How gardens in the UK have changed over time

Whether you’ve noticed it or not, since the 1920s our gardens have been shrinking. 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.

Two million British homes did not have a garden in 2010. 10.5% of homes will not have a garden by 2020, which puts into question 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.

Our garden’s layout isn’t its most important feature anymore, and the way that our gardens are used has also changed. 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 anymore; rather, they are a space that is dictated by decoration and ornamentation.

The accessibility of our garden, and its size, has dictated the materials that we use and incorporate into its design. 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.

In the 1950s and 60s, the UK began to open its first garden centres – and this is what kicked off the gardening phenomenon that 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 within the UK due to their availability.

Moving on from the 1960s to the 1970s, Britain removed itself from conservatism and embraced counter-cultural ideas. 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 gardeners would become aware of how to keep their garden at its best.

Gardens have always moved with the times, and this was no different in the 80s. During the 80s, 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.

After the millennial turn, in the year 2000 it is no surprise that the garden space began to change once again. As information is shared 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.