The Trends Ahead

January 21, 2014

They say that anyone with open eyes can see the future, but in the plants industry it probably helps to have years of experience under your belt as well – better still if you’ve opportunities to take those experienced, all-seeing, eyes across several world markets as Anthony Tesselaar does each year. What follows is Anthony’s take on the trends we can expect to be major influences in 2014.


1. Small can only get bigger: and by this I mean that our outdoor spaces will become even smaller as town planners deal with parcelling out urban real estate to an increasing number of people.

window boxes

Where space is tight be smart: wedge in some window boxes like this generous one at Villandry.

Regardless of the amount of outdoor space most people will enjoy in future – conceivably this will range from courtyards to balconies to kitchen windowsills – the enjoyment and satisfaction from living plants being around us will persist. (I believe this is core to human happiness.) In the meantime the industry should do its best to cater for this demand – compact trees and plants, drought tolerant species for wind-blown balconies, epiphytes for the bathroom and glorious window boxes to mark the changing seasons.


small gardens

When there’s only space for one small tree let it be something like this diminutive magnolia (Black Tulip™).



2. Landscaping is buoyant: everyone is noticing the upturn from the slump. As people begins to feel more confident of the future, they’re naturally drawn to making more of the garden, especially as money and effort spent on landscaping is a safe investment. For many, down-the-sink travel expenditure is being channeled into both soft and hard landscaping. It’s a broad market with the do-it-yourselfers at one end and those contracting the professionals at the other. Regardless of how indirectly-dirty people’s hands are getting, the interest and demand for plants is high.



3. Plants as food: this is an interesting one as the stats show that the ever increasing sales in herbs, vegetables and fruit trees isn’t linked with a corresponding level of self-sufficiency. But I don’t think that’s what is about. I believe growing your own is driven more by the notion of taking control over the food you put in your mouth and – more importantly – the mouth of your child. And how much people are actually harvesting is irrelevant because any success, however small – is incredibly rewarding. The market for this is a broad one, from books on how to, to window-sill pots to fill with herbs, to the herbs themselves, seedlings generally and all the gear – tools, plant labels, trugs, cloches. At the top end there’s money being spent on serious potager-inspired hard landscaping.

kitchen garden

One approach to growing your own – a top end potager (Auckland Botanic Gardens, NZ)


vegetable garden kit

Another approach to growing your own – cheap-as-chips veggie patch (a kit on display at a garden centre, below).


4. Look to our children: this is a natural follow-on from food plants. Growing appealing fruits and vegetables – strawberries win over radishes any day – helps children to learn about basic natural systems. It’s fun and has become a mainstream part of the early years curriculum in many countries around the world. Encourage children into the world of plants by catering to their scale with diminutive tools, and imagination, with toy fauna tucked into the foliage. A word of caution: I’d be wary of patronizing, dumbed-down or overly cute products.



Children seem to find gardens fascinating right from the beginning. Feed their interest with a ladybug on a potted plant or something more ambitious like these child-sized wheelbarrows (below) which are part of an interactive treasure-hunt at Terra Botanica.




5. Bold color: it’s kicking in. Front doors are starting to jump out in hot pink and lipstick red and the pots are following suit. Bold color is ebullient and it makes everything look great – indoors or out. The trade fairs have been full of them, filled with wonderfully creative plantings. Some top off the pot color with more color in flowers and foliage. Others restrain the planting to just greenery and let the pot make the statement. Whatever your approach, it’s a winner as it makes for brilliant merchandising – it’s as simple as rainbows of stacked pots. Adding in some white is, as always, the master stroke.


(Below) Red & green at Essen 2013 Horticulture  Show (Germany), or blue taken at The Gardens at Appeltern in Holland…. proof that bold container colors are good looking and that they display brilliantly whether they’re full or empty.


potted red


potted lime


potted blue


6. Keep it easy: it’s obvious and hardly needs saying, but one thing that is holding its own is the skill and expertise of most gardeners: the majority are enthusiastic novices who are keen to learn. It’s in everyone’s interests to help them enjoy success and avoid disappointment and the best way to do that is to offer them good advice and easy care, quality plants. Keep this in mind and the number of people who love being in the garden can only keep growing.



Anthony Tesselaar


Anthony Tesselaar heads an international project management company dealing in distinctive plants and horticultural research and development



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