Star players: Anna Pavord looks back on the gardening trends and treats of the noughties

Whenever there's a new nought in the year, retrospection takes over: the best of the decade, the worst of the decade – B-listers rush to tell us what they remember of the past 10 years. I remember very little, but that's because gardeners are hard-wired to look forward, not back. My impression is that we've been force-fed with grasses and green roofs, that grow-your-own has a new gloss on it and that there has been a lot of rain. Shrubs have got less and less attention while hellebores, dahlias, alliums and snowdrops have reinvented themselves in surprising and lucrative ways. Who would ever have thought that a single snowdrop bulb would sell for £100?

At the beginning of what's now being called the Noughties, my hope was that gardeners would throw away the rule books and learn again to use their eyes, trust their instincts. But it hasn't happened like that. Websites and blogs have multiplied, fertilised by a curious anxiety about the natural world. But that world is not going to get more familiar by way of a computer screen. "I looked it up on Google" became the refrain of the decade and shows no sign of fading. Being outside is what matters in gardening, where, given time, you can begin to absorb the complex set of circumstances that makes plants grow. Or not. The "not" is much more likely to be our fault than theirs. You can hardly blame a blue Atlantic cedar for dropping its needles if it's been stuffed into an aluminium tub far too small to sustain it.

Respect is what plants need. Even though, in the past 10 years, more words have been written about "respect for the environment" than you could read in a whole lifetime, the effect has been not to draw us into this thing, but to separate us from it. If you really respect other living things, you acknowledge their right to lives as full and happy as you hope yours is going to be. If you stuff a cedar into a pot, to fulfil some transitory notion of style, then you deny the cedar the possibility of ever fulfilling what it set out to do. Its destiny is to grow into a fabulous monster at least 50ft tall.

In terms of style, the Chelsea Flower Show offers a certain kind of window onto what was thought good at the time. In May 2000, the prestigious Best in Show award went to the Gardens Illustrated garden, designed by Piet Oudolf and Arne Maynard. I first wrote about Oudolf in 1997, when he laid out a garden for John Coke at Green Farm Plants in Hampshire, but his name was still unfamiliar when he planted up his amazing Chelsea garden with its billowing box hedges. The borders had the texture of faded tapestries, with claret-coloured astrantia, knautia, dark-leaved cimicifuga and the purplish-blue salvia 'Mainacht'.

There's another thing that's happened over the past 10 years: more plants with German names. We have 'Goldschlier' and 'Tautrager', 'Kupfersprudel' and 'Rubinkuppel'. The names came in with the plants of the New Perennial Movement, thought to be a very Noughties thing (but actually much more like the Old Perennial Movement than any of its protagonists wanted to believe). For good reasons – colder winters, less rich soil – grasses had traditionally been used more by German garden designers than British ones. German nurserymen bred and selected some excellent kinds which naturally kept their names when they first started to be sold in the UK.

In 2001, the Chelsea money was on Tom Stuart-Smith, the impossibly charming, impossibly good-looking designer who, over the past 10 years, has won seven gold medals at Chelsea and three Best in Shows. But despite his amazing lime trees and a very "then" planting with plenty of miscanthus, the top award went to Professor Fukuhara and his Japanese tea garden. What I mostly remember about that garden was a notice stuck in the raked sand in front of the tea house on press day. "Keep off or die" it said. I believed it.

Gardens in the Japanese style work well at shows like Chelsea because they are meant to be static set pieces, the plants living sculptures. A fabulous piece of cloud topiary in a Japanese garden sponsored by Honda in 2002 was probably the most expensive plant ever used in a show garden at Chelsea. Before the show had even opened, it was sold to the chairman of the security firm Group 4. It should be safe with him.

It was an interesting year, 2002 – perhaps the first time that a really good Back to Nature garden (an obsession during this past decade) appeared on the Chelsea radar. It came from a young Irish designer, Mary Reynolds, who had very little money to spend on it. I first met her salvaging plants from other people's skips and she put those finds to brilliant use in a garden surrounded by a wall of round granite boulders. Small creeping ferns, cinquefoil, herb Robert and other wild plants crept from the gaps between the stones. In the front corner stood an old thorn tree, just breaking into bloom. The planting around the central pond was very quiet, grass studded with daisies and hawkweed. It was superbly done. Believable. And in all senses, very green.

Diarmuid Gavin – remember him? – was back at Chelsea in 2005, undeterred by the rubbishing his garden had got the previous year. It was funded by the Lottery – why? Now there's a good thing that has happened over the past decade. We no longer have the Diarmuid (or the Llewellyn-Bowen) leering out from our televisions. I'm still waiting for some really good gardening programmes, though. Programme-makers are terrified of seeming elitist. They are being extraordinarily patronising in supposing that we can't dwell on any subject for more than two minutes at a time. There are 26 million of us gardeners in the UK. Do the programme-makers ever wonder why so few of us are watching what they give us?

The garden as anchor and refuge is what I see for the decade to come. The garden as teacher, as a place of calm. Of grace. Of happiness. Of all that is good. My advice? Stop Googling. Start weeding.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all