Back to The Acorn Archive





When John Worlidge wrote, in his Systema Horticulturae of 1669,"the new mode of Gravel walks and Grass-plots is fit only for such Houses, or Palaces, that are situated in Cities and great towns....where they have banished out of their Garden flowers, the Miracles of Nature... But it is hoped that this new useless and unpleasant mode will,...,grow out of Fashion", he was dismayed to what extent Formality developed after the advent of William and Mary. With the help of William Bentinck, George London and Henry Wise, the French and Dutch style developed throughout England. Leonard Knyff prepared a series of topographical drawings of the larger gardens of the time; these with the writings of Celia Fiennes, give us a clear picture of the stylisation of the times. It was the vogue for evergreens that led to the development of the greenhouse, to the point where in 1694 the hot stove was invented for the purpose of maintaining citrus fruits, etc.,. Many books were published, promoting the techniques of "husbandry"; New plants were being introduced to England from abroad. Experimentation with pollination techniques ensued.


Fortunately, there were those, who were perceptive enough to realise that garden design had started on the wrong foot, with the Renaissance attempt to re-create the Roman scene.


The 3rd Earl of Shaftsbury, thinking that plants were being used as secondary to the design and architecture of the gardens, said in 1711, "I shall no longer resist the passion for things of a natural kind... Even the rude Rocks, the mossy Caverns, the irregular unwrought grottos and broken falls of Waters, with all the horrid graces of the Wilderness itself, as representing Nature more, will be the more engaging, and appear with a magnificence beyond the mockery of princely gardens". Addison and Pope reinforced the cry of ridicule. The two names to be associated with the irregularity are Charles Bridgeman and Stephen Switzer, with the absence of parterres and the introduction of the use of the 'ha-ha’.

It was Lord Burlington ( himself the vanguard of Palladianism ) who brought back to England, William Kent, who greatly influenced garden design from 1730. Horace Walpole says "he leaped the fence, and saw all nature was a garden", but Schiller saw that their minds were filled with "Nature excelled by Art". Alexander Pope, friend of Lord Burlington and Kent, was much taken with this new concept, and applied the ideas to his garden in Twickenham ( all of 100 x 200 yards ), with grottos, "Let Nature never be forgot but treat the Goddess like modest fair, nor over-dress, nor leave her wholly bare; Let not each beauty ev'rywhere be spy'd, where half the skill is decently to hide."


Here it should be mentioned that Pope was a good friend and mentor of Ralph Allen, who in turn was friend of Edmond Prideaux.


Stow was much admired by the gentlemen of the day, stated by Sir Richard Temple, continued by Lord Cobham ( his son ). The appointed designers were Bridgeman, then Kent and Vanburgh; in 1724 it had gained the reputation of being "the finest seat in England".


Southcote developed the idea of the ferme ornee, his garden becoming popular, many who visited went home to copy the ideas. Lancelot Brown took over Stow form Kent. He had absorbed the 'natural1 style, Hogarth's 'Line of Beauty', Edmund Burke's 'Sublime and Beautiful', Southcote's encircling belt of woodland; there had to be a stretch of water in the middle distance, the river banks were left unplanted, ha-has were used, groves or isolated trees were planted and kitchen gardens were discreetly kept away from the general view. He went on to become Master gardener to George III. The dispute was raised by Sir William Chambers between Kent's landscapes with ruins, waterfalls, savage rocks and caverns ; and the smooth serenity of Brown's landscapes. Yet Walpole says "so closely did he follow nature, his works will be mistaken for it". Here European interest was taken by Kent's work, favoured against that of Brown. Little else of note was to happen in garden and landscape work until Humphrey Repton in 1788.



1713 Alexander Pope : Essay on Verdant Sculpture

1714 John Lawrence : The Clergyman's Recreation

1714 John Lawrence : The Gentleman's Recreation

1714 John Lawrence : Gardening Improved

1715 Stephen Switzer : The Nobleman, Gentleman and Gardener's Recreation

1715 Wolfe and Gandon  : Vitruvius Britannicus

1726 Battey Langley : Practical geometry applied to the Arts of Building Gardening

1726 Battey Langley : A Sure Method of improving Estates by Plantation of Oak, Elm, Ash, Beech

1726 Battey Langley : New Principles of Gardening, or theLaying-out of Planting Parterres.

1727 Robert Purber  : Catalogue of English and Foreign Trees.

1740 Christopher Gray : Catalogue of Trees and Shrubs

1745   A Plan of Mr. Pope's Garden and Grotto

1768 George Mason  :  An Essay on Design Gardening

1770 Horace Walpole :  Essay on Modern Gardening ( Strawberry Hill ) [ 1785 ]

1783 William Falconer :  Historical View of taste for Gardening.


Back to The Acorn Archive