GO ON, GET RETRO
The 1950s was one of the most vibrant and creative times across the spectrum of life – retro! It was just after the war, coupons were slowly disappearing and the American influence matched our swing away from Britain to a more glamourous and somewhat glitzy lifestyle that included bold colour, music, fashion and gardens.
There are few garden pictures of the time that don’t include the newest of ‘patio’ living, with plastic bucket chairs, a home-made barbecue, flagstone paving and often a few succulents as feature plants in large concrete pots, painted in chartreuse, rose red and blue hues.
Unlike the period changes of art nouveau and art deco, retro was distinctly the start of the age of plastics. It was the move that blurred the inside out, with new living experiences that gave us different ways to use garden space. The advent of rotary mowers, even if it was a cord-start, meant that a manicured green lawn, previously only in the realm of the local bowling club was now within reach.
The advances in chemical technology from the war like DDT were considered a boon to a garden and serious doom for a poor pest.
Interestingly, many of the heavy-hitting chemicals solved as many problems as they created elsewhere. In the overall scheme of things, they had a short life. Right now, old is new again as the yuccas and spiky plants that included the dracaenas and older cordylines marked what a retro garden consisted of are making their comeback. Shallow bowls of cacti were ‘crafted’ for patios and courtyards with the idea of spiky and low care.
The idea of assembling black leaved plants was new and still worth a try to mix with geometric shapes of coloured concrete paving in rose pink, turquoise and garden green that certainly reduced the mowing time.
The ‘50s garden party also required suitable attire. Sleek, slender and elegant. Party apparel could also refer to grass trees, black spiky dracaenas and large generous shallow pots (painted black) of hot pink petunias as casual placements on a new patio. Where garden gnomes fitted into a retro setting is anyone’s guess, but they are almost one of the essentials if you are contemplating a retrothemed garden.