Gardening: Yellow fever

In search of the next `in colour', Cathy Packe examines the myriad influences on our choices in the garden

Is yellow the new green? This isn't a sartorial question, but one you might ask if you were to drop into your local garden centre at the weekend. Look for a jasmine, and, more likely than not, you will come across `Fiona Sunrise'; the Choisya ternata will probably be the yellow- leaved `Sundance' variety; there is the golden hop ; there are hostas, and the furry leaves of stachys; once silvery, now often yellow.

In the wardrobe a couple of seasons ago, brown became "the new black"; has a similar fashion trend swept the horticultural world?

Both the style and the content of our gardens have always been subject to changing influences. Plant-hunters and the designers of the great estates, made their mark. Gardeners acquired plants from the New World; rushed to buy tulips in the 17th century; plundered elements of the cottage garden. And, in the Eighties of this century there was a surge of enthusiasm for conifers and heathers, promoted by Bloom's nursery to complement the circular beds they advocated.

Creating a new plant variety is, of course, a far more time-consuming process than changing a skirt length. Perfecting new breeds doesn't happen overnight, and building up enough stock to make them commercially viable can take up to 10 years. So the garden centres have to think several years ahead to make sure their growers will be able to satisfy the predicted demand.

Plant buyers in all the big chains stress the constant need to find something different and distinctive. If a new plant is to prove popular, it has to have an improved scent, or be more resistant to disease; smaller varieties also sell well, as we garden in smaller and smaller spaces. Many new breeds are put up for inspection at the big trade shows, but often the buying doesn't take place until later. Buyers take photographs and make notes, but unless they believe they have a sure-fire winner they are likely to sound out opinion among colleagues first, and make the buying decisions later.

The larger chains - such as B&Q - which has 260 outlets across the country, can have a huge influence on supply. Most of their regular growers have many plants in their trial grounds, which may never be offered to the garden centres. But if a buyer asks for something, and it already happens to be on trial, its progress can suddenly be advanced.

However, it is the smaller nurseries that tend to do more to encourage research, sometimes by getting together in groups to try to influence growers. Frosts Nurseries buy the hardy stock for their three branches from 80 suppliers in different parts of Britain and continental Europe. These suppliers grow almost exclusively for them, and so Frosts themselves are able to dictate what is grown. They can also encourage the development of new lines they feel would be popular. David Brakefield, in charge of buying hardy plants, is particularly keen to see a new variety of viburnum - winter-flowering, scented, and evergreen. His horticultural training tells him it is feasible; buying trends show that it would sell well; now he has to try to persuade his growers to invest money in the research.

Fashion is probably best described as what the consumer wants - a delicate balance between what is seen to be available, either in nurseries or through magazines and television, and the requirements of a changing lifestyle, with smaller gardens and less time to spend in them. But we are also more aware that the attractiveness of our surroundings can be enhanced; a balcony or a passageway doesn't need to be bare. So the trend is towards plants with immediate impact. Building a garden over several years is a dying art.

Buyers are divided on how they assess what influences our tastes. Ian Howell of B & Q is under no misapprehensions about the influence of television. When a little-known plant, liriope, was featured in a TV garden design programme several years ago, demand tripled overnight, but, as it is difficult to grow, it was three years before demand was met.

Ian Howell believes it is the big gardening shows, such as Chelsea, that most influence the colours we choose. Jan Habets, of Plant Publicity Holland, who promotes Dutch nursery products across Europe, thinks that the many magazines on sale are far more important - and not necessarily just the gardening ones. He believes many of us regard a garden as little more than another room to furnish, and, given the chance, we want to continue the colour of the carpet out into the tubs on the terrace. Marks & Spencer, whose influence on horticultural trends is limited but significant, is currently taking colour co-ordination a stage further. Confident that we shall all be wearing lilac next spring, M&S has been selling a series of bulb kits to match.

Back in the more mainstream garden centres, they tend to dismiss the idea that we buy plants according to any colour scheme. They say our buying habits show that we want colour, not co-ordination. In the past few years we have favoured pastels, but this last summer we have been looking for hot colours; maybe this was an attempt to compensate for the lack of heat from the sun.

Of course, there are ways of starting your own fashion. If a plant catches your eye, or if you remember a specimen from the past and want to get hold of it, the Royal Horticultural Society's annual publication, The Plant Finder, gives tens of thousands of plant varieties and advice about where to find them. You can then split them up, or take cuttings to give to your friends, and start a trend, albeit a localised one.

Or you may want to get ahead of the trend. Insider tips for next summer include a hydrangea called "Hanabe" - "firework" - with double flowers in white with a touch of pink, against a very dark leaf. And look out, too, for a new variety of Petunia surfinia, called `Limelight'. The leaves have creamy variegations, and the flowers are bright pink. Like it or loathe it, the people who can influence our taste have picked it out for us. You have been warned.

`The Plant Finder 1998/99' published by Dorling Kindersley, at pounds 12.99, is available from most garden centres and big book shops, or direct from the RHS on 01483 211113

Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz