That plant is so……..

Cotinus Grace

A conversation in the office the other day between John and Jeff went something like this…. JohnI met up with Mr A.nonymous designer last nightJeff in replyCotinus Grace!’.  Jeff is a passionate horticulturalist but he has a broad vocabulary and frequently uses words that are not plant names to communicate a point.  So why the reply … well this was the plant that Jeff associated with the Mr A.nonymous when he used to plant his schemes back in the 1990’s.  Thereafter the conversation spread and the question.…what plant do you associate with schemes of a certain age became the topic of the day!

Do certain plants really identify a planting scheme, can a Cotinus Grace be used as dating evidence like a pottery shard on an archaeological dig?  Well no, Cotinus Grace still provides a lovely splash of purple today and we have planted it in several schemes without fear of being branded passé.  There is however definitely something to this, I have certainly visited a landscape in need of a refresh without a precast slab or shoulder padded client in site and still with a swoosh declared it so 1980’s!

So plants are probably associated with a time or fashion in the same way that a mini skirt is associated with the 60’s but still finds its way back into fashion and certain high streets on a Saturday night.  Some fashions and plants are probably best left in the era they are associated with such as Houttuynia cordata Chameleon and super glue spiked hair – the Bowles & Wyer publicity shot of 1977 should definitely not be repeated…..

Best left in the archive…..

A bit of a B&W office poll and the following plants were listed:-

  • 1950’s  Roses, esp hybrid teas Ena Harkness, Prunus Kanzan, privet, monkey puzzle, fruit trees as Britain started to try and feed its self again after the war
  • 1960’s  Heathers, dwarf conifers (esp Elwoodii), Mahonia aquifolia, variegated plants in general, ‘Japonica’ (Chaenomeles), pampas grass, bare root roses (in the post)
  • 1970’s  Rosa rugosa, Berberis candidula, Berberis wilsonae, Mahonia japonica, Vinca major, Lonicera Baggessens Gold, Hedera Goldheart, Hedera hibernica, Juniperus pfitzeriana, rubber plant, dwarf conifers
  • 1980’s  Photinia Red Robin, Hedera Gloire de Marengo, Hedera Montgomery, Ilex JC Van Thol, Cotinus ‘Grace’, Osmunda regalis, Amelanchier, Camellia, Rhododendron, Houttuynia cordata
  • 1990’s  Phormium tenax Purpureum/Bronze baby etc., Hedera Pittsburgh, County series groundcover roses (also late 80’s), Clematis armandii, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, purple sage, box – topiary, annual bedding plants, Leylandii, Acers, Bonsai
  • Noughties  Buxus balls, Astelia ‘Silver Sword’,  grasses esp Pennisetum, Stipa tenuissima, Echinaceas, Rudbeckias
Dwarf conifer and heathers

What plants do you associate with the different decades?  Are you using a plant that is so 1980’s?  Answers on a blog comment!


5 responses on “That plant is so……..

  1. hayley

    I am glad to read this as a few years ago driving through Dublin with my then garden design boss I commented on the plant Rhus typhina. I admired it when he pointed out the large catkins, and then I followed with “I associate it with the eighties for some reason”. After a lengthy silence, he said “I don’t think plants represent certain decades”, I did feel a bit silly.

    1. John Wyer Post author

      They certainly do Hayley. That’s where the title of the blog came from. In this office we are always saying ‘that is SO 80s’ or something similar. As the blog suggests, some of us even go so far as to associate particular plants with particular people!

      1. hayley

        And there was me thinking I was original.. my brother calls me Fraxi..I call him Quercus. Acanthus spinosos comes to mind looking at the hair do you are both supporting in the photo for some strange reason!

  2. Janet leigh

    I’m loving this… I’m relatively new to garden design and have very few preconceptions about horticultural trends and fashions associated to eras, other than those I remember whilst growing up.
    Being a creative in advertising for 20 years, I feel the same about graphics and typefaces associated with 80’s, 90’s etc. as Hayley with the Rhus…we do associate things with a certain point in time and it is healthy to move forward… Recycling old ideas lacks thought, imagination and creativity.

    1. John Wyer Post author

      Hi Janet. I know exactly what you mean about typefaces! Although I agree with your comments about moving forward, sometimes it is good to look again at old ideas. We all stand on the shoulders of others after all… Looking at the list of plants from different decades, some are those I was really glad to see the back of and think ‘why did anyone ever think that was a good idea’, while I see others and wonder why they fell out of favour. Some things deserve a second look in a different time.

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