Discover which garden trends are sticking around this year, and which ones seem to have been left behind in the wake of Covid.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought many businesses to their knees, however e-commerce in certain sectors thrived as a result of the limitations and constraints imposed on our daily lives. This is particularly evident in the gardening and garden-related industry. As lockdowns and social distancing measures confined us to our homes, people sought solace in their gardens, transforming these spaces into places of leisure and relaxation.
This article explores UK gardening search trends from the past five Marches, uncovering how the British public embraced their green-fingered side during the global crisis and beyond. By comparing search data from March 2019 to 2023, we can see how the pandemic may have impacted people's attitudes towards how they utilise their outdoor space, e.g. which areas of gardening have grown in popularity, which ones have remained stable and which areas have seen a drop?
UK gardening statistics
Gardening is big business. According to Horticulture Magazine, 87% of UK households have a garden and the amount spent on gardening products in the UK per year is expected to reach over £6.5 billion by 2025.
Outdoor living expenditure has also increased significantly in recent years, particularly during the pandemic, with consumers spending on average £88 on garden furniture during Summer 2020.
Average spending on gardening and outdoor items during coronavirus lockdown in the UK during August 2020
Exploring garden trends through search volume 2019 - 2023
To understand why gardening has become such a lucrative business, we need to understand how people have searched for related products online. By breaking down the data over the past five Marches, we can explore trends and identify the influences behind fluctuating search volume.
In the sections below, we’ll take a closer look at search volume for the following areas:
- Garden furniture
- Outdoor living
- Garden plants
- Gardening utensils and accessories
- Hard landscaping
From March 2019 to March 2023, the UK experienced notable shifts in search trends for garden furniture, with a particular emphasis on the 2020-2021 period. As the first wave of restrictions hit in March 2020, the nation was in the early stages of adapting to a new normal. Fast forward to a year later, the UK was well into its third period of lockdown, with residents eager to spend time outdoors after enduring a winter confined to their homes.
This was reflected in the surge of interest in outdoor furniture such as garden benches, bistro sets and sun loungers, which all saw search volume increase fourfold, as demonstrated below.
However, by March 2023, search volumes for these items had dropped considerably, due in part to the easing of restrictions and a return to pre-pandemic life, with less focus on home-based recreation.
Search volume for hot tubs in particular took such a tumble to sub 2019 levels, with the blame being levelled at the rise in cost of living, plus waning interest (55% of households with hot tubs rarely or never use them).
Similarly, interest in sun loungers was down 63% from 2019 figures, potentially as a result of March 2023 being the wettest March in over 40 years.
That said, search volume for some items remained above 2019 levels – garden sofas, patio chairs and garden dining sets all saw an increase of 50% or more in 2023 compared to five years previously, alluding to an enhanced appreciation of our gardens for spaces in which to socialise and entertain.
Another trend which has evolved in the UK gardening scene over the past five years is a move to outdoor living, with search volumes for patio heaters and chimineas quintupling between March 2020 and March 2021. These spikes once again reflect a desire to be outdoors, as people sought ways to stay warm and comfortable outside of their homes, using their gardens as an extension of living spaces for leisure and socialising.
To put that increase into perspective, take a look at the dramatic spike in interest for the term patio heater occurring during Spring 2021, as demonstrated on Google Trends:
Note also how search interest drops sharply to pre-lockdown levels in the latter half of 2021 and beyond.
The data presented in the graph below reveals a significant decline in search volume for the majority of outdoor living items in March 2023. However, search volumes for outdoor kitchens and bars have remained considerably high when compared to March 2019, despite all social distancing restrictions having been lifted.
Outdoor kitchens have gained immense popularity, becoming the most sought-after kitchen trend of 2022. The rise in smart kitchen appliances has contributed to this trend by enhancing the functionality of outdoor kitchens. It could also indicate a growing interest in how we interact and connect with the outside world.
Search volumes for fire pits, patio heaters and chimineas have declined compared to 2019 levels, illustrating that while individuals aim to maximise enjoyment during the summer months, there is no longer a pressing need to spend time outdoors in colder temperatures, simply because it is no longer a necessity.
Garden plants have also seen significant fluctuating interest over the past five Marches. Most notably, sunflowers and roses experienced a surge in searches during the peak of Covid restrictions, with interest in sunflowers more than quadrupling from 33.1K in 2019 to 135K in 2021. It’s easy to see the appeal. Easy to grow and beautiful in bloom, they are popular with children and adults alike and most recently have been used as a symbol of support for Ukraine.
Similarly, rose searches saw a jump of 49.5K in 2019 to 165K in 2021. This increase could be attributed to people seeking to grow traditionally popular and aesthetically pleasing flowers amid a challenging, often bleak, global pandemic.
Meanwhile, search volumes for other plants like daffodils, hydrangeas and lavender remained relatively stable, indicating their enduring popularity among gardening enthusiasts.
Gardening utensils and accessories
Another aspect of gardening that saw a spike in interest between March 2020 and March 2021 is gardening utensils and accessories. These include tools such as wheelbarrows, watering cans, secateurs and compost bins which help gardeners with various tasks such as planting and harvesting. The increased interest in these products most likely reflect the growing enthusiasm for gardening as a hobby during the pandemic, along with an increase in free time due to many people furloughed from work.
Interest in watering cans exceeded that of hoses or garden sprinklers which could partially be due to smaller spaces or greenhouse / house plants, but could also have retained high search volume due to rising water bills and environmental concerns.
Note that none of the aforementioned items experienced a decrease below the 2019 numbers, indicating that individuals remain interested in enhancing their gardens even after the pandemic.
This trend may also hint at an increased inclination towards growing fruit and vegetables, potentially in response to escalating food costs.
The final category of gardening products to explore is hard landscaping. This refers to features such as patios, decking and greenhouses which all add functionality and style to a garden. Search volume trends from March 2019 to March 2023 follow a similar pattern to the other sections of this article, with a significant surge in searches for patio, decking and garden fencing occurred between March 2020 and March 2021.
By March 2023, interest in most items, including decking, garden fences and sheds, dipped well below pre Covid levels, however, certain items like pergolas saw an 82% increase in interest from five years ago, suggesting a shift towards al fresco living and a desire to create stylish outdoor spaces.
The Covid-19 pandemic has undeniably influenced the way people in the UK utilise their gardens and outdoor spaces. While search volume for all gardening and garden related items spiked considerably during 2020 and 2021, it is clear that certain trends, such as a surge in outdoor living and a growing interest in al fresco dining, are most likely here to stay. This is backed up by a report from American Express which found that 42% of UK residents are planning to make improvements to their gardens in 2023.
The increasing popularity of garden furniture, outdoor kitchens and bars, as well as a growing appreciation for the role gardens play in socialising and entertaining, reflect a shift in how we make use of our gardens. Although search volumes for some items have dropped since the height of the pandemic, many still remain above pre-pandemic levels, suggesting a lasting impact on the way we interact with and appreciate our outdoor spaces.
Where we have seen a significant dip in search volume for items such as hot tubs and patio heaters, this may be due in part to rising heating and water bills, which are on average substantially higher than 2019.
Weather and the changing of the seasons also influence search volume, as demonstrated with the 63% decrease in search volume for the term sun lounger, where poor weather in March 2023 meant the majority of us were still huddled up indoors rather than lounging in our gardens, basking in the sun.
As we navigate the post-pandemic landscape and grapple with the rising cost of living, it is fascinating to observe the way we search for garden related items. It will be interesting to monitor how these search trends continue to evolve into March 2024 and beyond.