Seaweed compost, bean manure, and xeriscaping

Seaweed compost supplements and ‘manure’ made of beans will be among the top garden trends of 2023, the Royal Horticultural Society has predicted.

As regenerative gardening becomes fashionable, more of us will be tending plants in a more eco-friendly way, protecting the soil rather than extracting from it.

People will also be learning to attract creatures previously maligned as pests into their garden for the unexpected benefits they can bring. 

The RHS said its garden advice service is receiving more inquiries about encouraging a greater abundance of wildlife to their gardens to fend off more troublesome species. These include wasps that predate on caterpillars, slugs that can help recycle decaying material, and aphids that provide food for ladybirds, and lacewing and hoverfly larvae.

Dr Mark Gush, head of environmental horticulture at the RHS, said: “Regenerative gardening is all about improving the environmental conditions so that biodiversity can flourish. At our gardens we apply a no-dig technique, use cover crops and apply a mulch so that soil — fundamental to growing — is nurtured and protected; releasing nutrients throughout the year, minimising evaporation and and regulating temperature.”

Japanese-style lit gravel walkway
Japanese-style lit gravel walkway

Home composting has long been popular for many gardeners and those who have wanted to move towards having a zero-waste household. But the practice is likely to become even more popular along with other ways of protecting the soil.

Matthew Pottage, the curator at one of the charity’s gardens in Surrey, said: “It’s been a revelation at RHS Garden Wisley that it’s all about the soil. We have moved away from digging across the garden and also allow leaves to sit on beds. 

“We now have a deeper understanding of soil ecosystem and the benefits this has to plants. Since we opened the world food garden using regenerative gardening, it has been a huge success, needing less weeding, with better soil health, and better plants, as well as better moisture retention. Following these really positive results, we’re moving to the same system in our orchard.”

Last summer’s hot weather and drought made gardeners more aware of the need to protect their plants from prolonged dry weather. Gush said: “Allowing some areas of lawn to grow taller, and diversifying the plant species therein, not only encourages biodiversity, but also encourages deeper rooting, thereby making lawns more resilient to periods of drought because of access to deeper soil water reserves during dry weather.”

Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’: choisya could be swapped in for hydrangea which needs more water than a lot of other garden plants
Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’: choisya could be swapped in for hydrangea which needs more water than a lot of other garden plants

Other ways the RHS has predicted gardeners will future-proof their spaces for extreme climate include gravel gardens and ‘xeriscaping’ — gardens designed to minimise future watering. 

There are a few plant swaps that gardeners can make to retain the same feel, including using choisya instead of hydrangeas and phygelius in place of fuchsia.

Gardeners are also planning to flood-proof their properties, and with the cost of hard landscaping soaring, the RHS forecasts gardeners will turn to plants to add structure to their patch. 

Green walls, hedges and swimming ponds are all expected to increase in popularity. Searches for myrtle on the RHS website were up by more than 500% in the autumn, and the fragrant evergreen shrub would be well suited to Mediterranean borders, hedges and screens.

Guy Barter, RHS chief horticulturist, said: “In 2022, the charity predicted the rise of red-fleshed apples, which this year benefited from extreme summer temperatures making them sweeter. Next year we expect gardeners to garden more than ever with nature and the environment in mind, a trend that has been swelling year on year and is set to become the main concern of Britain’s gardeners.”

Gardeners may look for ways of minimising future watering
Gardeners may look for ways of minimising future watering

Other trend predictions

  • Changing lawns: Gardeners will be saving time by giving up parts of their lawn to pollinators and other garden wildlife, letting borders grow long or looking into lawns that require less water and maintenance. This includes tapestry lawns made up of low-lying, intertwining flowering plants such as yarrow and selfheal, and mini wildflower meadows with native plants like yellow rattle and cornflower. Plants previously thought of as weeds, including dandelions, are also embraced for their ability to blend into their green surroundings. Many seed companies are focusing on drought-tolerant varieties for lawns, including tall fescue grass and microclovers, which mean these lawns stay green without watering even in very dry areas.
  • Gardening goes tech: Apps and social media are becoming even more important as gardeners share what’s happening on their patch, participate in courses and workshops digitally and are prompted into action to plan and plant using apps. Thisalso helps map plant health problems.
  • Thriving houseplants: As a warming climate causes us to dial down the central heating, houseplants will flourish. The heat and dry air of centrally heated homes is bad for most plants, so more unusual exotics such as cymbidium and dendrobium orchids and scented-leaf will perform better in a cooler home.