Pictured above: Trex composite decking is made from waste plastic bags and wood scraps. Decking remains a popular way to achieve that outdoor room feel - and extra living space for when the weather's good.
Britain’s homes are shrinking and with it our green spaces. Homes today have halved in size compared to those built in 1920, and the average British garden has shrunk from 168 m2 to just 163.2 m2 between 1983 and 2013.
On top of this, more than two million UK homes don’t have any garden space at all and planning experts predict that by 2020 10.5 per cent of homes will be garden-less. Which isn't good news on many counts, not least research that suggests children who live in homes without a garden are far more likely to become obese compared to those who do have gardens to play in.
However, it’s not just size or lack of access to garden space that's changed. Indeed Britons' entire approach to gardening has shifted as new synthetic materials have become available – from decking to gardening products such as fertilisers.
Plant pots: originally made from clay, pots and containers widely on sale are are plastic while some are now made from biodegradable materials.
Fertiliser: Once, fertiliser was entirely organic. However, chemicals have now been developed to serve as fertiliser – although many gardeners do prefer organic or peat-free fertiliser.
Lawn mowers: We used to use shears or scythes..cutting grass was a manual job. But machinery was developed in the 1900s saw the development of the push mower and now of course we have electrically-powered lawnmovers which do make it so much easier to maintain a lawn.
Change of purpose
And while gardens are still full of soil, clay, timber and stone, lots of us have added plastic and stainless steel in the form of furniture and railings, and concrete for hard landscaping.
The actual way we see our gardens has changed too. During WW2, gardens were areas for growing food to supplement rationing, and also an area of refuge for those who’d build their own bomb shelters! But by the early 1950s gardeners had shrugged off this sensibility and shifted their focus towards ornamentation and decoration, placing more emphasis on how things look - so manicured lawns and trimmed shrubs.
The late '50s and early '60s saw the arrival of the garden centre, (the first one to open was in Ferndown, Dorset in 1955) – forever changing the way British gardeners cultivated plants. Widespread availability of plants meant heathers, conifers and bedding plants became popular.
However, the 1970s' counterculture movement also changed the way we garden, reverting attention back on the idea of self-sufficiency and growing your own. And the advent of colour television saw gardening programmes arrive on our screens and interest in gardening as a hobby took off.
The 1980s saw gardens become places to entertain with conservatories and barbecues and by the 1990s we were all getting in to garden makeovers. Which meant putting in decking as a fast affordable way to make a living space in the garden.
The rise of the internet in the 2000s has changed gardening again. Information about growing and cultivating your own plants is everywhere, via your desktop, tablet computer or mobile phone. The renewed focus on climate change and healthy eating also means more of us
want to create sustainable gardens with minimal harm to the environment, using recycled materials in everything from plant pots to composite decking
However, returning to the point that British homes have ever smaller gardens, we need to think carefully about how we can make the most of the new materials and products available and use them to enhance our lives. If you have only a small backyard, fill it with pot plants and remember you can grow fruit and veg in containers too. Or if you're interior space is limited, it might be worth turning your outside space into living space too. You can do this with good decking, some large outdoor umbrellas to shield you from sun and rain and some weatherproof furniture.