So our lovely company reaches the grand old age of 70. Which got me thinking, what was the gardening world like in 1945 when the company was born?
As Europe rose from the ashes of war, destruction was apparent in every part of life, from ravaged cities to stately homes turned over to emergency military hospitals – not even plant nurseries escaped the carnage. The commercial cultivation of ornamental plants had been all but forbidden during wartime – why use valuable glasshouse space to grow chrysanthemums when you could be growing tomatoes for a population facing a dire shortage of fresh food?
What was popular in 1945?
Naturally, given that everyone had been encouraged to grow their own by the wartime ‘Dig for Victory’campaign, vegetable and fruit growing had a massive following (there were 1.4 million allotment plots, compared to 300, 000 today!
Flowers were bright, colourful and in-your-face: ‘less is more’doesn’t really work too well when you’ve had to get by on next to nothing for six long years of war! So, bright dahlias, colourful geraniums and vivid bedding plants were all the rage, in show-stopping colours like chrome yellow, scarlet and royal blue. It’s funny how fashion is cyclical – the post-war look fell thoroughly out of favour in the 1980s and 90s, yet now plants such as dahlias are the height of fashion once again.
What has changed in 70 years?
Since 1945, amazing advances in plant breeding and technology have changed the face of horticulture forever. Gardening has become more democratic too – plants are now bred for home gardeners’needs, in ordinary sized gardens, not huge estates.
For example, if you wanted to grow a peach tree in 1945, you needed a large greenhouse on a south-facing wall. Today, thanks to new varieties, you can grow one in a pot on your patio!
Not only are there new varieties, but new propagation techniques and more efficient distribution mean that, comparatively, plants and bulbs are now cheaper than ever. Plants such as the exotic and beautiful moth orchid, which used to be rare and incredibly expensive are now in most people’s price range – thanks to a technique called micropropagation they now cost about the same as a bargain bucket from KFC!
So, happy birthday Spalding, here’s to another 70 wonderful years!