A mixture of old and new

Garden construction:  A garden path
Garden construction: A garden path
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The world’s top garden designers will be celebrating 100 years of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2013 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, who is designing the M&G show garden, Windows Through Time, 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 that the three major reasons driving the development in garden design are ever-changing architecture, climate change and lifestyle changes,” says Platts.

“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. For the enthusiast they will always be trying to push the boundaries.”

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

“The terms ‘disease free’ and ‘easy to grow’ and ‘uncomplicated’ is as much as I can predict for future gardens. It is impossible to know what other factors will dictate how gardens will look in the future.”

So, how much have our gardens changed in the last century?

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

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

l 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.

l Garden construction materials - then natural timber, stone, clay and iron and aggregates were mainly used.