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Just like our homes, our gardens have evolved over time, influenced by trends and changing lifestyles, and in the last 40 years the changes have been significant.As the Society of Garden Designers (SGD) celebrates its 40th anniversary, 10 leading garden designers and members of the SGD reveal the different trends they have seen over the past four decades.
FROM GARDEN PLOT TO OUTDOOR ROOM
The biggest change to garden design has been a greater understanding of how and what our gardens have to offer. 'When I began designing 30 years ago people viewed their gardens simply as a place to be "gardened",' says James Scott MSGD. Over time, that perception has completely changed, he says, with gardens increasingly being seen as an extension of the home, which can be 'styled' in the same way as any interior room. Juliet Sargeant FSGD says 'garden design has grown up', explaining that it's become far more sophisticated and now incorporates a wonderful variety of materials, features and plants that weren't even considered 20 years ago.According to Andy Sturgeon FSGD, key to this has been a gradual move towards the contemporary style of garden we know today, with minimal use of materials and a more naturalistic, wild and informal approach.'We have developed a new Modernism in style,' Andrew Wilson FSGD says in agreement, 'with a move to bold colour and simplified palettes.'
House Beautiful/Mark Scott
SMALLER GARDENS BUT GREATER EXPECTATIONS
With the average house and garden getting smaller year on year since the early 80s, garden design has inevitably had to adapt.'Clients expect a great deal from a small space,' says Andrew Duff MSGD, vice chair of the Society of Garden Designers. 'In a large garden you can create journeys, both visual and physical, but this has become more difficult as gardens have become smaller.'James Scott has noticed a trend towards zoned areas as a way of meeting the different needs of a household, while Jo Thompson MSGD has developed a multi-functional approach to her designs. 'A buttercup-filled meadow is a view, a seat is a piece of art, a rill is a wine cooler, a weeping birch is a shady picnic spot,' she says.
Garden by Jo Thompson MSGD / Rachel Warne ©
FORMAL BEDS TO WILD MEADOWS
More than any other aspect of a garden, plants are followers of fashion if we look at the traditional herbaceous borders of the 1980s and 1990s, to the New Perennial Movement of the late 20th century, and the unstructured wildlife-friendly aesthetic popular today. As Sarah Eberle FSGD says: 'You can date a garden by the plants that have been used.'Andy Sturgeon, who designed his first garden in 1983, adds: 'When I started out, shrubs were the backbone of everything anyone did. Perennials were a sideshow. Today wildflower meadows, new perennial planting and grasses have taken centre stage.'Cleve West MSGD described grasses as a 'novelty' when he first started designing. 'Today, I can't imagine not using them,' he says. Andrew Duff has seen a change in the way plants are being laid out – there's greater use of mass planting and a trend for leaving seed heads as a way of adding interest in the colder months.But do all plants go out of fashion? 'The English Country Garden style of roses, lavender and traditional borders of softer flower colours, is still very popular,' says Debbie Roberts MSGD. For Juliet Sargeant, she's especially delighted to see hydrangeas back in fashion and enjoying a revival after 25 years in the shadows.
Garden by Acres Wild
FROM DECORATION TO RECREATION
If the 50s were all about ornamentation and decoration in the garden, the 80s paved the way for the concept of recreation in our outdoor spaces. Since then, the popularity of recreational garden features has continued to soar.'Long gone is the built-in brick BBQ, the terracotta urn placed on its side amongst pebbles dribbling water and the gazebo in the corner of the garden,' says Robin Templar-Williams FSGD, who began designing gardens in 1986.Instead, due in part to a warmer climate, we are seeing the rise of the outdoor kitchen, says Sarah Eberle.The garden as an entertainment space has developed in line with the growing popularity of a multi-functional outdoor space, says James Scott. 'Outdoor seating areas have really caught people’s imagination in recent years, with features like the fire pit extending the use of the garden later into the evening and into the colder months.'Juliet Sargeant agrees: 'The simple garden fire for burning twigs became a fire pit for sitting around, and is now a fireplace, complete with outdoor sofa and stereo system.'
Garden by Cleve West MSGD
A renewed focus on climate change has meant more people are now aiming to create sustainable gardens with minimal harm to the environment, from considering garden planting as more than purely ornamental and as part of a habitat, to attracting wildlife and encouraging biodiversity.'A greater understanding of biodiversity has definitely made people re-evaluate their priorities in recent years, with many more people aware of the issues when it comes to designing their gardens,' says Cleve West. Andrew Duff says there has been a 'greater respect for sustainability and environmental issues' with a return to a more natural way of designing, demonstrated by the careful choice and appropriate use of plants and planting compositions.Jo Thompson, whose designs have always focused on sustainability, climate change and biodiversity, has noticed a significant change too. 'Whilst clients used to sometimes greet these concepts blankly, it is now at the heart of every initial conversation I have,' she explains.
Garden by Cleve West MSGD
The role gardens play in protecting the environment has also led to a shift in the type of materials being used. 'With sustainability at the forefront of our minds now, high quality, environmentally-friendly products such as porcelain and composite decking have been game-changing,' says Andy Sturgeon. 'York stone seemed to be everywhere in the late 90s,' says Andrew Wilson. Now, the provenance of garden materials is becoming increasingly important with many more people thinking about where materials come from and only using those that are locally sourced. 'We use more indigenous stone than ever before,' adds James Scott.Sarah Eberle, who began designing gardens 40 years ago, says she has reduced her use of hard landscaping altogether favouring a softer, more ecological approach instead.
Garden by Acres Wild
Gardens still need to be beautiful places to escape to, so perhaps the most significant change in recent decades has been our attitude to garden design itself. No longer considered the preserve of the wealthy, over the past 40 years, more and more people have begun to understand the importance of good design and how this ultimately leads to a better garden.'When I started out people literally didn’t know what a garden designer was,' says Andy Sturgeon, who credits Terence Conran and IKEA for teaching people the value of good design. 'Now everyone knows what we do and understands the benefits it can bring. Today, the attitude and vision of clients has allowed us to design some amazing gardens that were unimaginable years ago.'Debbie Roberts agrees: 'Over the last 40 years, garden design has entered the popular consciousness. In the 1980s it was very niche but soon, a well-designed garden will be as important as a well-designed kitchen.'
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16 great books for gardening and indoor plant inspiration
RHS How to Create your Garden: Ideas and Advice for Transforming your Outdoor Space
Adam Frost's practical, no-nonsense approach will help you plan and build a garden that works for you. The Gardeners' World presenter takes you step by step through the whole process, from simple garden design ideas to a full garden makeover.
Modern Container Gardening: How to Create a Stylish Small-Space Garden Anywhere
Isabelle Palmer shows you how to make the most of every little space with a series of projects for small gardens, singular containers and window boxes, that can be completed in a day or weekend. Perfect for novice gardeners, Modern Container Gardening offers beautiful photography and clear step-by-step instructions.
National Trust School of Gardening: Practical Advice from the Experts
The National Trust employs over 500 gardeners with an extraordinary wealth of expertise. And now, in this in-depth guide, they pass on their wisdom and provide the answers any new and seasoned gardener is looking for. This book is intended to give you inspiration and confidence to make the most of your garden, without being overwhelmed with unnecessary technical detail.
Veg in One Bed: How to Grow an Abundance of Food in One Raised Bed, Month by Month
Veg In One Bed explains how to build your bed and grow from seed, as well advice on planting, feeding, and harvesting. YouTube gardening star Huw Richards shows how to guarantee early success by starting off young plants on a windowsill and suggests what to grow in each part of the bed.
The Complete Gardener: A Practical, Imaginative Guide to Every Aspect of Gardening
Monty Don offers straightforward gardening advice in this book, revealing the secrets of growing vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs, while respecting the needs of the environment by gardening organically. You can also enjoy a tour of his Herefordshire garden, including his flower garden, herb garden, kitchen garden, and more.
RHS Practical House Plant Book
The Practical House Plant Book by the RHS contains a dozen step-by-step projects to help you assemble an eye-catching terrarium, create a floating kokedama 'string garden', or propagate succulents. Complete with 175 in-depth plant profiles, this is an essential practical guide for indoor gardeners.
Small Garden Style: A Design Guide for Outdoor Rooms and Containers
Ten Speed Press
A small garden space – an urban patio, a tiny backyard, or even just a pot by your door – doesn't have to sacrifice style. In Small Garden Style, garden designer Isa Hendry Eaton and lifestyle writer Jennifer Blaise Kramer show you how to use good design to create a joyful, elegant, and exciting yet compact outdoor living space.
Charles Dowding's No Dig Gardening: From Weeds to Vegetables Easily and Quickly: Course 1
No Dig Garden
Charles Dowding, innovator of no dig, teaches you everything you need to know about this method of organic gardening. With 19 chapters, you'll learn how to use no dig on different soil types, recognise and massively reduce the different types of weeds, know the difference between soil and types of compost, and grow an abundance of vegetables using the no dig method.
In Bloom: Growing, harvesting and arranging flowers all year round
Get all the inspiration you need for planting cut flowers, and fill your home with colour and the gorgeous scent of the garden year-round with In Bloom. Clare Nolan reveals her secrets for growing a bountiful harvest as well as styling spectacular homegrown displays in this beautifully designed book.
RHS Complete Gardener's Manual
The RHS' Complete Gardener's Manual will help you choose plants that will thrive in your space, design a border for year-round colour, grasp different pruning techniques, discover how to protect your veg patch from pests, and make the best compost.
Wildlife Gardening: For Everyone and Everything
Do you want to attract more bees, birds, frogs and hedgehogs into your garden? In Wildlife Gardening for Everyone and Everything, Kate Bradbury teams up with the Wildlife Trusts and the RHS to help you discover how you can make your garden, balcony, doorstep or patio a haven for garden wildlife. You'll find handy charts, practical projects and fact files.
My House Plant Changed My Life: Green wellbeing for the great indoors
Gardener and TV presenter David Domoney is a firm believer that indoor plants can make 'a practical and emotional contribution to our wellbeing'. In this book, David explains the hard science behind the positive effect of the humble houseplant on wellness, and provides expert tips on how to keep your plants thriving, plus shares his top 50 life-enhancing houseplants.
RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design: Planning, Building and Planting Your Perfect Outdoor Space
If you're looking for new garden ideas, the RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design will guide you from planning to planting, such as choosing the correct materials for your structures and assessing your drainage, to laying patios, making ponds, and planting perennials.
How to Create an Eco Garden: The practical guide to sustainable and greener gardening
This planet-friendly book is filled with ideas for creating your own eco garden on any scale, from a small courtyard to a large garden or allotment. Discover organic techniques that improve biodiversity, learn the value of using recycled and reclaimed materials for landscaping, and take on simple projects such as making a pond and a wildlife hotel.
RHS Encyclopedia Of Plants and Flowers
Drawing on expert advice from the RHS, this best-selling reference book – organised by colour, size, and type, rather than as an A-Z directory – will help you select the right varieties for your outdoor space.
Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY Projects to Improve your Harvest
Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd
Joyce and Ben Russell have devised 30 kitchen garden projects, devised to either extend the season, protect crops from pests or improve yields. These projects transform your vegetable plot into somewhere more productive, more attractive and more secure.
Executive Digital Editor, House Beautiful UK
Olivia Heath is the Executive Digital Editor at House Beautiful UK uncovering tomorrow's biggest home trends, all whilst delivering stylish room inspiration, small space solutions, easy garden ideas and house tours of the hottest properties on the market.
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