What ‘vintage ‘ can do for your summer bedding colours

March 29th, 2014 Posted In: Uncategorized

I’ve been talking vintage this week. Firstly, with garden designer, Caroline Garland, who’s identified ‘new vintage’ as an exciting new direction for people who don’t want their gardens to look too stark. Secondly, I’ve been sent a pile of   Thrifty Chic, the book I co-wrote with Liz Bauwens, which is now out in paperback. It has lots of tips and tricks for making your house (and garden) look chic on very little money, by rummaging round junk shops and finding forgotten treasures in the attic.

Thrifty Chic

Here’s Thrifty Chic amongst ‘new vintage’ primroses

So what is ‘vintage’ in gardens?

Caroline defines ‘new vintage’ as using softer, more traditional planting schemes in a contemporary layout. ‘It means you don’t have to throw everything out and start again – you can update your garden but keep your favourite plants or garden furniture. A garden can have clean lines and white walls or modern cedar fencing, then you soften it with a more classic planting. And it’s time to revive plants that have become unpopular, like macleaya, buddleia and stachys – think about how you can use them in a more modern context.’

hydrangea sargentiana, stachy, macleaya

Hydrangea aspera sargentiana, macleaya and stachys have become ‘unfashionable’, but their lovely soft blue-greys are romantic and ready for revival

How to stop ‘vintage’ looking old-fashioned

Garden fashions follow interiors fashions. Vintage has been big in homes for several years, which is why Thrifty Chic (and our subsequent book, Fleamarket Chic) has lots of junk shop finds in it. The key to keeping vintage fresh and chic – in both house and garden – is to mix it with more contemporary materials, such as limestone and hardwood. This summer you could set off your smart, modern terrace with a soft Jekyll-ian planting in harmonising pinks, purple and silver. ‘When choosing your colour schemes, think cream, for example, rather than white’ says Caroline. ”Vintage’ foliage is  sage or grey-green, rather than acid green. And look up ‘old English’ flowers that have been forgotten about in recent years, like roses, poppies, peonies and scabious.’

new vintage garden

One of Caroline Garland’s ‘new vintage’ gardens – with walls softened by climbing plants and pretty planting around a limestone terrace

 ‘New vintage’ in the middle-sized garden

We middle-sizers are as keen on style as anyone, but funds often mean that only part of our gardens can look fashionable – usually the bits we can see, like the terrace near the house. There is usually plenty of vintage lurking in the middle-sized garden – indeed I am thrilled to hear that the hydrangea aspera sargentiana planted by my predecessor can now be labelled ‘new vintage’ as I had been wondering what it was. Not long after talking to Caroline, I came across an old gardening book (pub 1994) called Best Borders by Tony Lord. It has some lovely planting schemes, such as a blue, silver, white and cream: stachys, echinops, aster, artemsia, antirrhinum, salvia, phlox and dahlia. In case you’re wondering – ‘vintage’ is 20 years plus, while ‘antique’ means, technically, 100 years. So definitely time to get exploring in the second-hand bookshops for inspiration this summer.

Caroline Garland's garden

One of Caroline Garland’s gardens: clean lines with harmonious blue and purple planting

Best borders by Tony Lord

Look for inspiration in ‘vintage’ gardening books like ‘Best Borders’ by Tony Lord, pub 1994.



3 comments on "What ‘vintage ‘ can do for your summer bedding colours"

  1. Jen says:

    It’s lovely to hear for a ‘scheme’ becoming fashionable again in gardens. Love this idea :) Thanks for linking up in #LoveYourHome

  2. Miranda alexander says:

    That’s good. My planted-20-years-ago garden is now fashionably ‘vintage’. Good things come to those who wait. Though I have to confess to being a bit cynical about fashions in gardening, good plants are always good plants, and fashions come and go. Usually they are just someone noticing a plant (alliums, lime green plants, verbena bonariensis, tulips, dahlias) that have been quietly doing service in many a middle sized garden across the country for decades.

    1. I feel a post coming on about fashions in gardening – the first time I heard the word was when some new neighbours said they planned to change their garden because it was ‘very 1970s’. I still struggle to imagine what a ’70s garden might look like (a lot of yucca, apparently…)

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