For the inside track on new plants and trends in gardening, the RHS Malvern Spring Festival from 5 – 8 May is the place to be.
Many of the UK’s leading nurseries can be found in the spacious Floral Marquee and Plant Arcades, some of which will be showing off the latest additions to their ranges. Among the best known is Hampshire-based Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, where Rosy Hardy keeps a keen eye on what gardeners are buying.
Rosy says one of the strongest trends she sees is a move towards a more naturalistic planting style, with more emphasis on plants that offer colour, longevity and are more friendly towards pollinators and wildlife.
“Naturalistic planting was embodied by the Dutch Wave in the 1970s, where garden designers took inspiration from nature, considered the structure of plants, in particular their ability to provide interest all year around; accounted the natural character of plants such as grasses and planted with the gardens natural environment in mind,” explains Rosy, who has won multiple RHS gold medals for her displays.
“An excellent example of Dutch Wave design is the Oudolf Field Garden at Hauser + Wirth in Bruton, Somerset, designed by Piet Oudolf.”
When it comes to individual plants, Rosy believes simplicity is key with flowers such as calendula, also known as pot marigold, making a resurgence in our gardens this year. These flowers are easy to grow from seed, provide a warm shot of yellow or orange for a long period, and are not only attractive to gardeners but to a wide range of pollinating insects too.
“Since Medieval times, this plant has been grown for medicinal and culinary use,” says Rosy.
“Calendula has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. It’s a regular in wellbeing gardens, as the flower looks like a ray of sunshine, and this boosts moods.
“Calendula’s beneficial properties as a companion plant are well known among organic vegetable growers. Planting calendula alongside your vegetable patch will not only attract pollinators, but will attract other insects which support biological control of aphids and other nasties which will eat your crop. Much better to grow calendula alongside your carrots than treat them with a cocktail of toxic chemicals.”
Rosy, who has won over 24 gold medals across RHS Chelsea Flower Show and RHS Malvern Spring Show, hopes that the trend towards gardeners being “less tidy” will continue in 2022.
“If we leave plants to die back naturally, we can provide a range of natural habitats for beneficial insects,” she says. “Letting plants die back naturally, allowing them to collapse, protects the crown of the plants. And allowing plants to drop and decay, provides worms and beetles with debris to mulch into the soil, with nutrients being redistributed back benefitting the plant roots as nature intended.
“In addition, clearing garden debris in spring is much easier for the gardener – there’s a reason why it’s called a spring clean!”