21st April 2022

The changes we've seen in gardening

The changes we've seen in gardening

As April 2022 marks Hambrook’s 52nd year in business, it feels appropriate to reflect on how gardening has changed during that time. Our founder, Norman Hambrook, says he thinks gardening today is easier; it’s certainly true that there are many more power tools and sources of advice available now than when he started. Of course, it’s also true that Hambrooks has more hands on the job now, so that might also be what he’s referring to!  Either way, here are our thoughts on how gardening and our gardening habits have changed since we began in 1970.

Smaller plots

Most of us now garden on a smaller plot than the average 1970s garden offered. This is partly because the need for more housing has seen the density of new build houses increase, leaving less room for gardens, but it’s also down to reasons like needing space to park more cars. Being a nation of gardeners and not to be deterred, we have embraced container gardening, with pots, window boxes and hanging baskets satisfying our green-fingered urges instead. So, while it is a shame that our outdoor spaces have generally reduced, there has been a boom in the DIY and gardening trade which seems to suggest that, actually, more of us are gardening than ever before – which is definitely a good thing!

lighted gardenHow we use our gardens

In the 1970s, unless you were Tom and Barbara Good, gardens were generally only expected to provide space for a Swingball set and a sun lounger. As long as your lawn displayed cricket-pitch stripes and your begonias had been dead-headed, there wasn’t much call for being outside in it.  Fortunately, it seems we have all learnt to love being outdoors (and how good it makes us feel) so we are much more demanding of our gardens today.  Whilst front gardens are often devoted to parking and the bins, our back gardens now offer us outside dining, entertaining and playing spaces that would have made Percy Thrower awe-struck! Another positive change, we think.

The choice of plants has grown

Although we think of the Victorians as being the pioneering plant-hunters and growers, the twentieth century actually saw just as many new introductions and new breeds. Many specialists and enthusiastic amateurs have sought to breed cultivars of plants to bring more pleasure to our gardens: the daffodil that flowers earlier, the iris that flowers for longer and the dahlia that will survive the frosts. Today’s gardener still has to be mindful of the ‘right plant, right place’ mantra but certainly our choice, from seeds to plug plants to larger specimens, is so much wider than it was in the 1970s.  As a result, we seem to have become more adventurous in our planting and our gardens are much more interesting.

Sources of inspiration have multiplied

Believe it or not but ‘Gardeners World’ wasn’t actually the first TV gardening programme, although it seems to be proving the longest standing.  Since 1970, we have been through seven GW presenters (how many can you name?) with Monty Don apparently on track to steal Geoff Hamilton’s record as longest serving.  But, of course, we have so many more places to turn to for gardening advice and inspiration today.  As well as an explosion of TV and radio shows (let’s not forget Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time!), there are so many magazines, books and a plethora of garden centres and specialist shops.  The arrival of the internet means that anyone can put themselves out there as a gardening guru so, while we applaud h

ow easy it is to find information now, we urge caution in making sure it’s a reputable source you’re using!

Understanding wildlife better


One of the most positive changes, we think, is how much better we all understand our natural environment and the wildlife that we share our gardens with.  In the ‘bad’ old days, we would think nothing of applying chemicals on a whim – to kill aphids, to pep’ up your lawn or to fertilise your tomatoes. Science has helped us understand the negative impact of manufactured chemicals (such as neonicotinoids fatally harming our bee populations) as well as the positive impacts of more natural gardening methods, like encouraging ladybirds to eat greenfly. Partly as a result of greater plant choice but also because we understand that wildlife needs a diverse diet and habitat, gardens today are buzzier, greener, chirpier and therefore happier places than they were in 1970.

So, whilst we might feel some nostalgia for the ‘70s, on balance, we’re very glad that we’re gardening today in 2022.

7th December 2021

Wildflower Turf

Wildflower Turf

Wildflowers have become quite a trend in gardens in recent years. Not only is this kind of naturalistic planting attractive and relatively easy to care for, it can do wonders for attracting wildlife too.  In October, Hambrooks Garden Landscaping colleague, Sam Foster, attended a course to learn more.  Here’s how he got on.

I think we are all aware that interest in wildlife has definitely been growing. More and more of our customers don’t just want a beautiful garden but one that is attractive to birds and insects too.  I was keen to learn more about wildflower seeds and turf as these are definitely a great way for us all to support the diversity in our gardens.

Wildflower Turf are a local family company, also based in Hampshire. From a farming background, they began growing turf commercially in 1982 but diversified into wildflowers in 2003.  They supply a range of products to suit a wide range of situations – from recreating habitat for Great Crested Newts in Popley to establishing a drought-tolerant green roof on Alder Hay Children’s Hospital. Fortunately, they also run courses to teach landscape designers like me how to get the best out of them!

I can see that, for our landscape customers, it will be the wildflower turf that I will be designing with most often.  Like any turf, it requires careful watering when it’s newly laid but it will show much faster results than sowing seeds or using their ‘Meadowscape Pro’ seed and soil mixes.

Not many clients are likely to have the space to dedicate to a full wildflower meadow so I’m expecting to design wildflower areas within garden schemes.  It doesn’t matter if you can only dedicate a few square meters, the good news is that it will still attract wildlife.  It’s also great for hilly or banked areas, as you’re mowing it less often than ordinary grass, and it can work really beautifully under trees or to blend in with the wider landscape around your garden.

Preparation is key and similar to laying normal turf or grass seed.  Any existing turf, plants or weeds should be removed and the ground rotavated and levelled as much as possible; this will give a much better finish.  The turf is then laid in the usual way and needs to be watered regularly while it establishes.

Maintenance is relatively minimal once your wildflowers have established. Mid-season, around early June, it’s worth chopping the whole area down to about half the height.  This might seem drastic for a short time but it really does encourage everything to regrow with more flowers and more impact!  Then, at the end of the season, when flowers are visibly dead, you need to mow it to take away dead foliage and allow space for next year’s seeds to grow.  (You might need to start with something like a hedge trimmer before you can get your mower on it!)

I enjoyed learning about how the turf and seeds are grown and the mix of plants in each mix.  Wildflower Turf can even do a bespoke mix if you have any special requests.  I also learnt how wildflower mixes can not only attract wildlife (and help to save our struggling bee populations) but improve drainage and help soil retention too.  And I’d really like to have a go at a green roof; I don’t think we’ve been asked for one of those before but I’d love to try it!


14th February 2020

BLOG: Paving Grout - A Quick Guide

BLOG: Paving Grout - A Quick Guide

During the past five years products such as EASYjoint and EASYgrout, and similar products  have become more and more popular to use as a grout for internal and external paving. EASYjoint in particular is a labour saving product and very simple to apply using a broom and hose. EASYgrout again is simple to use - just add water to the mix and apply with a suitable grouting tool to compact into the open joints. Furthermore it takes only 1-2 hours to set. Traditional grouting or mortar requires mixing 4 parts sand to 1 part cement and needs to be mixed in small quantities as it goes off very quickly and takes up to 24 hours to set/dry.  Also it is not advisable to walk on the paving for at least 3 days.

Sets Easily

EASYjoint is a natural product and sets very easily on contact with air. It is the original 'sweep in compound' and ideal for both natural stone and concrete slabs. While it is a quick and easy material to work with the right conditions are imperative in order for it to set properly. To use EASYjoint effectively it is important that the paving is laid on a sub base that is either permeable or a free draining site. If the paving is laid on areas where the surface rarely dries out completely EASYjoint will not set. Additionally, while it can be applied in most weather conditions it is advisable not to use in heavy rain or temperatures below 3 centigrade.

Easyjoint can be used on all types of paving including limestone, granite, sandstone and slate. However, when laying Porcelain either use EASYgrout , which is a slurry grout and mixes easily with water or  traditional pointing is also recommended as it really needs a weather repellent grout and not one that is permeable.  EASYjoint is available in 5 colours but as the sand part of the product is a natural element it is important to buy enough EASYjoint in one batch to ensure continuity of colour and avoid variences in shade.

Check your Paving

Check to make sure you don't need to seal the paving before you begin and then you need to wet the surface of the paving and keep the surface wet at all times while applying EASYjoint. It is better if you work in pairs with one of the team sweeping and the other using the hose to spread the material across the surface and into the joints.  One important thing to remember is not to overfill the joint - fill to just below the surface.

Use the hose to make sure no residue is left on the surface of the paving and continue to hose down lightly until the oil like residue is no longer visible in the water. Once EASYjoint has set use a clean broom to sweep the surface clean of any traces of the compound. Remember use plenty of water before, during and after the application.   In dry conditions it should be possible to walk on the paving after 24 hours and within a few days the joints will become very hard. However, do be aware cold and wet conditions will increase the normal setting time and this may take several days.


11th November 2019

BLOG: Instant Evergreen Hedging

BLOG: Instant Evergreen Hedging

Instant Evergreen Hedging

There is a big rise in interest in planting instant hedging and screening particularly in new gardens where many houses are built very close together. Instant screening not only provides privacy for the occupants it also adds a natural softness to the garden against the vast areas of new red brick visible from every aspect of the house.

Griselinia littoralis -New Zealand Laurel

With its distintive apple green and small yellow green flowers in spring, Griselinia is a great choice for a quick growing dense evergreen hedge. It is particularly tolerate of seaside conditions as salt laden winds do it little harm.  Easy to maintain, it can be kept small otherwise if it isn't pruned it will reach up to 10ft high. Plant in full sun, although semi shade is okay too with its only intolerance being heavy soil. The local birds will enjoy feeding off the purple fruits during the winter months.

 Laurel - Cherry Laurel

The most popular of hedging plants in the UK the common Cherry Laurel with its glossy green leaves and its tolerance to grow very happily in the shade. Not only is it tolerant of shade it will grown in almost all soil conditions although do not allow a newly planted hedge to dry out.  If you don't want a conifer hedge then a Cherry Laurel is the next best thing. It provides a good screen and can grown 2-3ft per year.

 Copper Beech

The Copper Beech is great either for screening purposes or for a dense natural hedge. It works well as a hedge because it can be cut back hard, which also means it will keep most of its leaves. This in turn gives your local bird life a home in the winter months. 

 How to Plant your Instant Hedge

 Dig a shallow trench, approximately 1ft deep,the length of your hedge  and make it wide enough to spread out gently the roots of each plant. Dig in some well rotted organic compost and sprinkle the trench with bonemeal. Loosen the roots around each root ball before placing in trench and covering over with the soil. Plant each shrub approximately 2ft apart. Press in soil gently - do not over compact the earth.If the weather is dry water in well and check every couple of weeks if it doesn't rain. Then leave for the roots to become established over the winter months ready for strong growth in the spring.

30th September 2019

BLOG: Decorative Stone

BLOG: Decorative Stone

Economical & Attractive

What do you know about decorative stone? In recent years it has become very popular in our gardens due to the fact it is not only an economical alternative to laying a brick or stone path it is also helps to create attractive and low maintenance gardens. Furthermore, decorative stone can be used as an alternative to mulch as it keeps down weeds in the borders. 

So you will be pleased to learn we stock an extensive range of high quality pebbles, gravel, cobbles, rockery stone, slate and chippings supplied by Kelkay.

Colour & Texture

You can lay pebbles and aggregates over a large area, which is a great sustainable alternative to a lawn, as rainwater will naturally drain away just as it does through grass. Compliment water features by surrounding them with the colourful hues of decorative stoness, or use a mixture of sandstone setts and different size paving slabs to make an attractive and interesting path. Rockery stone and cobbles come in a number of sizes so you can create different effects along flower borders, edges and pathways. The vast selection of colours from warm Mediterranean tones to artic whites and blues means there is a decorative stone to suit any style of garden.

Transform your Garden Overnight

Paths are an integral to our whole garden, as they are not only functional but also provide focal points and boundaries, while  bringing colour and texture to soft landscaping.  You can use natural stone stepping-stones across your lawn to create patterns and to lead the eye down the garden. Perhaps you have a north facing area in your garden where nothing agrees to grow? If so, creating an imaginative area of hard landscaping will provide an attractive and low maintenance option. The best bit of all is you can lay these materials so quickly and easily you can transform your garden almost overnight!

Correct Amount

Depending on whether you are laying a path, creating a low maintenance flower border or simply creating a focal point you will need to ensure you buy enough of your chosen material to lay it to the correct level. Please do contact us for advice if you are unsure.

9th July 2019

BLOG: Artificial Grass

BLOG: Artificial Grass

Artificial Grass & Lawns

A Little Piece of History

Only a few years ago nobody would dream of fitting artificial grass  in their gardens and until recently, for most of us, the only experience we had of artificial grass was the green baize coverings that greengrocers once used as bases for displaying fruit and vegetables. 

Artificial grass or turf was first laid in the USA in 1964 on Rhode Island. A year later it was patented and sold under the name of 'Chemgrass'. It was in 1966 when it was intalled in the Astrodome in Houston Texas that it became known as 'Astro Turf', after the world's first multi purpose domed sports stadium.

From that day it became popular in the USA and was installed on both indoor and outdoor football and baseball pitches.It was slow to take off in the UK  and it wasn't until 1981 that the football club Queen's Park Rangers installed on their pitch. It took another twenty years before Chelsea Flower Show lifted the ban on artificial lawns and allowed it to be used for one of their Show Gardens and even then true horticulturits sniffed heavily at the very idea!

Today, we are now on what is termed the 'Third Generation' of artificial turf. It now has a much more natural look, is much softer, has a much higher fibre density in addition to a longer pile. Also the colours available are much more realistic. Gone are the gaudy greens!

Low Maintenance

In recent year the demand for good artificial grass has grown rapidly. It is now available in different grades from budget through to a more luxurious turf, and deemed to be a good alternative to the real thing. so there is an artificial turf to suit any type of garden - not just urban or courtyard gardens.

It wears well, it is child and pet friendly, there are no bare patches, no mud - so no more muddy footprints or paws trawling through the house!  It is ideal for shady areas in the garden where grass refuses to grow and requries very little maintenance. No need to mow, feed or water! It just requires a brush once a month to keep the pile looking fresh and upright and you can use a garden hose to give it a clean down.

A Great Looking Lawn all year Round!

It looks great all year round, it is porous so rainfall will seep through the backing and it does not fade. Most quality brands have at least a ten-year guarantee and overall artificial lawns make life much easier and certainly tick all the boxes in for busy lifestyles today.

Pick up our Leaflet

We have our own Artificial Turf Leaflet which gives clear instructions on how to lay the turf correctly and we are proud to say we have experience spanning over 10 years in laying artifical turf and pride ourselves on being one of the first landscapers in the UK to champion artirficial lawns.over 10 years ago. So if you don't fancy attempting to lay it yourself please do call us on 01489 779998 and we'll arrange for one of our specialist to come and out see you. Or buy it here.