GO ON, GET RETRO

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

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.

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