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What's changed in 50 years in our constantly evolving gardens? 10 changes that gardeners have witnessed.

10 gardening habits that have changed over the last 50 years.

A lot has changed in 50 years. Did your granny or perhaps great granny like to see the soil between the plants and expect garden shrubs to stay in neat little mounds? She probably expected the edges to be trimmed by shears rather than strimmer and enjoyed the sight of freshly dug soil. Hedges needed to be neatly trimmed at all times; weeds must be immediately banished to the compost heap and neatness should reign supreme.

Some old fashioned ways and products are now sought-after, but not the appearance of gardens!

Grannies can be groovy but some of them like to adhere to gardening practices that were around 50 years ago. !                    

Gardening through granny's eyes is very different to how most people garden today. What we expect from a garden has changed dramatically over the course of 50 years or so. Today's garden lovers tend to have smaller plots than days of yore and they generally like to fill the soil with plants. Where there's a gap, some groundcover can go in to stop weeds colonising the soil and to create a more naturalistic appearance. Few people have the resources (or indeed, the desire) for a team of gardeners to keep everything looking neat.  Indeed, who wants spick and span unless it's part of a highly contemporary scheme?

Few people aspire to recreate the look of the 1950s in their gardens. Gardens are subject to fashion too! Here's 10 major changes that have taken place over the last few decades:

Motorised lawnmowers and equipment!

The soundtrack to Saturday mornings around 50 years ago included the whirring of manual lawnmowers being pushed up and down lawns in suburbia . Then came the Flymo in 1965. It used technology from the hovercraft (remember those?) and before long, electric and motorised mowers were the must-have machinery for anyone with a lawn. Of course, the idea of a motorised mower is far older than this  the first was invented in 1830 by Edwin Budding in Gloucestershire but they weren't tailored to domestic use until much later.

Flymo produced the first mower that was easily used in many domestic gardens.

Garden centres

The first one opened in 1955 in Dorset. There are now around 2,300 garden centres across the UK that are open to the public. They allowed people to peruse wide ranges of plants and garden products which widened the scope of the imagination.

Garden centres provided a great place for garden lovers to actually see plants for the first time so that they could peruse the wide range of possibilities available.

The World Wide Web

Just 25 years ago it was all but a dream for most people. 50 years ago the Internet and everything it represents wasn't even imagined. Now there is information about every sort of plant or garden-related topic for everyone to see within seconds. In turn, this has made absolutely everything accessible in terms of garden design, plants and products. There are now hundreds of on-line shops delivering plants, furniture, equipment, water features and more to any address in the UK. Anything has become possible.

The world wide web is an amazing thing that we all now take for granted.

Plastic pots!

The notion of growing plants in containers just over 50 years ago changed gardening forever. This practice allowed a year-round growing and planting capability, whereas before the 1960s, shrubs and trees were grown in nurseries and only transplanted during the dormant season. Plastic pots weren't in use until the 1970s.

Plastic pots revolutionised the growing of plants but also the displaying of plants also.


50 years ago, the garden shed contained many potions and powders bearing skull and crossbones logos. There were many highly poisonous substances being used on plants and even vegetables. DDT was banned in the 1970s but many more toxic weed and bug killers remained in use for many years. Now there are far fewer and the chemicals are more strictly regulated.

Poisons still lurk in many older people's sheds. Fortunately they are more strictly regulated in the 21st century.


The advent of plane travel opened horizons in more ways than one. Travelling abroad and seeing how other cultures used their outdoor spaces encouraged people to experiment at home. Water features, pergolas, larger patios and decking all became part of the garden scene. The Mediterranean style and idea of using a garden as an outdoor room began to appeal.

Many people in the UK have adopted the Mediterranean look as it reminds them of holidays in warm places!

Garden Design

RHS shows such as Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows; National Gardens Schemes; open gardens and of course TV programmes such as Ground Force propelled garden owners towards the idea of changing their spaces. People realised they could achieve almost instant gardens if they paid landscapers and builders to work for them. The notion of designing a space to become sensational came within reach. A garden didn't have to be a simple lawn, borders, vegetable bed and a patio. New found wealth brought the perfect garden within reach and people began to appreciate that gardens are worthy of a similar expenditure to a home extension.

People now want their gardens to act like an additional room. They are subject to fashion and trends as much as interior decor.

Cars in gardens

Over the last 50 years car ownership has rocketed. Nowadays around 77 per cent of households have at least one car. Off road parking has become  a major asset. Front gardens have been paved in order to provide space for a car. The front of a house gradually became more functional and needed to provide space for a growing number of rubbish and recycling bins - while the back was reserved for leisure.

Front gardens are often paved in order to accommodate parking. The traditional front garden has all but disappeared.

Organic gardening and growing

TV programmes such as The Good Life awakened an awareness about growing food and raising animals organically. During the 1980s Prince Charles championed the idea through his garden at Highgrove. The organic gardening movement is now mainstream and people are more aware of their own health and the need to protect the planet.

The organic gardening movement is now mainstream. It is no longer considered unusual or strange to want to treat the land with care and respect and to avoid chemicals.


Wildlife in many different guises was seen as a 'pest' until the realisation dawned that our native insects, small mammals and invertebrates are vulnerable and an essential part of the food chain. Over the years most people have learnt to cherish wildlife, indeed to attract it. Nature needs to work in harmony with gardeners. Pollinators, for example, are essential for crops.

People have learnt to love bees! Most people embrace the idea of wildlife in their gardens and welcome nature into their lives.

Make the most of your garden this summer. Visit for more inspiration.

By Perfect Plants


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