When researching some possibilities for the plants to put in the front yard, I came across many, many references to English gardens. From the tiniest cottage garden to the most elaborate country house landscape, the English have been renowned for centuries for their garden design. Which got me thinking: gardens are marvelous additions to novels. They evoke scents--lush roses, heady lavender, sweet lilac--and vivid color. They feature marvelous little alcoves for a romantic tryst, or a secluded bower for intrigue. They provide a peaceful backdrop for a solitary walk, or a tree for a mischievous heroine to climb. So today I thought I'd take a little walk through the history of English gardens.
Some other resources for medieval gardens include:
McLean, Teresa. Medieval English Gardens (Viking, 1981).
National Geographic story about a 2003 discovery of the remains of an unusual medieval garden at Whittington Castle.
During the Renaissance period, gardens were also enclosed, but they were much more elaborate. In the Tudor era, gardens were heavily influenced by Italianate style. The "knot garden" was developed during this period. Hampton Court Palace has several reconstructed Tudor-era gardens, including a classic knot garden.
The Stuarts, on the other hand, were into French gardens. These often featured a broad avenue flanked by rectangular parterres made of formal low hedges.
If you are interested in learning more about gardens of the Renaissance era, don't bother Googling "Tudor Gardens" or "Renaissance Gardens," as that leads to an astonishing number of urban American apartment complexes and nursing homes, few of which seem to have gardens. Instead, try searching on gardenvisit.com.
Badminton House and landscape garden, Gloucestershire.
From Morris's Country Seats (1880). Source: Wikipedia.
The eighteenth century saw a shift to more natural looking landscapes. Achieving this natural look apparently involved removing everything that was in place (kind of like my yard), and starting from scratch. Every feature, including lakes, was then engineered to look as "natural" as possible.
Lancelot "Capability" Brown was the most sought-after landscape designer of the day. Brown is reputed to have designed over 170 gardens. For a biography of Brown and links to gardens still in existence today, go to http://www.britainexpress.com/History/bio/brown.htm.
Gardens in the Victorian period went a little nuts, with lots of flowers and exotic colors, and formal and informal styles mixed together. There are some wonderful photos at gardenvisit.com, which I am afraid to re-post here, due to copyright issues.
Some general resources on the history of English gardens, in no particular order:
*Great quick resource, and the starting point for this post: http://www.britainexpress.com/History/english-gardens.htm.
*Turner, Tom. Garden Design in the British Isles: History and styles since 1650. (1986?)
*The GardenDesign website has a great bibliography of books on garden design and landscaping history.
*Country Life's website also has a wonderful post featuring links to the best sites for garden history, as well as some wonderful garden and landscape photos from its own archives.
*GoogleBooks has some wonderful free eBooks on English gardens written in the early 20th century.
*The best source I found during this little adventure was GardenVisit.com. Books, articles, photos--pretty much anything you might want to know about the history of gardens.
Finally, if you are a visual learner, check out http://www.gardenvisit.com/history_theory/garden_landscape_design_articles/historic_design_styles for illustrations of garden styles through history.
I hope you've enjoyed strolling through the garden with me. If you have any favorite garden resources, please do share!