Victorian Garden History – Style Of Gardens In Victorian England
The style of gardens in the late 18th century was very different from the styles of gardens in earlier times. There were no large public parks like those found today. Instead there were small private grounds with little or no landscaping.
These smaller private grounds could be used for a variety of purposes such as: family homes, country houses, boardinghouses, hospitals and other similar uses.
In addition to these smaller private grounds, there were also larger public gardens where people gathered to enjoy the beauty of nature. The largest of these public gardens were called “Gardens of London”. They were built at various locations throughout the city and included many exotic plants not available anywhere else in Britain.
Many people went to see them when they opened each year during May and June.
Some of the most popular gardens in London during this period were:
Hampstead Heath (1802) – a large grassy area surrounded by trees and covered with flowers. A few rare species of plants are grown here including some that grow only in the East End of London. Hampstead Heath was used for religious services and weddings.
It had been established as part of the parish church since before Henry VIII’s reign.
Holland Park (1731) – this park was originally the private gardens for a large house. It became a public park in 1731 during George II’s reign. It features a pond with fountains, gravel paths and flowerbeds.
Knightsbridge Green (1633) – this park is enclosed by tall iron railings and has many trees and shrubs of various types.
Marylebone Park (1630) – this large park has a combination of natural vegetation and ornamental trees and shrubs. It also includes a man-made lake with an island, gravel paths and flowerbeds. A great place for the annual May Day celebrations.
St. James’s Park (1660) – this park is designed as a formal gardens with straight gravel paths that intersect to form a star shape. There are large trees and shrubs around the outside of this area.
A gravel path goes around the inside of this star-shape. The lake is very large and includes two small islands which are separated by a narrow channel.
Tottenham Park (1632) – this public park has a maze, a belvedere, an icehouse, a large lake with fountains and waterfalls, an island and several ornamental bridges.
The history of the modern garden starts in England during the early 1700s. The formal or geometric garden design was popular among the nobility and royalty of this era. Later on, during the mid to late 1700s, the landscape or natural garden emerged as a new style of English garden.
It was inspired by English nature and designed to look natural rather than artificial.
These early types of gardens were primarily found in the country homes of nobility and royalty. It was not until the mid 1800s, during the Victorian era, when these types of gardens started to become popular in the homes of the rich in cities as well.
The English garden has gone through many changes since its early beginnings. It has come a long way from being just a small private area around one’s home to a large park enjoyed by many people.
The first and simplest type of English garden was probably the kitchen garden. This was a small patch of ground near the house where vegetables, fruits and herbs were grown and used in cooking. These gardens were usually enclosed by walls to keep out animals and protect the garden from the weather.
The next type of early English garden was the knot garden. This became popular during the 1500s and 1600s. It was a square shaped design that incorporated a pattern of low bushes planted in a grid-like fashion.
These were separated by paths and usually included a small fountain in the center.
During the early and mid 1700s, the English garden became more elaborate with the addition of parterres. These were large square or oval beds that were bordered by colored gravel paths. The paths divided the parterre into smaller rectangles or triangles.
They were popular ornamental features that consisted of low shrubs, flowers, herbs, small trees or other plants.
The mid to late 1700s saw the addition of another popular feature, the ha-ha. This was a hidden trench that was built around the outside edge of the garden. It was usually built close to the outer walls so that it was not visible from inside the garden.
It prevented livestock from entering, but allowed the land to slope down naturally to the outside without any fencing.
The 18th century also saw the addition of the wilderness garden. It was a wild area of the garden with no clear distinction between the different sections. The plants were grouped according to their color, height or time of blooming.
It also included a small area of grass and paths.
During the late 1700s, the English garden became much more natural looking with the addition of the landscape garden. The idea for this type of garden was influenced by the newly discovered paradise of Tahiti during Captain Cook’s voyage around the world in the 1770s. These gardens were designed to look as if they grew there naturally.
The last major type of English garden developed during the 1800s. The kitchen garden or potager was a smaller version of the earlier kitchen gardens. It usually included fruits, vegetables and herbs in a small walled area near the house and were used for cooking.
Many people started adding these types of gardens to their homes during the Victorian era when there was renewed interest in botany and horticulture.
There is no particular layout for an English garden. The design of the garden could be controlled and ordered, like a knot garden. It could be more natural looking, like a landscape garden.
An English garden can also be designed with as much or as little order as you wish. You can make it as simple or complex as you want.
As I mentioned earlier, there are many types of plants that were popular during the different time periods when these gardens became popular. An English garden can include any type of plant, whether it is a herb, vegetable, fruit, flower or tree.
You can also create your own unique garden that includes plants popular in another country or time period. For example, you could design a Canadian garden from the 1960s or a Chinese garden from the Ming dynasty.
The possibilities for creating a unique and interesting English garden are endless. The fun part is designing it yourself!
Use the following list to get some ideas for your garden design:
Choose the type of garden you would like to create. (See descriptions above)
Choose an era of the past or another country that you would like your garden to be based on.
Find pictures of gardens from that time or place. (Internet, magazines, books)
Get a good idea of how big you would like your garden to be.
Choose a general location for your garden. (Near the house, in the middle of the yard, etc.)
Now that you have a good idea of what you’d like to do, it’s time to start sketching out your garden on paper. You can do this yourself or get someone else’s help. Using graph paper will make it easier to figure out the size and scale of your future garden.
Now that you have your design, it’s time to get dirty! If you have willing friends and family, enlist them to help you with this project. It will go much quicker and be more fun if you can all work on this together.
Your garden will take time to grow. Be sure to keep it watered and nurtured as it grows. Enjoy your new garden!
You are Done!
Well done, you have finished the project and can now enjoy your English garden!
If you want to expand on this project, there are many things you could do. Here are some examples:
Build a small pond with a bridge and a small fountain. (The type you can put candles on top of to make the water spout up in the air.)
Add a swing set or a bench.
Add statues, such as angels or gnomes.
Make a rock garden by placing large rocks in random places.
Add flagstone pathways.
Plant a herb garden with rosemary, basil, dill, etc.
Make your own trellis by hammering stakes into the ground and weaving vines through them. (Cherry and Grape vines work well for this.)
Buy a bunch of flowers from a nursery and plant them in old tires. (Those white rubber ones you find in sheds work well.)
We hope you have enjoyed our project and our time together. Until next time, remember to always look up from your phone and enjoy the world around you.
Remember: Don’t forget to water your garden!
E & M
P.S. If you post your pictures online, please tag us so we can see (@everywhereism & @emmaleehansen)
Let us know if you try any of our ideas! We’d love to see what you come up with.
Sources & references used in this article:
Queens of the garden: Victorian women gardeners and the rise of the gardening advice text by S Bilston – Victorian Literature and Culture, 2008 – JSTOR
Managing gardens for visitors in Great Britain: a story of continuity and change by J Connell – Tourism Management, 2005 – Elsevier
Hothouse Flowers and Despair”: Reading the Victorian Garden in ME Braddon’s” The Doctor’s Wife by N Hassan – Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of …, 2005 – JSTOR
Westonbirt Gardens: A Victorian Elysium by M Symes – Garden History, 1990 – JSTOR
Women create gardens in male landscapes: A revisionist approach to eighteenth-century English garden history by SG Bell – Feminist Studies, 1990 – JSTOR
The Forgotten Female Aesthetes: Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England by P Hobhouse – 2004 – Pavilion