As we head towards 2024, the unpredictable effects of climate change have taken centre stage and garden resilience is the watchword for the year ahead.
Drought in 2022, followed by extreme winter cold damage and a warm wet summer in 2023 has been a game-changer for many gardeners. Just as we’d begun to plant drought-tolerant plants our contrary climate inundated us with torrential rain and for many gardeners, focusing on garden resilience and improving plant health will come to the fore in 2024.
In 2024 our 30 million gardeners across the UK can look forward to indoor spaces bursting with houseplants; the continued appetite to prioritise planet-friendly gardening techniques over formality and produce yield, and a growing movement of gardeners taking action to green our grey urban areas for personal wellbeing and to help the planet.
The predictions are based on horticultural trends and gardener enquiries to the RHS team of gardening advisors and pathology, entomology and botany experts, which this year saw the highest number of enquiries the RHS has ever received – 115,000 questions.
The RHS’ 2024 Gardening Predictions:
Greening Grey Spaces – A new generation of gardeners emerged during the pandemic and continue to garden in the most challenging of circumstances – the small urban space, balcony or even without a garden! These urban areas are more grey than green – but urban gardeners are beating the odds and growing successfully in pots, growing up instead of out and using innovative ways of colonising indoor space, including terrariums.
With a desire to play a part in helping urban biodiversity and combatting climate change these urban and indoor gardeners are inspiring other urbanites to create a gardening movement that helps urban green spaces to flourish.
Clare Matterson, Director General of the RHS, said: “I’m excited to see a growing interest in gardening in urban areas. My first ever garden was at a small flat in Brixton, London. Through this tiny space I was able to get my hands in the soil, connect with the seasons, and enjoy growing both flowers and vegetables. At the RHS we want to open up gardening for everyone, anywhere.”
Grow Your Own – the RHS Gardening Advice service and website continues to see remarkable growth in ‘grow your own’. Enquiries are less about yield and more about helping the environment and understanding how fruit and vegetables are cared for.
The most popular vegetables are tomatoes (technically fruit) followed by cucumbers, courgettes, chillies and runner beans. Gardeners have turned away from intensive cultivation, fertilisers and watering on a lavish scale and are happy to accept modest yields but benefit from knowing they are tending their plots in a more sustainable way.
Purple power – the health benefits of vegetables with a natural purple hue have attracted more and more attention, but now breeders have begun introducing purple varieties that are easier to grow than traditional ones and avoid previous drawbacks, such as non-fruiting and limited ‘purpleness’, especially after cooking.
Gardeners and chefs can anticipate purple carrots, cauliflowers, broccoli, tomatoes, peas, radish, French beans and lettuces.
Climate change fruits – recent hot dry summers are ideal for certain fruits, grape vines being an outstanding example – but others include figs, almonds, apricots, melons, peaches/nectarines and watermelons.
Of course climate change is highly unpredictable and can also be damaging – including to existing fruits that need winter chilling such as blackcurrants, apples and pears so following this trend should be treated cautiously.
Apples, plums, figs, pears and raspberries are the most popular fruit – with apples topping the list and an increase in popularity predicted for 2024. Choosing the right apple for your garden and ‘to taste’ is made easier by recommended RHS AGM apple trees – that have been tested for growth and performance by RHS experts.
The recent surge in patio fruit varieties with dwarf raspberries, blackberries and mulberries will see an increase in patio fruit that will provide gardeners with fresh flavours on their doorstep.
Local seed provenances and survivalist gardens – after the temporary hiccup to the vegetable supply chain last spring, some gardeners now favour growing with more independence, including where they source their seeds. Localism is playing a stronger role with some gardening gurus promoting the benefits of seed strains adapted to local climates.
Going wild – seeds that produce flowers that are less formal, from a milder colour pallet including flowering non-native meadows continue to be very popular. The use of wildflower seeds is moving away from a designated wildflower patch/meadow and into the borders – examples include alexanders, meadowsweet and welsh poppies.
Even plants traditionally seen as ‘unwanted weeds’ such as herb robert and plantain are becoming popular. Cow parsley is now a desirable border plant and dandelions are recognised as being key to providing food for bees early in springtime.
Gardening with nature – the move away from classical, formal layouts towards naturalistic landscapes will continue to grow, with gardens making people feel that they are in a wild place and providing benefits to well-being, wildlife and ease of maintenance.
Planet-friendly gardening – gardeners will be increasingly in tune with nature – enquiries to the RHS about wildlife gardening increased by over 28 per cent in 2023. Whether to let the grass grow long and allow wildflowers to have their moment in the sun is a far more popular question than getting great lawn stripes!
The shift reflects an interest in supporting birds, pollinating insects, invertebrates and the wildlife that depend on them, by growing plants that offer food and shelter all year round.
Joined by making bug hotels, sourcing pollinator-friendly plants, leaving dead timber and introducing water features, even small ones, to benefit wildlife.
Using less water overall, creating more plant diversity, choosing ethically and locally sourced materials represents a definite shift in day-to-day gardening techniques. Gardeners are looking at both water saving techniques, including mulch to retain moisture, creating raised beds alongside collecting and storing rainwater.
The harvesting of peat for gardening has a devastating impact on peatlands, their unique wildlife and their ability to act as carbon sinks to protect our planet. In 2024 as the peat ban for amateur gardeners comes into force people will be making the most of home composting opportunities and sourcing sustainable alternatives.
Houseplants reach the next level – with hanging houseplants taking centre stage. Houseplanteers want to fill every corner of their homes, with tropical-looking plants and orchids bringing a ‘jungle vibe’ to their spaces – and growing up instead of out. Favourites will include Epipremnum, Sedum morganianum, and old favourites such as string of hearts and spider plants.
Busy lifestyles are no barrier to gardening with succulents and cacti providing easy options for indoor use. Creating a Mediterranean look by growing citrus is increasingly popular with enquiries to the RHS increasing by 22 per cent. Although suited to indoor and conservatory growing – citrus can often enjoy a summer holiday outdoors in the garden as temperatures allow. If you’re looking for houseplant inspiration and innovation next year visit the first RHS Urban Show in Manchester, 18-21 April 2024.
Succulents – driven by houseplants and sourcing drought-resistant bedding, interest in succulents is growing with commercial landscapers introducing the hardier ones into landscapes. With new cultivars being released; Aeonium, Cotyledon, Crassula – succulents may well be a requirement in 2024.
For more information about the RHS and gardening inspiration visit: www.rhs.org.uk