Over the last year, the unpredictable impacts of climate change have taken centre stage, making garden resilience the RHS’s watchword of the year. Drought in 2022, followed by extreme winter cold and a warm, wet summer in 2023, has irrevocably changed the way that we garden. Just as we’d begun to focus on drought-tolerant planting, torrential rain inundated our gardens last year.
In 2024, there will be a continued focus on planet-friendly gardening techniques, and a growing movement of gardeners aiming to make our urban spaces more green – both for personal wellbeing and to help the planet.
Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticulturist, stated: “Focusing on garden resilience and improving plant health will come to the fore in 2024.”
Greener Urban Spaces
The new generation of gardeners that emerged during the 2020 pandemic continue to make small urban spaces and balconies greener.
They are beating the odds and growing successfully in pots, growing up instead of out, and using innovative ways of planting indoors, including in terrariums.
With a country-wide desire to improve urban biodiversity and combat climate change, these urban indoor gardeners are creating a powerful gardening movement that will help urban green spaces to flourish.
Grow Your Own
More people are starting to grow their own fruits and vegetables in an attempt to garden more sustainably. The most popular include tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, chillies and runner beans. Gardeners have turned away from intensive cultivation, fertilisers and watering on a lavish scale, and are instead happy to accept modest yields, knowing that they are having a positive impact on the environment.
Following a delay in the vegetable supply chain last spring, some gardeners are also growing vegetables with more independence, considering where their seeds are coming from.
Localism is playing a stronger role, with gardeners promoting the benefits of seed strains adapted to local climates.
Seeds that produce less formal flowers, including flowering non-native meadows, continue to grow in popularity. The use of wildflower seeds is moving away from a designated patch or meadow, and into the borders.
Even plants traditionally seen as ‘unwanted weeds’ such as Herb Robert and plantain are becoming more popular.
For example, cow parsley is now a desirable border plant, and dandelions are recognised as being key to providing food for bees in early spring.
The move away from classical, formal layouts and towards naturalistic landscapes will continue to grow. Rewilding has been proven to benefit wellbeing and wildlife, as well as being a more low-maintenance gardening solution.
There has been a shift towards more planet-friendly gardening in the last year, reflecting an interest in supporting birds, pollinating insects, invertebrates and the wildlife that depend on them by growing plants that offer food and shelter all year round.
Using less water, creating more plant diversity, and choosing ethically and locally sourced materials represents a shift in our day-to-day gardening practices. Gardeners are using mulch to retain moisture, creating raised beds, and reassessing how they are collecting and storing rainwater.
In 2024, gardeners are likely going to be looking for a more sustainable alternative to peat.
Our use of peat in gardening has had a devastating impact on peatlands and their ability to act as a carbon sink to protect our planet.