Times change and so do gardens

The way we garden is often a reflection of the times in which we live, my own way is to respond to the loss of habitat and continuing decline in native species and try to redress the balance in my own patch.

Since the first modern humans evolved we've been changing our landscape to suit our own needs, but in recent centuries up until the intensification of farming, our gardens were seen as a place of refuge from the wild not for it and for the wealthy, whose gardens could be more than a food producing necessity, it was a display of money, power and mastery of the natural world.

I visited Hanbury Hall garden recently, in Worcestershire, a unique National Trust recreation of taste and gardening skill at the end of the C18th where nature is kept firmly in her place behind high hedges within which all is geometry, tranquillity and order.

Individual flowering annuals are shown off as specimens inside tightly clipped box hedges and interspersed with neat topiary. Much of the soil is kept bare by constant weeding in a display of complete dominance over nature's processes. The precision and high levels of skill from what would have been a small army of gardeners is only possible today due to the willingness and dedication of volunteers.

Another garden visit, in complete contrast but only a few days later, was to Allt-y-Bela, the garden and home of renowned landscape architect Arne Maynard. So very different in atmosphere from the formality of Hanbury Hall it too harnesses the skill of shaping and manipulation of plants to create its character. The result however is relaxed and informal and where topiary trees stand around nonchalantly in groups, like people chatting in the garden. Much of the grass remains uncut and the resulting meadows drift out into the landscape over a boundary of hawthorn hedges trimmed into undulating waves, linking the garden perfectly with the same trees dotting the hills around.

Using traditional practises and timeless natural materials from a decidedly modern perspective, this is a garden for the way we live now, a celebration of gardening skills but embracing nature with open arms.

The world around us has changed and I for one am very pleased that our gardens have too.