Just as the worlds of art, architecture and fashion change with and respond to the times, private garden design is continually evolving. How households use their outdoor spaces, the appearance gardeners seek to achieve and what they want their gardens to say about who they are changes from one decade to the next. Here, we take a retrospective look at how private gardens have changed in the past half century, and the trends that have defined each decade.
Practicality – pre 1960s
Before the 1960s, for many British people, a garden was a practical space where they could grow fruits and vegetables to supplement a meagre diet following the rationing of two World Wars. Gardeners across the country would pack their plots with carrots, onions, potatoes and cabbages – anything to provide their families with a much-needed nutritional boost. Fruit bushes were cultivated and tasty jams and preserves made with their harvest.
Beauty – 1960s
However, as the 1950s ended and Britain enjoyed more economic prosperity, the population’s attitude towards its green spaces began to evolve. They wanted colour and beauty from their gardens, rather than just a decent meal. In response to this demand, new large-scale garden centres popped up, to the dismay of locally-run family nurseries that had previously serviced the green-fingered. As well as more exotic, out-of-season plants, the larger stores also sold harsh chemical pesticides to protect plants from insects, which British gardeners initially embraced with enthusiasm. However, they soon realised that these new miracle products weren’t the good news they at first appeared, as they were poisoning their plants.
The Decking Decade – 1970s
Moving into the 1970s, gardeners returned to the organic way without using damaging pesticides. Living ‘The Good Life’ was also the latest trend – as Tom and Barbara Good flirted their way to self-sufficiency on our TV screens, they weren’t the only ones capturing audience imaginations. BBC’s Gardener’s World, first broadcast in 1968, steadily grew in popularity throughout the 1970s, introducing a generation of gardeners to such innovations as decking and early water features, and encouraging them to think of their gardens as ‘outdoor rooms’.
Changing fashions – 1980s
During the 1980s, garden fashions took a nostalgic turn. Cottage gardens full of tumbling roses, artfully dishevelled planting and quaint flowered archways enjoyed huge popularity, with everyone seeking a romantic, rural look. However, late in the decade block paving became ubiquitous, with new colours and materials entering the market every year. As the 1990s arrived, more and more households were buying cars and a fashion arose for paving lawns to create private driveways, therefore adding value to their property.
All hands on deck – 1990s
Garden decking became hugely popular in the 1990s, with many homeowners realising its aesthetic benefits as well as its ability to create a practical space among the greenery. Alan Titchmarsh and the Ground Force team were big supporters of the decking trend at the time, and at the height of the makeover series’ popularity towards the end of the decade, the green-fingered people of the UK would readily put in place whatever recommendations the team had made that week.
Creativity – Gardens today
Today, the array of paving products available is vast, allowing gardeners to use them in diverse ways to create unique spaces. In fact, today’s gardeners are positively spoilt for choice! Another of the most eye-catching trends to capture gardeners’ imaginations in recent years has been that of the living wall. Carefully planned living walls can work as a rich backdrop to other planting, or provide a focal point in a garden that’s short on ground space. Repurposed and reclaimed materials have also taken centre stage during the last few years, with gardeners realising that a little creativity can transform free or inexpensive items into stunning garden highlights.
Gardening fashions are always developing and the best gardeners will select those innovations that best work in tandem with their own styles, and the space they have available. Right now, there are many exciting and affordable ideas and products coming onto the market, making it easier than ever before to express yourself in your own uniquely beautiful outdoor space.