Fashionable Flowerbeds: Spring fashion trends as Garden Inspiration

vivianne westowwod

Vivienne Westwood

We have garden designer Nicola Sweeting blogging for the next few Fridays to bring botanic cheer to the grim month of February. She’ll be covering all sizes of gardens, from balconies and small plots to those with bigger beds. Yes, there are Latin words involved, but also fashion trends! Over to you Nicola…

As a garden designer, I’ve designed both country and suburban gardens, but in reality, I’m an urban gardener.  I garden as the buses go past me at the front of the house (and sometimes the Chester half marathon). I pick litter out of my Rosa rugosa hedge.  I have to choose plants that don’t mind car fumes. As my mother in law said to me recently ‘gardening’s good for so many things’, and she’s right.

I didn’t always love gardening.  When I was young I wasn’t interested.  Then at age 35 we bought a house with a garden. It was a mess.  So I gardened.  Then I found I liked it. Then I found I loved it.  I would garden before work.  I would garden after work.  I would take time off work to garden. Maybe it’s an age thing. Anyway I stopped working in theatre and became a garden designer, then a lecturer in garden design and garden history and theory.

Fashion and gardens have often been linked. Knot emblems could be found on clothes and in the gardens of the Tudor period and Floral fabrics have been popular through the ages. Fashion designers have long been inspired by gardens and nature. This dress and coat from Vivienne Westwood’s Gold Label collection for S/S 2016 (above) reminds me of the sort of colourful, tumbling, mixed herbaceous borders made fashionable by Gertrude Jekyll.

Image: Crathes Castle by Jim Henderson

Image: Crathes Castle by Jim Henderson

Although fashion designers are inspired by gardens, garden designers don’t tend to take much notice of the catwalk, but the fashion world is a great place to look for ideas for our gardens. If you have a new garden or an old one you want to refresh, the catwalks can be a great place to get inspiration for your planting designs. The added advantage for me is that although I’d love to have some of the clothes seen on the S/S 2016 catwalks, I have neither the lifestyle nor the funds, but I can plant the catwalk in my garden borders or in pots!

For the spring planters either side of my front door I’ve been inspired by this Roland Mouret dress, (below).


Roland Mouret (All catwalk images Harpers Bazaar)

The print reminds me of a parrot tulip such as Tulipa Dior (below left). It needs a cloud of bright blue around it, so I’ll be going for the forget-me-not Myosotis sylvatica (bottom left) and some Scilla siberica (below right). It’s too late now to be planting tulip bulbs, but if you want to use tulips in your scheme you should be able to find them already planted in pots in most garden centres.


For inspiration for a complete border I love this Stella McCartney coat below.

S McCartney Coat

Stella McCartney

The red flowers on the coat remind me of a red peony such as ‘Henry Bockstock’ (bottom right) which will give you flowers in May/June. To extend the season you could use Rosa ‘Darcey Bussell (left below) and for the blue of the coat you could use Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant (below middle) good for covering the bottom of the roses and supporting the rose flowers with a cloud of blue. Other blues could be provided by a Veronica such as ‘Shirley Blue’ (below top right).


The silver in the coat could be represented by Stachys byzantinina (below left) and Potentilla cinquifolia ‘gibson’s scarlet’ (below right) could be mixed in for threads of red through the scheme. Finally for some climbers at the back of the border I’d mix Clematis Vyvyan Pennell (bottom right), with climbing rose ‘School girl’ (bottom left) reflecting the orange in the coat.


If the abundance of the coat and the border isn’t for you and you’d like a simpler more pared down look, planting a swathe of Iris Buvard with its soft mix of colours and pleated petals, would be like having Stella McCartney models walking through your flowerbeds.


Stella McCartney

So which designer would you recommend for planting inspiration?



  • JJP says:

    This is a very interesting and original article! Looking forward to next ones. Thank you!

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  • Julia Child says:

    This is a lovely article though not particularly interested in fashion I love my garden and this has given me inspiration what an original idea to compare the two. I look forward to Nicola’s next garden musings

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