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Garden trends through the years

Looking back to the early part of the 18th century, gardens of note were primarily for the landed gentry. They usually comprised of large vistas, water features, lakes, fountains and follies.

This was landscaping on a grand scale and an even grander budget! Re-shaping the landscape and contours, vistas reaching as far as the eye could see and planting specimen trees to form great avenues and parkland.

Lancelot “Capability” Brown, has to be one of the most renowned and respected English landscape architects of that time. He was a visionary. He wasn’t necessarily thinking of the present, but how his work and landscapes would look in centuries to come, long after his demise. His name and landscapes live on and he has left an indelible mark on landscaping history. Thanks to the wealthy aristocracy, who bought into his vision, we can enjoy the fruits of his labours today. Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire and Stowe in Buckinghamshire, to name but a few.
The gardens of private houses and estates continued to be created and the interest continued to filter down.

The Victorians were great collectors of exotica, going off on botanical expeditions across the globe, bringing back rare and unusual species to add to their plant collections. These were propagated in magnificent glass houses and/or planted out in large private and public botanical gardens e.g. Kew Gardens and the botanical gardens in Edinburgh.
In the 1930’s and 40’s any spare ground or garden space was used to grow fruit and vegetables during the war years. It was all about food and resources whilst rationing was in force.

However, there were ‘pockets’ where beautiful gardens were being created. Sissinghurst Castle in Kent (not far from where I currently live), is one such idle. Bought in 1930 and Home to the late Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicolson, between them they too created the most beautiful gardens, famous the world over. It is a garden made up of ‘rooms’, divided by old mellow brick walls and miles of neatly clipped yew hedges. It comprises of the Rose garden, full to the brim of various roses and companion planted with perennials and climbers. The Spring Walk; mature pleached lime trees line an old yorkstone path and under-planted with spring bulbs; narcissi, grape hyacinth and tulips.

The Nuttery is carpeted in shuttlecock ferns, trilliums and other shade loving rare and unusual species. The famous White Garden is made up of a series of box edged beds containing a restricted palette of white, silver and green.

Its centre piece is an iconic iron circular gazebo, clothed in the white flowering rosa. Kiftsgate. When in full bloom, it is utterly breath-taking. This was by all accounts a later addition to the garden.

On a summers’ evening, Vita and Harold would meet up in this garden, seated at an oak table beneath a pergola. Here they would while away the hours, no doubt discussing their days’ affairs, personal ‘affairs’, literature and future plans, the white flowers positively glowing and throwing out their heady scents in the moonlight.

Now acclaimed as the embodiment of modern British gardening tradition, Sissinghurst is Sackville-West and Nicolson's enduring legacy, a haven of peace and beauty.

The Bloomsbury Set

Another garden, albeit far smaller and simpler by comparison, yet of significant note is that of Charleston, nr Lewes. The reason for mentioning this, is its inextricable link with Sissinghurst Castle.

Charleston was the home to the Bloomsbury Group: Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell (sister of Viginia Wolf). They actually moved to Charleston in 1916 along with Vanessa’s two young sons Julian and Quentin from her marriage to Clive Bell.

Many famous artists and literary figures would come and go, including such characters as Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster and Lytton Strachey, to name but a few and of course Vita and Harold.

Both Duncan and Vanessa, being artists themselves, created the most enchanting garden, incorporating sculptures and mosaics created by them and their visitors, filled with colourful and rich planting to use as the perfect backdrop to their paintings.

The 1950’s and 60’s gave way to bright and often clashing colour schemes, but the planting was sometimes strict and regimented.

Hybrid tea roses, would stand to attention in beds of bare earth. A typical sight was the crazy paving front path, flanked by such rose beds leading one to the front door. Conifers and rockeries became another popular addition.
The 70’s was my era, whilst growing up.

It was all about hanging baskets, geraniums, garish begonias, fuschias in abundance and bedding plants or at least that was my own personal and lasting memory of that time. Where space would allow, the shrub border became a popular feature, considered practical, provided an interesting form of screening and relatively little in the way of maintenance.
By the mid 1980’s and 90’s the interest for gardens and design grew
and took on pace in a new direction.

The emphasis of linking garden spaces with and indeed becoming an extension of the home. Al fresco dining and barbeques became popular. There was far more emphasis being given to outdoor living.
The early part of 2000 saw an upsurge of contemporary gardens, focusing on the use of hard materials. This is still quite popular, particularly for inner city gardens where land is at a premium. The severity of the hard materials is now being softened by planting. In recent years there has been greater interest in a more natural style that encourages an eco-system, providing a perfect habitat for flora and fauna, creating balance and harmony whilst helping to reduce CO2 emissions.
21st Century Style

Now in the 21st century, current architecture is reflecting this inside out approach with an emphasis on clean lines and clutter free living, incorporating lots of glass to maximise and benefit from as much natural light to flow into the home as possible. Large bi-fold doors that on a good day can be opened right out causing the division of house and garden to become blurred. It creates a great sense of space and light.
We are becoming more aware of our impact upon the environment and are moving into an era of being eco-friendly and environmentally conscious. There is far greater encouragement to consider alternative ways of living, that could help reduce our carbon footprint and the effect we have on the environment.

Green roofs, air and ground heat source systems, collecting water/rain water, solar and wind power are all natural resources that are finally being harnessed and tapped into.

Innovative design and architecture is at the forefront. There was a stage of steel, concrete and glass and although these materials are still popular, there is a turn towards the use of more organic materials to achieve this look, to soften the overall appearance. This gives the benefits of contemporary design working in harmony with its surroundings.

‘Styles of gardens need to harmonise within the environment they sit and also to link and compliment the house/buildings they surround’.

The same can be said for the garden and the outdoor spaces, we inhabit and create. Sure, go minimal and contemporary, but say within a country landscape and surroundings, a super modern garden using the wrong materials is in danger of looking completely out of place. It is important to consider all aspects when designing a garden. The age and style of the house and any other buildings that may be within the curtelidge and the materials from which they have been constructed.

Is it in an urban setting, a village, out in the depths of the countryside or perhaps a coastal location. What are the conditions, dry/free draining, damp/waterlogged. Does it have its own micro climate, or does it sit in a frost pocket? Is it in full sun/shade. What soil type/s is it? All these elements must be considered along with many other factors.

Gardens that stand the test of time...

I endeavour to listen to and take on board my client’s brief. I will however advise and make suggestions, that they may not have considered and also say if I think something simply will not work or thrive.

As well as following and incorporating my clients brief, I shall introduce them to ideas they may not have even considered and explore different ‘avenues’ demonstrating what they can achieve.

My aim is to provide my client with a garden that exceeds their expectations and one they can be proud of. To offer value for money and try to ensure the best standard and quality of workmanship, wherever possible.

I have my team of tried and tested landscapers and professional gardeners who are experts in their field. However, clients may have their own preferred contractors, they wish to appoint.


Please contact me for an initial, no obligation chat if you would like to talk about your garden. I do understand how personal garden design can be and I would be more than happy to talk about your ideas and vision. Just email me, call me or message me on Facebook if you would like to book an appointment.

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Email  info@catherineberkeleygardens.com

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