I’ve previously discussed the influence of Victorian plant hunters and horticulturalists, the popularity of cottage gardens and Gertrude Jekyll’s lasting legacy to gardening. We now move into the 20th century, which saw tumultuous and prosperous times for human civilization, with horticulture evolving all the while.
After the introduction of Gertrude Jekyll’s clever use of colour in borders, colour themed gardens became more popular and experimental. The next new garden design idea was the “Garden Room.” These are created by dividing a large space into smaller areas by hedging. Much like rooms in a house, each garden room can have a different theme.
The 20th Century was unforgettably blighted by 2 world wars. World War 2 brought about the dig for victory campaign, encouraging people to turn their land over to producing food to feed the nation. Beauty had to make way for practicality in ever available space, so borders became veggie patches.
The war drove a rapid development of machinery and chemicals for warfare and farming. These advancements filtered through to horticulture, leading to efficient mowers, fertilisers and pesticides. People began utilising these to pursue the “perfect lawn.” Manicured lawn now became an important central feature of any garden.
As the plant nursery trade became commercialised, plant production reached new highs. Due to the abundance of bedding plants there was a resurgence of colourful Victorian style bedding schemes in public and private spaces.
With the availability of plants, people were starting to restock their gardens in an ornamental way. However, with ever busier lives low maintenance gardens became the trend. Conifers and grasses were used in a big way during the 1970’s to create low maintenance, year round interest.
In 1968 Gardeners’ World was born. It brought garden design and horticulture to the masses and its aim was to help the public make the most out of their gardens. Over the coming decades there were a variety of gardening programmes, many taking us through “the garden makeover.”
From the 1980’s onwards, garden design incorporated hard landscaping features such as walls, pergolas, patios, fencing and water features to add an extra dimension. The focus shifted to creating outdoor living spaces.
Modern garden design is going back to nature, with Chelsea Flower Show winners creating a slice of nature in a garden. The emphasis is now on sustainable and wildlife friendly gardening. Using clever planting (e.g. drought tolerant plants) to cope with a changing climate and to provide habitats for all creatures as they get pushed out by the ever rising human population.
Through it all, the good old cottage garden, has remained a constant from its inception to modern times. I believe it will endure into the future as it can be achieved by anyone who loves a variety of plants, and in my opinion it is the best way to create a sustainable wildlife friendly garden.