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How gardens have grown

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

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THE world's top garden designers will be celebrating 100 years of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year with a mixture of old and new, demonstrating the glories of the past and the gardens of the future.

Award-winning Chelsea stalwart Roger Platts is aiming to capture the design trends and themes of RHS Chelsea Flower Shows past and present, showing how British garden design has evolved while reflecting many recurring themes that have stood the test of time.

"I believe the three major reasons driving the development in garden design are ever-changing architecture, climate change and lifestyle changes," he says.

"Extremes of weather have tended to kill off some new trends in planting in recent years. It is not long since we were being encouraged to plant drought-tolerant varieties, only to find them frosted or rotted in cold, wet winters.

"It only takes a couple of years of extreme weather in close succession to remove gardeners' confidence in certain plants.

"I have always enjoyed growing a wide range of silver-leaved plants, but living on heavy soil and having wetter weather, I am reluctant to risk some of these.

"For the average gardener it will always be best to grow plants tolerant of a wide range of conditions."

Low maintenance and the need for neatness will always be a factor in gardens for the future, he predicts, especially in urban environments.

Platts's 2013 Chelsea garden will embrace both new and traditional garden features, from modern sculpture to planting, threaded with historical shrubs popular in the 1900s.

His flair for planting will be apparent throughout the garden, from wild grasses and meadow flowers to cottage roses and nodding foxgloves.

He said: "The classic look we know today has been around for some time and I think and hope it will be with us for many years to come."

So, how much have our gardens changed in the last century? Here are some examples.

Plant pots – in 1913 pots would have been made from clay. This then developed to plastic with a recent trend towards biodegradable materials.

Glasshouses – then heating and propagation for glasshouses and growing frames relied on solid fuel and manure. Nowadays, electricity and bio fuels are used.

Fertilisers – 100 years ago most fertiliser was organic. Over the years chemicals were developed for use in fertilising. There is now a trend to returning to organic fertilisers.

Garden construction materials – then natural timber, stone, clay and iron and aggregates were mainly used. These would generally have been locally sourced. In 2013 we use a very similar range of materials with a few additions, such as plastics, concrete, stainless steel (invented in 1913) and imported materials such as Indian sandstone.

Plants – varieties we grew in 1913 are similar to what we grow now, but with a wider range today due to sophisticated plant breeding and selection methods. A century ago most were raised in the ground after propagation, being "lined out" in the field as young plants, hence the term "liners", which is still used in the nursery trade for young plants prior to final potting

Lawn mowers – were in their infancy 100 years ago. Technology has resulted in garden machinery becoming more widely affordable. The basic principles of cutting grass using a cylinder mower have changed little over the century. Plastics, battery-powered strimmers and the rotary mower mean that small areas of grass are easier to maintain nowadays. Robotic mowers may be the way forward for lazy gardeners.

Today we grow our own food at home more as a hobby than a necessity, whereas 100 years ago, before supermarkets, refrigerators and fast transport, food was grown as a basic need.

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