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  1. Published on: 13/08/2019 06:59 AMReported by: roving-eye
    As Southport Flower Show celebrates its 90th Anniversary this Thursday 15th August, broadcaster and Southport judge Matthew Wilson, looks at how gardening trends have changed over the decades.

    1920s - The Rock Garden
    In the 1920s, when the first Southport Flower Show was held, the rock garden was all the rage.

    “Rock gardens were the height of fashion, but you hardly see them these days”, said Matthew Wilson. “However there are still some designers who produce them, and Southport Flower Show has featured some great examples over the years.”

    1930s - Art deco designs
    As Art Deco architecture came into fashion, the style often extended into gardens. Exotic plants and evergreens were shown off in simple white-walled plots or within curved brick designs.
    A great deal of creative effort was put into the paving with highly stylised patios and paths.

    1940s - Grow your own
    After the war, rationing continued for many years and the ‘grow your own’ movement was a necessity rather than a fashion.

    Ornamental gardens were dug up to make vegetable patches. Even football pitches were turned into allotments and Hyde Park had a huge allotment garden.

    This trend actually continued into the 1970s as seen on TV in the Good Life and then fell out of fashion - but is very much back on the agenda for very different reasons linked to the concern about the environment, food miles and agricultural additives. It’s come full circle.

    1950s - Rose gardens
    There was a massive interest in rose breeding in the 1950s with growers trying to produce new and exotic coloured colours.

    People tried to grow blue roses, which actually cannot exist in nature but have since been grown using genetic modification.

    The Royal National Rose Society had more than 100,000 members by the 1970s. People still love roses but few people would have a rose garden that is solely roses and nothing else today.
    It was also the start of the British love affair with the well-tended garden lawn, as new weed killers, mowers and products came on the market and the 1950s was the decade when the first garden centre opened in the UK.

    1960s - Mini conifers and heathers
    In the late 1960s there was a trend for mini-conifers and heathers in Britain’s gardens. They were popular because they were fairly low maintenance and looked good all year round.
    Like many trends, they went completely out of fashion but I think in the next few years we will start to see a renewed interest in conifers.”

    1970s - Crazy paving
    Crazy paving was big in gardens in the 1970s and was popular because it gave people a unique design in their garden, often in pink or yellow, and was also cheaper than conventional paving.
    And just to prove that fashion in gardens really is cyclical, can you believe that in the last couple of moths I have designed two gardens that include crazy paving? One in Cheshire and one in Northumberland.

    1980s - Wildlife gardening
    The 1980s saw a surge of interest in wildlife gardening with households encouraging wildflowers to grow in their gardens as concerns grew about the environment.

    Chris Baines’ 1985 book How To Make A Wildlife Garden shot to the bestseller lists telling people how to make their gardens a haven for wildlife. The trend of gardening with nature rather than fighting against it has continued and is now arguably one of the most important aspects of modern gardening.

    1990s - The TV makeover
    The 1990s was the decade when gardening became prime time TV with shows like Ground Force with Alan Titchmarsh and Charlie Dimmock encouraging householders to give their gardens a dramatic makeover.
    Decking and other recreational features became popular as more people made the barbecue and patio table and chairs the focus of their gardens.

    2000s – Naturalistic planting
    The new century saw the popularity of ‘naturalistic’ planting start to grow, inspired by designers such as James van Sweden in the USA and Piet Oudolf from the Netherlands. In Essex, Beth Chatto had created the influential ‘Gravel Garden’, and flower shows began to feature planting schemes that had more in common with meadows than traditional flower beds.

    2010s - Green gardening
    Gardeners became far more conscious of the environment. ‘No-dig’ gardening is a big part of what we do now and is going to become even bigger. It is a less intensive way of cultivating the soil, that prevents damage to the soil flora and fauna that are so important to plant health.

    There is a big concern these days about water use and the environment and this is driving the way we garden. Coastal towns are always drier so building zero-irrigation gardens ie the right plants for the right place, is also big.

    The great thing about Southport Flower Show is you can go and talk to the most knowledgeable nursery and plant people and they will tell you exactly what you need for your garden.

    Southport Flower Show is on from Thursday 15th until Sunday 18th August. For tickets and further information please go to

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