Garden Design Trends 2013

Once again, Cleve West's Best in Show Chelsea garden shows what themes will dominate design in 2013
Oooh, goody!  The 2013 Garden Trends report is out at Grounded Design.  Another post where I stare into my glass ball and pretend to be an expert prognosticator.  Trend predicting is, of course, utterly obnoxious. But I love trying to articulate the zeitgeist without any real accountability (everyone forgets the trends one week later).  With that confident assertion, here are my predictions for 2013:

1. The New Romanticism, Simplified

Yes, I know this was last year’s theme for my trends, but the the romantic mood that has swept over garden design will persist in 2013. As Western states teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, and we increasingly experience the world through our smartphones, people will turn to their gardens for a spiritually authentic, but emotionally-soothing experience.  We crave something real from our gardens, but not too edgy.  This year’s romanticism will be simpler and less fussy than previous romantic periods in history.   Historic revivalism (a la Downton Abbey ) will continue to influence designers, particularly Victorian gardens (check out Cleve West’s Best in Show Chelsea Garden last year for an example), but these styles will manifest themselves in simpler, sleeker ways.  The elegance of the past gardens is stimulating, yet comforting.  Other romantic trends such as exoticism, a renewed interest in the emotional experiences of gardens, and the glorification of wildness will be big themes in designs this year.

2. Nostalgic for Nature

Nigel Dunnet's Olympic meadows were a game changer for planting design
Nature has always inspired garden design (see my recent post on "nostalgia"), but gardens in 2013 will express a particular longing for certain iconic naturalistic scenes: meadows, prairies, forests, and wetlands. The meadows at last summer’s London Olympics are an excellent example of the kind of stylized natural scenes that will trickle into gardens and landscapes this year.

3. Interplanted Everything

Even a strikingly clean, modern garden like Thomas Hoblyn's Arthritis Research Garden shows how highly-mixed schemes are in.

Massing is out.  Highly interplanted, mixed schemes are in. It’s not just Oudolf anymore.  Designers across the world are using richly woven tapestries of plants to express an ecological aesthetic.  Michael King’s “perennial meadows,” are a great example of the kind of highly-designed, intricate palettes that will be popular this year. 

4. Community Gardens

Sarah Price's Daily Telegraph Garden is inspired by wild plant communities in North Wales
No, I’m not talking about the allotment-kind of community garden. I’m referring to designs inspired by wild plant communities.   Designers looking to add a bit of ecological aesthetic to give their designs context and credibility will use wild plant communities as inspiration for their palettes. Take Sarah Price’s gold medal Daily Telegraph Garden. Her entire garden was inspired by the upland streams and rills of North Wales and Dartmoor.  Her meadow flowers feature intense splashes of color using tiny, lacy flowers found in rural England—showing that even a small garden can have the breezy spontaneity of a larger, wild landscape.

5. Sustainable Aesthetic

Sustainability has moved mainstream.  Unlike ten years ago when there were only three rain barrels on the market and the Prius was the only hybrid worth driving, today consumers have choices when it comes to being green.  This is particularly true when it comes to landscape architecture and garden design.  It’s no longer enough to do functionally sustainable landscapes, but they must be beautiful as well.  Sustainable gardens will no longer look wild, but will also blend into contemporary and traditional garden styles.  

6. Nursery Trends: High Value Acquisitions

While the lethargic economy will continue to affect nursery demand, people will continue to buy plants, even expensive plants.  Garden consumers want value, not just cheap.  Sales of rare specimens, heirloom plants, sculptural shrubs, and unusual multi-stem trees will increase this year even as the general demand for more generic specimens will be sluggish.  Nurseries that cut back selection due to hard economic times may miss out on an emerging niche market.  

7. Lower Maintenance Everything  

Ugh, here’s a trend I’m not particularly excited about. While interest in homegrown gardening (edibles, chickens, less lawn) will continue to go mainstream (particularly in “blue” states), people will increasingly look for lower maintenance strategies for gardening.  This is particularly true for public gardens and landscapes.  As governments and municipalities slash budgets, each agency must stretch their limited staff by cutting maintenance.  Even though public investment in horticulture will continue to hover at an all-time low, designers who can respond by creating beautiful landscapes that thrive on less input will be the winners in this economy.  
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