The rules of gardening have changed. It’s a case of out with the decking and in with the pond or wild meadow. Your garden is your wellness space and mindfulness sanctuary. It’s also, not just for you, it’s for the birds and the bees, a place where we can attempt to nurture biodiversity. Here, Colin Barrie, the Herald On Sunday’s gardening columnist, tells Vicky Allan his tips on how to garden like it’s 2019.

1. Wildlife Havens

The David Attenborough affect has hit home in our gardens. Worry over the loss of biodiversity and declining numbers of pollinating insects is leading more and more of us to think wild, or want to create a home for insects, birds and other animal life. According to the Garden Trends Report 2019, produced by Wyevale Garden Centres: “There is a growing trend towards leaving a patch of the garden less tended to, which serves both as a means to attract wildlife as well as create less work for time-poor gardeners.”

There is, says Colin Barrie, “definitely a trend towards wildlife gardens and towards encouraging bees and butterflies”.

He advises that “any plants that produce pollen are great for bees”. To attract butterflies one of his big tips is Buddleia – “which is great because you can get plants that are small-grown as well as those that are tall grown, and there are some really bright, vibrant colours”. Lavender, he notes, is good for attracting both bees and butterflies. “They’re getting really popular, work pretty well in Scotland, are really hardy and you get great flowers off them too”.

To help guide bee-lovers, Friends of the Earth provides a handy guide to bee-friendly plants “for every season”. These include Monarda, also known as “bee balm”, phacelia, described as “the single most attractive plant for bees on the planet”, and herbs like marjoram, chives and sage.

But wildlife gardens aren’t only about encouraging our winged friends – many are trying to host other wild things and design their gardens to help them through adverse conditions. Wildlife corridors are being created, insect houses, and hedgehog-friendly adaptations like holes in fences. The Wildlife Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society recently encouraged the UK to bring back the garden pond as the feature that can make a huge difference in saving wildlife.

Colin Barrie - Diary of a Scottish gardener

2. Trad flowers and heritage fruits

Out with the new and back with the old. “Sentiment,” says the Garden Trends Report 2019, “runs through the soil, and in times of uncertainty, they turn to what they know and what comforts them.” Gardeners across the country, it observes, are returning to traditional favourites like hydrangeas, geraniums, marigolds and heathers. Though the world Brexit isn’t directly mentioned in the report, it’s certainly hinted at.

Colin Barrie, however, believes this trend is less about the political climate than a wider trend towards growing what suits the soil and conditions, and a desire to revive heritage varieties which thrive better in a local environment. His garden centres, he notes, try to make “available old-fashioned varieties that are difficult to get and have been forgotten about”.

Among these are two cooking apple trees – the Scotch Dumpling and the Stirling Castle. This year, he says, Caulders has also reintroduced a rose variety called the Jacobite Rose. “Traditionally it was a symbol of the Jacobites in Scotland and it’s very difficult to get. It’s a lovely scented double white rose that had pretty much gone out of commercial production throughout Europe and we’ve managed to get a grower to grow it and we’re reintroducing that and we’ll look for other varieties and other things that are heritage."

There is good reason, he observes, to go traditional. “If you were going to plant an apple tree in your garden,” he says, “you wouldn’t want to plant Golden Delicious or a Granny Smith because it won’t perform well in Scotland. But some of the older varieties like a variety called James Grieve, which was bred in Edinburgh in the 1920s and is a fantastic variety. It really suits Scotland. It’s being careful when you’re buying, particularly fruiting plants if you really want them to produce fruit and to perform in Scotland.”

3. Sensory and Wellbeing Gardens

Wellness – whether mental or physical – is one of the current biggest overall trends, not just in gardens, but in all things. There’s nothing new in the idea that gardening can provide a gentle work-out, or that time in nature is good for your mental health, but it’s only in the past year that a trend for people establishing their gardens as a kind of wellbeing haven has taken off. “Previously schools and nurseries and nursing homes did that kind of thing," says Barrie, “but now people are creating that area in their own gardens. That’s including things like roses where you can get wonderful scents off them. You can maybe plant an area where you can sit and enjoy the sound of wind going through grasses while also be taking in the great scents of some other plant.”

Such is the wellness trend that at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, the Duchess of Cambridge is expected to unveil a "Back to Nature Garden". Meanwhile, social prescribing by GPs is also a growing trend in the NHS – last year NHS Shetland authorised doctors to issue “nature prescriptions” to help treat mental illness diabetes, heart disease and other conditions with walks in nature. Recently it was announced that the Royal Horticultural Society were collaborating on a pioneering new scheme to deliver gardening therapy to patients suffering from mental health problems.

4. Grow Your Own, big or small

The Good Life is having a resurgence – and some see it as connected with the rise of veganism, clean-eating and the low-meat diet. But, says Barrie, you don’t have to have a big garden or be up for committing a section of your outdoor space to allotment-style veg production. You can begin by just adding a few edible plants to your life.

“Herbs grow very well in Scotland and there are a lot of herbs that are really easy to grow and it’s good to get kids involved in growing these things as well. It gets them really involved in gardening because you can eat them, you can get scent off them. I'd suggest herbs like thymes and mints and parsley. With mints there are loads of different varieties – peppermint, apple mint, spearmint.” Plus, says Barrie, once you’ve got the barbie cranked up in the summer months, it’s not necessary to dash to the shops for a bag of herbs. Instead, “You could just go and pick them and cook with them while you’re doing it.”

Barrie advises that among the easiest herbs to grow are rosemary, parsley and thyme. “Mint because of the way it grows, it spreads, so it can become a wee bit invasive – so it’s always good to plant in a pot.”

For millennials, in particular, growing food is a big trend. A survey by Common Sense Gardening found that four out of five millennial gardeners were growing produce to cook with almost half growing tomatoes, strawberries, carrots and potatoes.

How to wild your garden

5. Multiple-zone gardens

Can’t decide what kind of garden to plump for? There's actually no need. Rather than commit to a single idea, many people are instead making the most of their space, by creating a range of small areas – a herb patch, a sensory area, a paved-zone with seating. “You can have so many different areas,” says Barrie. “Even with a fairly small garden you can have a whole load of your own different zones, different areas, areas for summer colour, or areas where there are bamboos and grasses, plants that will stimulate the mind, where there is smell and sight and taste. That’s all relatively easy to achieve and gives you that sound and touch.”

6. The rise and rise of the container

There’s no containing the container – which has allowed us to create gardens everywhere from our windowsills to doorsteps, and to enhance the variety in a multi-zone garden. As Barrie puts it, “I think most people when they’re gardening are decorating their garden. They probably don't do more because everyone is so time-limited these days. People want to maximise what they can. The way they do changes constantly. Container gardening is still really popular. Because again so many houses now don’t have big gardens – and people want to be able to grow fruit and veg and all sorts, flowering plants, everything, in containers. They are so versatile as well, and so diverse. You can be growing in wooden boxes or whisky barrels or shoes, old boots – so many diverse things you can actually plant in.”

7. Low maintenance, maximum impact

We may want a garden that soothes our mind and soul, or is a thing of beauty, but most of us don’t have a lot of time to spare for long hours of digging, weeding and tending. “The majority of people are just looking,” says Barrie, “in the short time they have in their garden for it to look good. Trends in gardening change all the time, but everybody wants a nice outdoor space and that probably hasn’t changed.”

The desire to maximise, in a time-poor world, is particularly marked in millennials. Research conducted by Common Sense Gardening, found that 84% of millennials would not garden unless it was simple to do and their gardens were easy to maintain.

8. Sustainable packaging

Gardeners are often eco-aware, and many garden centres across the UK have been seeking to reduce the amount of plastic packaging generated each year. Caulders Garden Centres, says Barrie, are cutting down on the use of polystyrene. “All our plants used to come in polystyrene and we’re moving over now to a pack that’s fully recyclable. It’s important for us to do that. When we’re working with plants, we’ve really got to lead the way in that trend. People who are gardeners are conscious of the environment. This is the last year we will sell plants in polystyrene boxes. This year we’re 50/50, but next year we will be 100% kerbside recyclable.”

According to Garden Trends 2019, zero-waste gardening is also a growing trend – with Google searches on the subject up 700% in 2018.

9. Decking is dead, long live the artificial grass

Years of sliding over slippery wood, or trying to work out how to deal with the moss and worrying about whether you’re only providing a nice home for rats, have meant that we’re decked out. No longer is decking seen as the lazy gardener’s ideal option. “The trend,” says Barrie, “is to move away from decking, even if it’s covering decking with artificial grass. I think gravelled areas where water can travel through is quite good. Different kinds of gravels and stones can give you different shapes within garden. Covering small areas with artificial grass is also a bit of a trend. It makes it look appealing and green all year round and it’s a good space to put pots on.”

10. Invasion of the Instagardeners

Not surprisingly – given the photogenic nature of the horticultural world – gardening has its own species of influencers. Social media stars like Epic Gardening, which has 109,000 followers, or Urban Organic Gardener with 180,000, are gathering a huge following, and the LA Times even recently featured an article on The Instagram Gardening Stars Of California.

Gardening Trends 2019 observed that 21% of Brits now use social media as their main source of inspiration for gardening, with nearly 30% of 18-24-year-olds turning to social media for gardening advice.

Barrie observes that he has seen more people coming into his garden centres looking for plants or gardening items that they have seen on social media. “It is also becoming an increasingly important method of us communicating with our customers ... it’s instant and so quick to get information out instantly to thousands of interested people.