Planting trends come and go in landscaping, just as they do in architecture, interior and clothing design.
A few years ago, it was passé to include both exotic and native plants mixed together in the same garden. But today, particularly with the desire for a productive garden, many gardeners and designers are including a combination of exotic and natives and recognising the benefits of both.
Another influence on planting trends is the overuse of particular plants. A plant can go out of style if it is used too much. In the early 00’s I worked in a retail plant nursery and I lost count of the number of times customers would ask for Iceberg Roses (Rosa floribunda ‘Iceberg’), English Box (Buxus sempervirens), Pittosporums (Pittosporum tenuifolium) or Diosmas (Coleonema pulchellum). These four seemed to be planted in every second garden and I developed a strong aversion to these four. Many Pittosporums have tendency to become weeds because the seeds are spread by birds and contact with Diosmas can causes an allergic reaction in those prone to allergies. Here are some alternatives I prefer:
- For a white rose I prefer Rosa floribunda ‘Margaret Merril’, which is highly perfumed, has good disease resistance and has a long flowering season.
- For a compact evergreen hedge consider Japanese Spindle Bush (Euonymous japonicus ‘Microphyllus’) or Indian Hawthorn (Raphiolepis indica ‘Oriental Pearl’) which are under one metre in height.
- For medium to large evergreen shrubs take a look at Escallonia (Escallonia iveyi), Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum chinense) with purplish leaves and dark pink flowers, Coastal Rosemary (Westringia fruticosa) with grey-green foliage, Dwarf Photinia (Photinia glabra ‘Rubens’) for a splash of red and Sasanqua Camellia (Camellia sasanqua) with dark green, glossy leaves and an assortment of flower colours to choose from.
A number of exotic plants that were once in fashion, have wound up on the ‘do not plant’ list in Victoria because of their tendency to become weeds. Agapanthus (Agapanthus praecox subsp. orientalis), Willows (Salix spp.), Sycamore Maples (Acer pseudoplatanus), Radiata Pines (Pinus radiata), Hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna), Prickly Pear (Opuntia spp.) and Pampus Grass (Cortaderia selloana) all appear on invasive plant lists in Victoria.
More recently, the revival of indoor plants, many of which were popular in the 1970’s and 80’s, has seen plants such as Mother in Law’s Tongue (Sanseviera trifasciata), Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum), Fiddle-leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata), Peace Lilies (Spathyphyllum spp.) and Angel’s Wings (Caladium spp.) (see photo above) reappear in nurseries.
There has also been a shift away from mass planted ornamental grasses and tufted plants such as Lomandra and Festuca towards more flowering perennials. This resurgence of flowering perennials is in part thanks in part to the ‘New Perennial Movement’. For perennial planting inspiration take a look at Piet Oudolf, Sarah Price, James Hitchmough, Petra Pelz or Dan Pearson’s work. The repetitious planting clusters and careful plant selection by these designers ensure the landscapes they design provide visual interest all year-round.
Style and taste are very personal and everyone views a garden differently. At the end of the day, the planting in your own back yard (and your front yard) should please you. Today with so many plants to choose from on the market, the options for shapes, colours, form and texture are endless. Don’t be bound by trends or those who say ‘you should’ or ‘you shouldn’t’, take a risk and give it a try. If the planting works, that’s great! If the planting doesn’t work, be ruthless and replace some of the plants that don’t work. Gardens are not static things, so change it up when it suits you and remember that trends come and go.