The Changes We’ve Seen in Gardening

April 2022 marked Hambrook’s 52nd year in business, so it felt appropriate to reflect on how gardening has changed during that time. Our founder, Norman Hambrook, says he thinks gardening today is easier; it’s certainly true that there are many more power tools and sources of advice available now than when he started. Of course, it’s also true that Hambrooks has more hands on the job now, so that might also be what he’s referring to!  Either way, here are our thoughts on how gardening and our gardening habits have changed since we began in 1970.

1970s garden
Smaller plots

Most of us now garden on a smaller plot than the average 1970s garden offered. This is partly because the need for more housing has seen the density of new build houses increase, leaving less room for gardens, but it’s also down to reasons like needing space to park more cars. Being a nation of gardeners and not to be deterred, we have embraced container gardening, with pots, window boxes and hanging baskets satisfying our green-fingered urges instead. So, while it is a shame that our outdoor spaces have generally reduced, there has been a boom in the DIY and gardening trade which seems to suggest that, actually, more of us are gardening than ever before – which is definitely a good thing!

How we use our gardens

In the 1970s, unless you were Tom and Barbara Good, gardens were generally only expected to provide space for a Swingball set and a sun lounger. As long as your lawn displayed cricket-pitch stripes and your begonias had been dead-headed, there wasn’t much call for being outside in it.  Fortunately, it seems we have all learnt to love being outdoors (and how good it makes us feel) so we are much more demanding of our gardens today.  Whilst front gardens are often devoted to parking and the bins, our back gardens now offer us outside dining, entertaining and playing spaces that would have made Percy Thrower awe-struck! Another positive change, we think.

The choice of plants has grown

Although we think of the Victorians as being the pioneering plant-hunters and growers, the twentieth century actually saw just as many new introductions and new breeds. Many specialists and enthusiastic amateurs have sought to breed cultivars of plants to bring more pleasure to our gardens: the daffodil that flowers earlier, the iris that flowers for longer and the dahlia that will survive the frosts. Today’s gardener still has to be mindful of the ‘right plant, right place’ mantra but certainly our choice, from seeds to plug plants to larger specimens, is so much wider than it was in the 1970s.  As a result, we seem to have become more adventurous in our planting and our gardens are much more interesting.

lighted garden
Sources of inspiration have multiplied

Believe it or not but ‘Gardeners World’ wasn’t actually the first TV gardening programme, although it seems to be proving the longest standing.  Since 1970, we have been through seven GW presenters (how many can you name?) with Monty Don apparently on track to steal Geoff Hamilton’s record as longest serving.  But, of course, we have so many more places to turn to for gardening advice and inspiration today.  As well as an explosion of TV and radio shows (let’s not forget Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time!), there are so many magazines, books and a plethora of garden centres and specialist shops.  The arrival of the internet means that anyone can put themselves out there as a gardening guru so, while we applaud how easy it is to find information now, we urge caution in making sure it’s a reputable source you’re using!

Understanding wildlife better

One of the most positive changes, we think, is how much better we all understand our natural environment and the wildlife that we share our gardens with.  In the ‘bad’ old days, we would think nothing of applying chemicals on a whim – to kill aphids, to pep’ up your lawn or to fertilise your tomatoes. Science has helped us understand the negative impact of manufactured chemicals (such as neonicotinoids fatally harming our bee populations) as well as the positive impacts of more natural gardening methods, like encouraging ladybirds to eat greenfly. Partly as a result of greater plant choice but also because we understand that wildlife needs a diverse diet and habitat, gardens today are buzzier, greener, chirpier and therefore happier places than they were in 1970.

So, whilst we might feel some nostalgia for the ‘70s, on balance, we’re very glad that we’re gardening today.

Read more about Hambrooks proud history:
Celebrating 50 ‘blooming’ years – an interview with our founder, Norman Hambrook
Peek behind the scenes at two different types of garden we have built, one a very established site, the other a newly built home
Our charity work: supporting Open Sight and our local Coastguard station
Meet one of the team: Sam started as an Apprentice and is now one of our garden designers




N. Haggard 20 September 2022

I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say how delighted I am with my new garden.

Jon, my designer, listened to my ideas and delivered on everything I asked for. I wanted something different to any garden I’d had before, no lawn, no landscaping but packed with plants. He designed such a lovely secret garden, around a statement tree. And I have to commend him for his unwavering patience! I changed my mind a hundred times but never did he give me the impression that he was losing patience with my endless indecision. And my confidence in him led me to place an order for over £10k.

My landscaping team, Blade and Tony, were exceptional, from their work ethic, skill and knowledge, to the way they dealt with me, the customer. My standards are very high and I couldn’t fault them.

All in all, a very professional team of people. And it showed that they all care. I’m over the moon with the finished result. I will send you a before and after photo. Thank you so much.

A delighted customer.

G. Gray. May 2022

My front garden has been transformed by Andy and Bradley who both worked incredibly hard and I am delighted with the result. Andy had the vision and skill to turn my idea into reality and I can't thank him enough.

C. Haig Sept 2021

We recently had our garden landscaped by Hambrooks and I just wanted to pass on my thanks, not just for the outcome - which is superb - but for the professionalism of all the staff involved on the job who are all a credit to you company. Mike, Dave, Les and Adam.

H. Sharp Sept 2021

I just wanted to let you know how delighted I am with my new garden. Melanie was a delight to work with and the ideas she had have worked perfectly. Also Sheldon laid the patio beautifully and him and Dave were a pleaseure to have at my house. Quiet workers and polite.

B. Rendell April 2021

I would like to say how delighted we are with the work carried out. Mel, Paul and Tony all worked very hard, they totally took on board the specific need relating to safety as well as the general garden issues. Paul and Tony were excellent at consulting and discussing with me what I felt best in terms of the brief and adjusting if and as necessary, constantly pleasant and polite to deal with. Mel had picked up on particular issues from the first consultation and offered valuable advice. The outcome means a great deal less worry for me going forward.
Altogether a very positive experience and outcome which I would not hesitate to recommend to others.

Stephen March 2021

Dom and Adam's work (garden maintenance) is greatly appreciated. Dom really listened to everything we discussed very carefully and went out of his way to understand and then act upon that discussion. We are extremely pleased with the work done - both to the pond and pyracantha.


We have been coming to Hambrooks for years and it's our favourite garden centre because of its friendly helpful staff and a great selection of plants and trees and the garden design ideas.

“We wanted to write and say how pleased we are with our low maintenance garden makeover. We are very impressed with the attitude of your staff who were prepared to listen to our requirements. Your team John and Rick brushed up and left everything tidy at the end of the day. We now have a garden we can manage and it looks great. THANK YOU HAMBROOKS.”

Mr & Mrs Venables, Southampton. April 2019

“Dear Josh & Mike We just want to say you both did a brilliant job of designing our garden along with the guys who did the work who were amazing. A few weeks on its looks even better now some of the plants are blooming. Thank you!!”

Mr & Mrs Gazzard, Winchester July 2019

“To James, John & Rikki. Thank you so much, we are delighted with our new garden. We really appreciate the attention to detail, the high quality workmanship and the standard of the finished project. We are amazed at how John & Rikki resolved the difficulties of the site and by the quality of their craftmanship. It was a pleasure to work with them and thank you for making our ideas into something we will enjoy for years to come.”