Should you keep up with fashion trends in the garden?
You might not associate plants and gardens as being subject to fashion, but they are indeed. For instance, you can date many gardens by looking at their planting style or choice of hard landscaping materials. Here's a run down of what has been around before, and how you can start to update your outside space.
Crazy paving came into being as an inexpensive method of hard surfacing that used broken or incomplete pieces of paving, with mortar being used to fill the gaps. The craze for crazy paving caught on and during the 1960s and 70s it was everywhere. This style of paving might not still be in fashion, but it is still acceptable, but it will always have an air of age about it. However, replace the mortar filling with low planting of Thyme or other such creeping beauties that will allow a softening of the look and it is bang up to date. Older styles can be updated and adapted to the modern age with great effect.
Dwarf conifers (which always grew to be anything other than dwarf) and heathers, were highly popular in the 60s and 70s and many parks and large gardens still carry these planting schemes. They are not 'in fashion' in the 21st century but have stood the test of time. This doesn't say that the fashion won't come around again. Indeed, conifers are being used at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in increasing numbers again. Intersperse those same plants with perennials and grasses, and the planting scheme becomes rejuvenated without needing to be scrapped. This form of 'upcycling' is completely in fashion! The public park below bears signs of its age, with carpet bedding schemes and plenty of low-growing evergreens.
Victorian bedding schemes were de rigueur in their day. Carpet bedding, parterres and low-clipped hedging epitomise the 19th century at a time when landowners would compete to show their wealth. It was said that the fortune of large estates could be judged by looking at the size of their bedding plant list. These have largely disappeared as the cost of maintenance is prohibitive. But the basic idea can easily be replicated by keeping similar shapes and using swathes of perennials instead of throw-away bedding. Thus, the style is retained whilst having been updated to reflect the 21st century tastes. We are a bit more subtle with our bedding displays in the 21st century, often combining annuals with shrubs and perennials or grasses for a longer-term effect.
People once maintained their traditional front gardens in a highly meticulous manner for the sake of appearances. It wasnt a place for sitting in, but somewhere for others to admire. Indeed, after World War One when council housing was expanding at a terrific rate, some of the larger estate had rules about maintaining the front garden in a particular way. It included cutting the grass, trimming privet hedges and digging over the flower beds so the bare soil didnt show weeds. Councils were entitled to evict their tenants if they allowed standards to drop. It all changed after Margaret Thatcher enabled people to buy their own council houses.
Nowadays, most people are more interested in what goes on inside their homes and on social media rather than outside their front door, and nobody really cares that much about what the neighbours think. For good or otherwise, this is fact. A space to park cars is far more valuable than a neat hedge and manicured lawn. fashion has moved us away from planting in front gardens and it's often more about the vehicle that sits on the paving.
But there's no reason we can't combine the two.
So how much does fashion matter? If your planting is outdated and your hard landscaping belongs to a different era, should you be ashamed? The picture below shows a newly planted rose garden which has been given a box hedge parterre and this immediately gives it a fashion boost.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you want to avoid having to update your garden every decade or so, its a good idea to try to follow the style of the house. There are some planting schemes that look out of place. For instance, a formal front garden with topiary and parterre would look rather pretentious in front of a 1930s semi-detached pebbledash property.
An ultra-modern, sleek and stylish contemporary garden with glass and steel features would appear incongruous in front of a Tudor mansion. If you have a modern house, flowing grasses, porcelain paving and Corten steel walls can look perfectly at home and the chances are that the style will remain in keeping for the life of the materials.
The secret of designing a good, workable garden is to create a framework that suits the era and style of the house whilst lending itself to future updating. You can evolve with many of the fashion trends without too much trouble.
Every fresh year tends to bring different colours schemes that are 'on trend'. For example, the year 2018 was an era of 'ultra violet'. Colour in the garden can therefore easily be themed to match Ultra Violet, Pantone 18-3838!
Just treat colour trends as a bit of fun. Maybe you can theme your pots and hanging baskets.