As April 2022 marks Hambrook’s 52nd year in business, it feels 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.
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.
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 in 2022