THE past year has seen gardening soar in popularity as Scots seek sanctuary in outdoor spaces and among nature. That boom looks set to continue. According to research by the Horticultural Trades Association, there are three million new gardeners in the UK.

Spring has sprung and with the longer days and lighter nights rolling in there is no better time to get outside and roll up those sleeves. Garden centres around Scotland are due to reopen on April 5, so why not start planning?

From tropical themes and lush foliage to sprucing up our plots and embracing grow-your-own veg, here we look at some of the gardening trends for the months ahead.

WILDLIFE-FRIENDLY HAVENS

Studies have shown that connecting with nature improves our mental health and sense of well-being. Nor do you need acres of space or a rambling, rural pile: shared back courts in city flats, small balconies and other often overlooked, tucked away nooks can be easily utilised.

Installing bird boxes and feeders or building a bug hotel are all great ways to nurture wildlife. It pays not to be too tidy either: areas of unmown grass, compost heaps, woodpiles, hedge trimmings and decomposing off-cuts can be ideal spots for creatures to live, feed and hibernate.

Likewise, there is a growing demand for plants and flowers that attract bees and butterflies to our gardens. Think lavender, foxgloves, bluebells, delphiniums and honeysuckle, as well as flowering trees such as apple, cherry, willow and hazel.

"As we become more aware of our impact on the environment and take steps to become greener, the garden is a natural place to start, by nurturing nature," says Marcus Eyles, horticultural director at Dobbies. "We are seeing more requests for plants and flowers to attract pollinators.

HeraldScotland: Wildflower meadows are a big 2021 gardening trend. Picture: GettyWildflower meadows are a big 2021 gardening trend. Picture: Getty

"Dedicating an area of the garden to wildflowers, even if only a small square metre, can have a big impact. Just think of the cumulative effect if even a small portion of those with outdoor space planted wildflowers."

It is a sentiment echoed by Dave Allan, resident gardening expert for The Herald Magazine, in his column this week as he shares his wealth of knowledge on how to create a wildflower meadow – no matter now big or small your plot may be.

Not only do wildflowers keep the bees happy, but they support a raft of other creatures too. "There are many other pollinators," he writes. "They include butterflies, moths, wasps, solitary wasps, lacewings, hoverflies, beetles, flies and spiders."

JUNGLE VIBES

Nope, we don't mean letting things go completely to seed where you need a machete to hack your way to the drying green or find the potting shed.

Rather, with international travel and far-flung holidays off the cards for a while yet, many green-fingered bods are opting to bring an exotic flair to their gardens.

"Jungle-style gardens are on the rise, with our love of big leaves and lush foliage showing no signs of slowing down," says Eyles.

HeraldScotland: Jungle-style gardens are on the rise. Picture: DobbiesJungle-style gardens are on the rise. Picture: Dobbies

"Going tropical, think banana plants, cannas and citrus, and dense planting with pops of bright colour. Whether it is a few statement plants, or a garden filled with exotic greenery, you will be transported to an outdoor oasis.

"Other planting styles we predict to be even bigger in 2021 are those that help create a sanctuary of calm, with foliage plants in pots, such as ferns, grasses and bamboo."

THE RISE AND RISE OF GROW YOUR OWN

According to Guy Barter, chief horticulturist of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), pandemic living has led to burgeoning – or should that be mushrooming? – interest in grow-your-own vegetables and fruit.

"People are much more interested in grow-your-own foods after the empty supermarket shelves last year," he says. "It encouraged them to have a go and they found it wasn't quite as difficult as they thought.

READ MORE: Gardening Special: Expert advice for green-fingered joy this spring

"People are slipping in vegetables and to a lesser extent fruit anywhere they can find – whether it is balconies, patios, windowsills, back gardens or, if they can get hold of one, an allotment.

"It is the comforting and reliable things they are growing. Potatoes, beetroot, salads, peas, runner beans and tomatoes. Young people especially like chilli peppers. You can grow quite a lot of peppers in a small space within a flat or on a windowsill or balcony."

HeraldScotland: Pandemic living has sparked a rise in grow-your-own fruit and vegetables. Picture: GettyPandemic living has sparked a rise in grow-your-own fruit and vegetables. Picture: Getty

Marcus Eyles from Dobbies expects our love for grow-your-own to continue to flourish as cultivating edible plants combines two passions: gardening and cooking.

Here are some of his top recommendations:

Salad leaves – easy to grow.

Tomatoes – go for the cherry types, super sweet and great for snacking.

Apple trees – the flavour beats shop-bought every time. There are even dwarf trees that grow well in pots.

Potato growing – increasing in popularity every year, especially as they can be grown in tubs on the patio or balcony.

Herb pots – one pre-grown herb can cost the same as a whole packet of seeds which will produce hundreds of plants.

The DIY and home improvement chain B&Q has reported that sales of vegetable seeds rose by 66 per cent year on year, with purchases of pots and planters up by 118% over the same period.

INSIDE OUT

Nothing encapsulates the zeitgeist of this past year better than what has been dubbed "inside outside" with folk setting up cosy outdoor spaces complete with seating, blankets, rugs, bars, cooking areas and fire pits – the idea of our gardens as a "fifth room" of the home.

This is a trend that looks set to continue throughout 2021 when, as restrictions ease further, we look forward to welcoming family and friends to our gardens for social gatherings.

HeraldScotland: The "inside outside" trend or using gardens as a "fifth room" is becoming increasingly popular. Picture: DobbiesThe "inside outside" trend or using gardens as a "fifth room" is becoming increasingly popular. Picture: Dobbies

"Blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors, the 'fifth room' remains in the spotlight," says Eyles. "This is simply thinking about your outdoor space as another room in your home. Whether it is creating a kitchen garden, a zen wellness space or acting as an extension to a playroom."

B&Q has seen sales of statement outdoor tiles grow by 462% year-on-year and spas – a much sought-after item during lockdown – rise by 145%. Purchases of fairy lights are up 56% and outdoor rugs 11% as people strive to create homely areas in their gardens.

A survey found that garden improvement projects are a top priority for homeowners, with a quarter (27%) saying they did so to spend time with friends and family as outdoor spaces became important for socialising.

"We know that 81% of our customers are planning to purchase items such as outdoor furniture and lights in preparation for the restrictions lifting," says Paul White, trading director at B&Q.

"We expect this trend to continue throughout the spring. In 2020, we saw a rise in customers creating 'zones' in the garden, or the 'fifth room' as some like to call it.

"Sales of outdoor tiles, composite decking and interlocking foam mats used for home gyms and play areas all rose by over 100% which shows just how much people want to create interesting outdoor spaces to be enjoyed in lockdown and beyond."

COLOUR THEMES

Green, green and more green has been the go-to for garden designers and flower show displays in recent times. It is a shade that continues to be in vogue, says Guy Barter from RHS, yet he is noticing that other colours are gaining traction.

"When people go into their garden, they want something to cheer them up and reassure them and roses have been very popular – they usually come in pinks, whites, yellows and reds," he says.

"Any reasonably cheap plant and flower is something people relish. That is why supplies of plants have been selling out and nurseries have been propagating more as fast as they can. There is a switchback to reassuring and cheerful colours like yellows and oranges."

Marcus Eyles from Dobbies also has an eye on the colour palettes enjoying the spotlight. "With the leading trend of wellbeing and chilling out in your garden as an oasis of calm, then green is a key colour this year. There are so many shades and textures that create layers of interest all year round," he says.

HeraldScotland: Yellow is a hot 2021 garden trend. Picture: DobbiesYellow is a hot 2021 garden trend. Picture: Dobbies

"Yellow – the Pantone Colour of the Year – has a critical role in the gardenscape and adds warmth in sunny borders and lightening dark spots in shadier zones.

"Shades of blue with calming white flowers and silver foliage make a cool, calm and sophisticated addition to borders, but especially containers where they'll really catch the eye. Orange is trending in the tropical garden theme, where the colour pops against the lush larger foliage."

B&Q reports that sales of "calming sea green fence paint" are up 86% year-on-year, with "calming deep blue paint" seeing a 53% rise.

THE GOOD LIFE

There are many lifestyle benefits to be reaped from gardening, as our resident expert Dave Allan explains. "Covid has impacted hugely on everyone's attitude to their gardens, enjoying the relaxation and peace they offer, together with becoming actively involved in positive creation themselves," he says.

"Immersing yourself in gardening, getting involved in growing and watching its vibrant life, not just looking at it as a picture, takes you out of yourself and gives you a positive sense of balance.

"As part of this process there has been a huge increase in grow-your-own enthusiasts. Most encouragingly, converts to gardening last year are staying the course and it puts the onus on people like me to help explain how to garden successfully and get a clear understanding of why you garden in a particular way."

READ MORE: Line of Duty: 10 reasons why we love the hit police drama

Eco-friendly methods in particular are garnering interest, he adds. "During the climate emergency, many folk also want to garden more sustainably," says Allan.

"I would suggest using some of the many sustainable composts on the market, rather than peat, and, when possible, use alternatives to plastic products and concrete that emit huge amounts of CO2 in production. Cement production accounts for 10% of CO2 emissions, for example."

COTTAGE GARDENS

Charming cottage gardens are enjoying a renaissance. Their idyllic feel and pastel hues are very photogenic and it could be that social media is helping stoke this trend. Cottage gardens are also a good way to welcome in nature to your patch.

"A cottage garden planting style is relaxed, creating a tapestry of colour year after year from flowering and foliage plants, including annuals and cut flowers," explains Marcus Eyles.

"Pollinating insects love them too, making it a wildlife-friendly haven, which may be the reason why there is a renewed interest. A classic cottage garden is filled with pastel shades, roses, foxgloves and delphiniums to name a few."

HeraldScotland: Many Scots are seeking sanctuary in their gardens. Picture: GettyMany Scots are seeking sanctuary in their gardens. Picture: Getty

Paul White from B&Q says: "Cottage gardens are about creating loose and informal planting, full of brightly coloured and fragrant flowers spilling over onto paths and lawns.

"The best plants in this setting are things like sweet pea and dahlias to create texture and colour, lavender for scent and apple trees and silver birches to create height."

UPCYCLING PROJECTS

Many of us have got creative with upcycling projects during lockdown – everything from welly boot planters to making garden furniture from old pallets – and that trend looks set to continue throughout the spring and summer.

Textile artist, stylist and passionate upcycler Rachel Henderson, who is a regular contributor on the BBC One series Money For Nothing, says she has been impressed by the garden projects being tackled.

"I've noticed that people are becoming a lot more creative and resourceful when it comes to designing their gardens, especially since lockdown started," she says. "Rather than buying new, they are raiding their garden sheds, garages, attics and hallway cupboards, looking for objects they can upcycle into planters and ornaments.

READ MORE: Rachel Henderson shares her tips on how upcycling can beat the lockdown blues

"Some of the most common items I have seen upcycled include old wellies, car tyres, wheelbarrows, bikes – even kitchen sinks. People are definitely becoming a lot more eco-friendly with their approach and are looking at ways to make sustainable changes. Rather than 'throwing it in the tip', they are re-using and re-inventing."

For more upcycling ideas, visit rachelhendersoninteriors.co.uk or Instagram: @therachelhendersonstudio

SPACE-SAVING IDEAS AND RAISED BEDS

Testament to the old adage that the best things come in small packages, clever creativity in utilising any available gardening space – balconies, terraces, patios – has taken off in recent months.

"Container planting for compact spaces is a top 2021 trend; offering an alternative way to grow homegrown produce and brighten up spaces with flowers, foliage and colourful pots," says Marcus Eyles.

Guy Barter from RHS agrees this is another area showing continuing growth. "All the container compost sold out last year, but I think the manufacturers have bulked up supplies, ready for a bigger run this year, so, with any luck, there should be plenty of supplies," he says.

"As a way of adding colour and giving children an introduction to gardening, containers can't be beaten. For those who don't have much space on balconies and patios, a container is vital."

Raised beds are much in demand with everything from railway sleepers, old decking and reclaimed planks being pressed into action to build them.

HeraldScotland: Raised beds and family gardening are enjoying soaring popularity. Picture: GettyRaised beds and family gardening are enjoying soaring popularity. Picture: Getty

"Raised beds have been around since the year dot, but they have been shown a lot on television and are something that people who perhaps aren't very good at gardening – yet – can sink their teeth into," says Barter.

"It involves a bit of DIY, but they are not difficult to make. Once you have a raised bed it makes gardening a bit less intimidating because you have this rectangle, you can put your plants in there and improve the soil.

"If you have a clay soil which is wet and sticky or you live in a wet part of the country, the extra drainage from a raised bed makes gardening much easier. Raised beds are certainly having their moment."

FAMILY FUN

Instead of jumping in the car and driving to the nearest soft play on a Saturday morning, many families have been spending more time in own back gardens, discovering new ways to relax and have fun together.

"As we look to get children interested in gardening and, perhaps, spend more time outside, family gardening is on the rise," says Marcus Eyles. "This involves splitting up your patch, so children can have a dedicated area to care for; a raised bed can be an ideal solution for this.

READ MORE: The Bathgate Hills: A Neolithic henge, abandoned silver mine and tales of mystery

"Get them involved from the beginning by adding personalised signs and finding out what they would like to grow. From sunflowers to carrots, there are plenty of easy-to-grow plants and vegetables."