Your garden in January

PUBLISHED: 12:06 21 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:27 20 February 2013

Your garden in January

Your garden in January

What will be hot in gardening this year? Kent gardening gurus share their thoughts for 2010

Your garden in January

Inside and outside the home, we personalise our living spaces through influences of taste and style, but the economic, social and ecological conditions also impact on our decisions.

With the recession has come a desire for many to create a cosy oasis, both to renew the spirit and to add value to their homes. Home-oriented trends are set to continue, displaying an emphasis on comfort with thrift, underpinned by the hope of things recovering this year.

Roger Platts is both a garden designer and nursery owner, making him well placed to see the emerging and continuing trends. His vast experience and knowledge of plants, displayed by his comprehensive collection of plants at his Edenbridge nursery, has resulted in many awards, including a Silver-Gilt for his floral exhibit, A Plantsmans Palette, at last years Chelsea Flower Show.

He is known for a naturalistic style that combines generous planting with traditional concepts to create classic English country gardens. Roger also identifies that these difficult financial times tend to increase activity in gardening, though on a tighter budget.

A major trend that will continue is the desire to grow your own, whether at an allotment, in a designated area of the garden, mixed with flowers in beds, or in containers. The inclusion of a kitchen garden is a popular request when designing new gardens, adds Roger.

Low-maintenance gardening and all-year-round interest continue to be factors in peoples decisions. I am always keen to point out that low maintenance shouldnt be boring and minimalist with heavy bark mulch!

Indeed, I encourage dense planting and drifts of perennials, the more the better for good effect and low maintenance. A frequent problem is that the garden can become rather dull by the end of July and through August as the early summer roses and perennials finish and before the early autumn flowers appear.

There are many late-summer flowers available and we are using them increasingly, such as helenium, geum and kniphofia to provide colour through August and September. This is probably why brighter colours, such as red and yellow, are showing an increase in popularity, Roger explains.

Adapting to climate change is another consideration. The trend for drought-tolerant plants seems to be slowing as gardeners discover that while climate change is a very real problem, the habitat in Britain will not become the same as the south of France overnight and we should be aware of wet, cold winters which can wipe out semi hardy drought-tolerant plants as they have been in the past.

However, the result of many new plants being introduced in recent years is the discovery that a few will stand more severe weather conditions than we expected. I have, for example, seen more gaura grown as a perennial in the last few years and this is becoming very popular due, no doubt, to the long flowering period, says Roger.

Garden designer and owner of Madrona Nursery in Bethersden, Ylva Blid-Mackenzie, offers further insights. One trend that I clearly see is careful choices of a few, key changes to the garden, instead of wholesale makeovers. Also the tendency to invest in the garden, instead of moving house, she comments.

Sustainability, one of the key words at Chelsea last year and in many gardeners minds, is also identified by Ylva. This will continue to translate into rainwater harvesting, mulching your plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds, knowing the source of materials used in the garden, supporting wildlife and choosing hard-working, reliable plants. Also the wish to grow some food yourself and to keep chickens, adds Ylva.

Ylva feels tradition will make a comeback, both in materials and plants. More brick and chestnut pergolas, less stainless steel and polished granite, and many more roses, delphiniums, iris, pinks, lavender and wallflowers, she comments.

Both from an ecological and a labour-saving standpoint, as we try to minimise soil disturbance and weeding, Ylva sees a growing importance in groundcovers, such as heuchera, pulmonaria, vinca, geraniums and creeping campanula. Also to cover walls, an increase in the use of climbers and wall shrubs.

Award-winning garden designer, Sarah Morgan, sums up the direction gardening is taking. It is a responsibility, I believe, for horticultural professionals to steer the trends in garden design based on our knowledge of limited world resources and climate change. A sensitive design can incorporate most of the clients wishes with an educated approach to the implementation of the garden. There is definitely a desire among clients to get more involved with growing their own fruit and vegetables.

I have designed more gardens with vegetable plots incorporated recently and also a few gardens that are solely based on a traditional formal potager. None of this has to compromise the aesthetic quality of the garden if designed confidently; indeed it can heighten the clients awareness of the growing cycle of plants, their cultivation requirements, and regular contact with the plants.

This has a positive spin-off to the rest of the garden as the skills extend to ornamental shrubs and perennials. The fundamentals of sympathetic soil cultivation, composting, water conservation, and good husbandry to help the control of pests and diseases, are back as essential and fashionable topics, comments Sarah.

It seems clear that 2010 will be a year of eco-chic, not frivolous but considered, to give a timeless, authentic feel to a garden with year-round interest and good long term value.

Get in touch

Roger Platts Garden design and Nurseries

Stick Hill, Edenbridge

Design office open Monday Friday

Nurseries by appointment 01732 863318

Garden open selected days with the National Gardens Scheme

Ylva Blid-Mackenzie Garden Design and Madrona Nursery, Bethersden

Nursery open March to October and by appointment in winter, tel symbol 01233 820100

January in the garden

Plant of the month


Lily-of-the-valley bush

  • evergreen shrub

  • honey-scented, yellow winter flowers

  • large spiky leaves

  • purple-black berries


  • hardy

  • easy to grow

  • full sun to part shade

  • well-drained, fertile, light soil

  • architectural impact at the back of a border

  • prune lightly after flowering

  • cuttings from late summer to autumn

Ornamental tasks

  • January is the time to plan additions to your garden

  • lift and divide snowdrops

  • cut the leaves back on hellebores so you can admire the winter flowers

  • last chance to sow seeds that need frost to germinate

  • sweet peas can be sown

To taste

  • dig over bare beds if weather allows

  • plan your crops and purchase seeds

  • rotate crops to prevent disease

  • if soil shallow, build some raised beds

  • seed potatoes can be chitted

Something extra

Good time to put up a bird box and look forward to watching some birds raise their families in your garden. You can make or buy one. Most are simple designs with a hole at the front of varying size, depending on the type of bird you want to attract. For example small holes, around 25mm across, suit blue, marsh and coal tits. Ensure box is dry and has small drainage holes at the bottom. Site in a sheltered position, above ground for safety and near some smaller branches to support the fledglings. Clean box in autumn.

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