The changing face of the garden in the UK

Our gardens have been shrinking since the 1920s, and you’ve probably not noticed it either. The British home has decreased in size by 50%, and gardens have also depleted from 168 metres squared to 163.2 metres squared between the years 1983 and 2013. With the help of Arbor Deck, specialists in composite decking, we take a look at what has really happened to our gardens.

In 2010, two million homes did not have a garden; 10.5% of homes will not have a garden by 2020. This questions how important our garden is and how we have used it over time. What becomes troubling within these figures is that 38% of children are more likely to become obese if they do not have access to a garden.

Now, the most important feature of the garden isn’t its layout, there’s a lot more to it than that. During the Second World War, the garden was a space where vegetables could be planted to cope with the demands of rationing. They could also be used as a bomb shelter for those who were in more suburban areas. Now kept in pristine condition, gardens have changed. They aren’t so much about vegetable patches and bomb shelters anymore; they are a space dictated by decoration and ornamentation.

The materials that we so often use in our gardens are chosen by accessibility and size. With the rise of decking and replicating indoor spaces outdoors, the garden has become more than anything else a synthetic space – like the home itself. Some of the most classic changes to the British garden are as follows:

  • Pots and plants: The plant pot was once made from clay, and now it is created from plastic or biodegradable materials so that the pot will eventually become part of the natural environment.
  • Lawn mowers: In an age gone by, lawn mowers were powered by hand and a rotational cylinder would move as the user moved forward. Now with the invention of more sophisticated technologies, electric powered mowers have meant that gardeners can easily cut their grass without any fuss.

The UK began to build garden centres in the 1950s and 60s – and this is what kicked off the gardening phenomenon we see today. The first was in Ferndown, Dorset in 1995, and encouraged gardeners to buy plants from exotic locations. As a result, heathers, conifers and bedding plants became popular in the UK due to their availability.

From the conservatism of the 1960s, Britain moved on and embraced the counter-culture ideals of the 1970s. People became more interested in growing their own vegetables at home within sustainable gardening projects. With the availability of colour televisions, gardening programmes could be shown to a wide audience, so that viewers would become aware of how to keep their garden at its best.

In the 1980s, gardens changed once again, and moved on from the 70s. The garden was a space that was recreational rather than a space utilised for growing vegetables. BBQs and conservatories were then popularised, making it a space to be shared with friends and family. In the 90s, this is a space that would receive a ‘makeover’, often popularised on television. Usually, this would be done by installing decking, which is a good way of dynamically changing the look and atmosphere of a garden without too much hassle.

In the 21st century, gardens have changed once again, and continue to evolve as times change. As information is disseminated more freely, and is easy to obtain through smartphones and tablets, growing and cultivating gardens with fruits and vegetables has become easier than ever to understand. With the future of gardening set to become more economically and eco-friendly, the garden can become a space to celebrate the natural world without having to break the bank for ornamental decorations.