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James May Rebuilds a 1950s Mower – Why Not Recreate a 1950s Garden? Hobbies 

James May Rebuilds a 1950s Mower – Why Not Recreate a 1950s Garden?

Ideas for a low-maintenance garden that has a retro-feel from the years of rock ‘n’roll.

With some artificial grass, you can recreate a secluded, 50s style garden with a small lawn area, and never need to mow again!

The sight, sound and smell of freshly cut grass seems as much a part of the British summer as strawberries and cream, Wimbledon and the Lord’s test match. However, sixty years ago, only the very wealthy had significant amounts of grass that needed cutting. For the masses, the garden was a place to grow vegetables and perhaps a few shrubs and flowers.

As people moved into new suburban housing developments in the post-war years, the idea of laying some land to grass became more popular. Consequently, production and development of lawnmowers, like the 1959 Suffolk Colt rebuilt by James May on BBC’s The Reassembler, increased.

Today, there is an easy, low-maintenance way of creating that 1950s look, with clever use of ornamentation and the right flowers and shrubs, all set around a lawn of artificial grass that never needs cutting!

Early lawnmowers

The lawnmower was invented in 1830 by Edwin Beard Budding, an engineer from Stroud, who got the idea after seeing a machine in a local cloth mill which used a cutting cylinder mounted on a bench to trim cloth and make a smooth finish after weaving.

Budding realised that a similar concept would enable the cutting of grass if the mechanism could be mounted in a wheeled frame to make the blades rotate close to the lawn’s surface. Early machines were made of cast iron and featured a large rear roller with a cutting cylinder in the front. Cast iron gear wheels transmitted power from the rear roller to the cutting cylinder. The basic concept and design is very similar to modern mowers.

Motorised mowers first appeared in the 1890s as lightweight petrol engines and small steam power units became available.

By the 1950s lawn mower technology had advanced greatly and machines were inexpensive and generally reliable. 1959 saw the introduction of the now-famous Suffolk Colt, which went on to become the most popular mower of the 1960s and early 70s. In fact, many are still in use today.

1950s garden

In the 1950s garden, it was considered the height of fashion to have as many mass produced decorations scattered about as possible – plastic flamingos, garden gnomes, lantern holders, and literally anything else. Great fun can be had at garden centres, second hand shops and boot sales to see what you can find!

These would be set around small, well-manicured lawns. Originally, they would have been quite fiddly and time consuming to maintain, which is where the use of artificial grass around the artificial flamingos comes into its own!

You will also need plenty of round- or box-pruned evergreen foundation plants.

Larger gardens in the 1950’s reflected an outdoor-indoor living – patios and swimming pools were quite popular. There was more focus on hardscape features than plants, though garden flowers were big, bright and colourful when used, with pinks, blacks and turquoises all the fashion.

Whatever the details, the most important thing is to keep a sense of fun as you recreate your very own slice of the rock ‘n’ roll years!

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