Trending garden ideas: Getting your hands dirty – then and now

Back in 1980, Australian Crawl sang ‘the garden’s full of furniture, the house is full of plants’ – and you know what, garden style has come full circle and nothing much has changed!

We’re cramming our ever-shrinking backyards and courtyard gardens with everything including the kitchen sink, fridge and sofa, to create that elusive multi functional ‘outside room’.

And plants are coming back inside, in ever-more eclectic styles of pots. A couple of decades ago it would have been hard-to- kill monstera and mother-in- law’s tongue but today it’s edible plants, particularly herbs – in handy reach of the kitchen bench.

The 70s garden returns

Arid gardens have been around for decades, and the words sustainable, local and water-wise are now more timely than ever. We’re planting natives like westringias, using fewer chemicals, designing wilder and less structured gardens, and welcoming back the (native) birds and the bees.

But those huge widow-maker gums and ungainly pampas grasses of the 1970s have been replaced by dwarf varieties of old favourites like hydrangeas, fruit trees and azaleas, designed for today’s smaller gardens. And you can forget annuals – who can be bothered with a yearly planting regime when you can choose low-maintenance perennials!
The concrete slabs, tiles and pavers and symmetrical geometry of only a few years ago have been flung on the design compost heap and replaced with a softer, more organic DIY style – recycled railway sleepers, handmade decks and comfortable furniture like armchairs and hammocks. Lawns have made a return, if in smaller areas – and, yes, AstroTurf is making a reappearance!

Eat your greens

Self-sufficiency may have been invented in the Great Depression but it’s back with a vengeance. Edible gardening is all the rage, from perennial herbs like rosemary and thyme to flowering vegies such as zucchinis, cabbages and broccoli. For as Uncle Monty said in Withnail and I, ‘Flowers are essentially tarts. Prostitutes for the bees. There is, you'll agree, a certain je ne sais quoi about a firm young carrot.’

Night lights and more

The spotlight has been on garden lighting since the heyday of Hawaiian luau lighting in the 1980s, only now they’re dramatically trained on up-lighting trees, illuminating steps or creating a focal point with pond lights.

For wow factor, the trend is spots of colour that pop against the neutral background of a grey wall or planter box – try mass planting purple lavender or simple daisies. And 1950s-style feature walls are back, in the garden at least – get out your paintbrush and slap on some bright warm colour.

Get vertical

Experienced and avid green thumbs alike know that getting stuck into the garden is hugely rewarding – spiritually, aesthetically and physically. And wanting kill-proof plants, quick fixes and low maintenance is nothing new – just look at the clever Australian cottage garden style invented by Edna Walling in the 1930s and you’ll realise there really is nothing new under the sun.

Unless we talk about vertical gardens, that is. Putting a different slant on garden beds, the latest gardening trend sees layers of cheap and cheerful tube stocks attached to the walls of balconies, fences and walls – perfect for small spaces. The wild mix of plants can include ferns, bromeliads and ivy, or on-trend edibles like kale, rocket, chillies and parsley.
That’s today’s gardening – straight up, inside out and outside in!

Main photo: Mostera Deliciosa: Hard to kill, but out of vogue

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