Trends and events in 2014: grow your own food — or go wild with flowers

Spruce up your garden or vegetable plot with this year's trends and events.
Many of us are turning over our borders and balconies to growing food crops, and Edible Cities (Permanent, £14.95) is the new pick'n'mix handbook for using small spaces, with ideas gleaned from around the world. Baskets of every description hang from a grid system on a balcony in Basel, lettuces grow within the rails around a restaurant in Tahiti so that diners can literally take their pick, and raised beds are made from old tyres in Detroit, the Motor City.

This year's meeting place for Londoners who grow their own will be at Secret Garden Sunday, kicking off on April 6 and then monthly until September. Think farmers' market meets plant nurseries and add in a flavoursome mix of cooking demos, craft workshops, live music and performance artists plus great local grub… all at the RHS, Westminster. See rhs.org.uk for details.

Foodie plot-to-platers should check out Thompson & Morgan's new seeds of edibles that include a weatherproof basil called Basil British, a gorgeous red-hearted lettuce named Intred and colourful beetroot in yellow, cerise, pink and white, called Rainbow Beet.

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Big and bold: join the begonia revival with scarlet Inferno and Rosebud Tutu
If you feel Chelsea Flower Show constantly features the same top-end designers who have already proved their worth, the refreshing news is that this year, five twentysomething talents are taking centre stage. Hugo Bugg, Sophie Walker, Matt Keightley and brothers Harry and David Rich are all producing key show gardens, with apprentices from Homebase's Garden Academy and RHS Wisley bringing up the rear.

The London garden is becoming less clean and crisp, more rough around the edges, reports Clifton Nurseries MD Matthew Wilson, who says the look draws on classical proportions, but with distressed furniture and archive-type pots. Key plants? "Evergreens that provide colour through the seasons are what our clients want and what London gardens demand."

Meanwhile fashion, like flowers, is seasonal, which is good enough reason to celebrate the strong link between both with a fizzing show at Lambeth's Garden Museum, from February 7 to April 27, that pulls together the great and the good of horticulture and couture. "This will be our most lustrous show yet," promises director Christopher Woodward of Fashion & Gardens. With exhibits that range from 16th-century textiles to Alexander McQueen's exquisite petalled dress, and with Vogue's most floriferous fashion shoots pinned to the walls, he could be right. "It's fascinating how the two intersect and give so much to one another. Gardens don't only appeal to people with muddy fingers. The penny drops when you become aware of how many fashion designers have amazing gardens."

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Frock gardens, left: fashion and flowers make a stunning new exhibition at Lambeth's Garden Museum (February 7 - April 27); flower mixology, right: Sarah Raven's new acid green and blue mojito collection
What flowers will be growing in our own gardens? Thompson & Morgan is threatening us with a Great Begonia Revival, which, after several years of dahlia fever, fuels our continuing passion for big, bold but not necessarily beautiful. Begin your begonia love affair with T&M's robust Rosebud Tutu or scarlet Inferno this summer.

Sales of wild flower seed mixes are on the up as urbanites aim to bring a touch of the country into their back yards. You can find the same glorious blend of golden annuals — and aquatic blues — that wowed us at the Olympic Park last summer at pictorialmeadowsonline.co.uk. You can get your cowslip fix by buying plug plants from Sarah Raven, who, at sarahraven.com, is selling flower collections to eliminate the guesswork from the perennial problem of what to put with what. Smart gardens will be growing Raven's acid green and blue mojito mix, or even planting her Vita's Purple Border to create a corner of Sissinghurst — proving that the classic combos, like the little black dress and rope of pearls, never go out of fashion. 

Gardening problems? Email our RHS expert at: gardenproblems@standard.co.uk 
 

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