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Gardens at the cutting edge

The news seems full of how we’re all turning our hand to growing our own vegetables and fruit again. Gardening has come back into fashion as we strive for some balance in our lives – and our diet – but talking to the professionals you’ll find that there’s much more happening in garden design and horticulture than a glut of apples and leeks. What is really happening in the world of garden design and gardens and what can we expect in the future?

For a number of years now we have seen a growth in the idea of slow sanctuaries – gardens that are often about nature, and wildlife but most importantly about slowing down. We’re retreating away from the outside world, it’s economic pressures and challenging society. The feeling is mirrored by the slow food movement and essential to this has been people reconnecting with their food and growing their own produce.

The concept of health and home is increasingly important where grow your own and has seen a phenomenal revival over the past three years with seed sales rocketting and allottment waiting lists growing. There are even private firms buying up land to rent out as allotments and schemes to share gardens with people who don’t have their own outdoor space but want to garden.

And with flexible working we’re working from home more than ever so garden workspaces have become the simple option to find extra room in a healthy environment and enjoy a short walk to the office each day. Which also leads to having smaller spaces and we’re really gardening in ever smaller spaces these days. Have you noticed how many people are developing their front gardens? Already in my road there is an increasing interest in making the most of our front gardens for growing food.

We’re also seeing the rise of gardens that are all about entertainment and sociable spaces that include outdoor kitchens, showers, swimming pools and outdoor gyms. Outdoor kitchens are a hot new fashion statement and swimming pools are back in vogue as the summer extends and seasons become less obvious.

And of course we are increasingly interested in the environment. Environmental awareness is the norm and the buzzword is sustainability. It can mean anything from wildlife areas, recycling materials, solar power to waterwise planting. But the most significant trend we are seeing is in sourcing and low energy. We want to be greener but in the future we want responsible sourcing of what goes into our gardens. Local sourcing is becoming increasingly important with local plant varieties and an emphasis on British grown plants as well as using local designers, local not imported materials and local contractors to cut down on work miles travelled.

And in the future? Well, with extreme climate change will come a lack of adequate productive land, increased global disease caused by carbon emissions and pollution, which may change our attitude to genetically modified plants and certainly the way we garden. What many fail to see is that global warming in the UK has also produced more rainfall, so maybe Mediterranean dry planting isn’t the ideal option? And the technology to produce small scale energy requirements and computer controlled environments is just taking off for our personal outdoor spaces.

There may be some gloom to all of this but ultimately the changes we are seeing are improving our health and home. There are lots of new developments that will give us back some independence in food supplies and create a greater sense of community. All this and great designed products and gardens.