours such as pale grey or sandy beige, but if you’re looking at those long-term, timeless trends, then sustainability seems to be at the top of people’s list. There’s a reduction in demand for imported granite, and British stones are becoming more popular, such as Yorkstone and Caithness Slate. Timber is also starting to have a resurgence, as products such as Accoya are proving to be long-lasting and durable in outdoor conditions.

Image credit – Chris Beardshaw

To the furthest extent possible, we use redwood and Accoya for the construction of our garden rooms. By choosing these as our primary timber, we decrease our waste by approximately 35%. If you would like to know more about the materials we use and to see further examples of our projects, you can download our brochure here.