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Kew experts predict horticulture trends for 2024

‘2022 was one of the warmest, driest years on record, and this shows that there’s a pressing need to consider how the UK landscape could change over the next 50 years. Part of this involves choosing plants that may be better adapted to warmer and drier climate zones, such as plants found in regions of the world with Mediterranean climates. These include choices such as Kniphofia (red hot pokers), Verbena hastata (blue vervain) and Nepeta (catmint). In 2023, the Great Broad Walk Borders at Kew Gardens were extended beyond their 320 metres, adding a selection of drought-tolerant plants’ – Richard Barley, Director of Gardens at RBG Kew.

Peat-free plants
‘Peatlands are the largest natural carbon store in the world, and we share concerns around the impact of peat extraction on our natural environment. We are working hard with suppliers to replace peat-grown with peat-free plants for sale in our shop and aim, with confidence, to say that the plants we sell will be peat-free by 2025. In 2023 we trialled a range of English grown peat-free herbs and plants. As one of our best-selling ranges of the year, this was a huge success, so we anticipate seeing more of these on the shelves in the coming year’ – Hannah Oxley, Head of Retail and Ecommerce at RBG Kew

Plant more trees in urban areas
‘The summer of 2022 was a turning point, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees combined with a severe drought starting to leave a mark on the landscape at Kew Gardens. Urban trees have the power to cool down cities during heatwaves, but not only that, they also filter air pollution, prevent floods and improve mental health, among other benefits. We therefore expect to see an increase in trees being planted in urban areas, but urge people to research the best species for their gardens as well as the necessary care required before doing so.’ – Kevin Martin, Head of Tree Collections at Kew Gardens.

Public growth in awareness of biosecurity
‘As global trade in plants has grown, so has the threat from new pests hitching a ride on their hosts, and climate change is exacerbating this threat as the viable range of novel pest species has increased. Everybody can play a part in protecting our plants and trees from the threat of pests and diseases, and we expect people to become more aware of the need for vigilance when purchasing new plants from reputable suppliers in the coming year. A collaborative effort is more important than ever before as we face unprecedented challenges in the context of a changing climate’. – Simon Toomer, Curator of Living Collections.

Integration of Winter Garden plants
‘Plants chosen for their display of flowers, seed heads, and bark provide year-round interest, and we anticipate a move towards these winter garden plants. Paired with varied layers of planting, shrubs such as fiery red Westonbirt dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’) and bright yellow flowers of mahonias (Mahonia x media), alongside textured silvery trunks of Himalayan birch trees (Betula utilis subsp. Jacquemontii), provide an extraordinary array of colours, scents and textures throughout the colder months, as can be seen in Kew’s new Winter Garden’ – Richard Barley, Director of Gardens at RBG Kew.

Grow your own mushrooms
‘Mushrooms are having a moment, and we’ve seen a huge amount of interest from visitors since we installed our new mushroom beds in Kew’s kitchen garden in 2022. It is a great opportunity to grow food in what is typically an unused space - the shade below a tree or even a shed. For those without a garden, mushrooms can be grown very easily indoors, and as pre-innoculated kits are easy to grow, it is a successful crops for those who don’t yet have green fingers. It is also relatively hard to find a wide variety of mushrooms in the shops, whereas growing your own opens up a world of choice. Awareness is also growing around the potential risks that foraging from the wild can pose to fragile ecosystems, and growing your own can help reverse this trend’ – Helena Dove, Botanical Horticulturist at Kew Gardens

Growing future foods
‘Alongside heritage varieties, Edible Science: Kew’s Kitchen Garden is experimenting with climate-proof crops and new systems of planting. In 2022, the redesigned Kitchen Garden experimented with growing a variety of ‘future foods’, including legumes, oca, mashua, tomatillos, other alternative roots and leaves. Each of these are available commercially (though it’s essential that you source with care, only purchasing from reputable buyers), and early results are promising. They indicate people could look to grow new cultivars in their own vegetable patches that may be more resistant to common pests and diseases such as blight.

This knowledge will be important for the future of growing food in the UK as a changing climate is changing what we can grow, and how we grow it. To become resilient, we have to change what we grow’ – Joe Richomme, Botanical Horticulturist at Kew Gardens.


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