This summer’s must-have accessory isn’t a stealth wealth bag, or a glossy pair of designer sunglasses, nor a hotel booking in Cornwall, (coveted though those might be). The unexpected status symbol these days is, in fact, a trowel. And some secateurs. Maybe even a trug, if you’re pushing the boat out.
In 2021, gardening has become big business. During the first lockdown last year, pottering in the garden was listed as the second most popular activity, pipped to the top spot only by bingeing on Netflix. Energy firm Bulb lately found that allotments feature in our top three life goals (above a sports car) so it’s unsurprising nearly 100,000 people are on the waiting list for one in the UK alone. And if you think these outdoor pursuits are only for the middle-aged and above, think again: a recent poll has shown that one in eight people aged 18-34 considers gardening ‘cool’ – and more than half would rather go to a garden centre than a nightclub.
Fuelling the trend are the Greenfluencers: the gardeners-cum-influencers who use Instagram to showcase pastoral idylls from the Cotswolds to London. Leader of the pack is famed garden designer Charlie McCormick, husband of the style set’s favourite interiors maestro Ben Pentreath, who regularly posts pictures of his herbaceous borders, which are inviting enough to make even city slickers want to reach for the compost. James Horner posts excellent pictures of his walled garden in Sussex, which is a riot of colours and textures in all seasons. The best and brightest Greenfluencers look beyond British shores, too. Lottie Delamain documents her projects and inspiration from coastal gardens in Cornwall to orchards in Spain, while Sophie Walker, author of The Japanese Garden, provides a beautiful window into Shinto shrines and urban designs alike via her Insta.
A particularly stylish division of the Greenfluencer tribe is the Designer Gardener. This green fingered troupe are as devoted to their climbing roses as they are to catwalks: Jasper Conran has long treated his followers to Instagram tours of his sprawling garden in Bridport; Vivienne Westwood is said to love her allotment; and Roland Mouret has reportedly spent lockdown tending to the gardens of his 16th century cottage in Suffolk and reading under his walnut tree. Former model Poppy Okotcha, who used to walk in shows for the likes of Chloé to Alberta Ferretti, switched careers to become a professional horticulturalist. Now, she posts relaxed selfies (sometimes with her chickens in tow) from her sleepy garden in Devon.
The buzz around gardeners extends seamlessly to floral stylists, whose creations translate brilliantly to the grid. Chief among them is Willow Crossley, who counts Mulberry, Jo Malone and Liz Earle among her clients. Her Instagram is full of video tutorials, all conducted from her Oxfordshire workshop. If you’re planning an al fresco summer dinner party, look to Hazel Gardiner for her perfectly pitched table arrangements, shown off in pictures of boujie bud vases nestled next to embroidered napkins. Meanwhile Kitten Grayson, the floral consultant at Heckfield Place, conjures ceilings dripping with jasmine or fireplaces filled with hydrangeas – needless to say, they go viral.
Sowing and mowing isn’t just reserved for country mice, either: Sam McKnight, the legendary hairstylist who has worked with Chanel, Fendi and Burberry, not to mention Princess Diana, is the poster boy for urban gardening. His maximalist oasis in northwest London, designed with his friend and garden mentor Jo Thompson, is a temple to dahlias, geraniums, wild borders and smooth lawns, close ups of which he snaps for Instagram. Alexander Hoyle, the London-based plantsman and garden designer, specialises in creating modern English gardens with fanciful flair; his shots of gardens in the city look like they could have been taken on the grandest estates. For finding similar delight in small spaces, follow Stina Hasan, aka The Hackney Gardener, whose tulip flat-lays are guaranteed to enhance your day.
After the year the world has endured, it’s perhaps no wonder that slowing down, spending time in nature and engaging in something physical has become more popular. After all, plunging your hands into some soil for a healthy spot of weeding beats doomscrolling. “Tending to and growing my garden did absolute wonders for my mental health over the interminable lockdown,” says Rosie, a 28-year-old lawyer based in Stockwell. “It helped me to look at time passing in a more positive light, because every day I could see that my herbs or geraniums had grown a little more.”
Botanical designer Rollo Skinner, who trained at the London Flower School and creates magical, forest-like floral installations for clients including Sony Music, agrees that gardening and working with flowers has a meditative effect. “Nature has an extremely healing quality when you slow down and appreciate it,” he says. Every day during lockdown, which he spent in Dorset, he would forage cow parsley, dead nettles and sedge grasses from the fields. “I became obsessed with trying to bring some joy to my family over those days, by surprising them with different arrangements and unexpected table settings.”
Feeling inspired to don your gardening gloves? The good news is that you needn’t own lots of outdoor space. Start small with a window box or a few pots and choose plants that are easy to grow and won’t need too much attention: pansies, tomatoes and basil are all good options. If you’d like to grow flowers to cut, try marigolds, zinnias or cosmos. When they’re ready, “cut flowers diagonally and give them a cold, deep drink,” recommends Skinner. “Group them together as they’d grow in nature (I can’t stand flowers arranged like liquorice allsorts) and delight in the asymmetry of it all. Treat it like a meditation, don’t overthink it, take your time and find your rhythm.”You’ll be a bona fide Greenfluencer before you know it.