There has been much influence between countries and across continents in the development of garden design over the centuries. The water feature of the ancient Middle Eastern oasis gardens was adopted and transformed in Indian, Spanish, and eventually French and Italian gardens. We have already discussed how various influences made their way across Europe; the Greek influence in Italy, the French influence in England, and so on. In the modern era, however, it was not really until the rejection of the landscape style in England in the earlier part of the nineteenth century that a search for other styles of garden began in earnest.
Attempts were made to recreate Indian gardens such as those at Sezincote in Gloucestershire (1805) and the Larmer Tree Gardens in Wiltshire (1880’s). A Swiss style garden was constructed at the Swiss Cottage in Old Warden, Bedfordshire (1820’s) in which four acres of land were transformed into flower glades containing cast iron bridges and iron hoops supporting flowers. A thatched roof was set around the trunk of a beech tree and a thatched cottage with split log cladding set amidst the garden.
Chinese style gardens became popular such as those at Dropmore, Buckinghamshire (1800’s) where there still remains an aviary built of iron and tiles. At Alton Towers in Staffordshire there also remains an intricate Chinese style pagoda built by Robert Abraham in 1827, and a lookout tower which has since lost its chinoiserie. Whilst transferring a purely Chinese style of garden to the West is fraught with difficulty due to the natural landscape and the philosophy and culture of origin one example which has managed to recreate the atmosphere of the original design is that of Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire (1850’s). Here, James Bateman who owned the garden and his colleague, the artist Edward Cooke, isolated an area of the garden which was named ‘China’. It was distinctly separated from the remainder of the estate with trees and rock elevations. In fact, it could not be seen from the rest of the garden and access was only via a tunnel of rock. Travelling through the tunnel takes the visitor directly into a pavilion with a crimson painted balcony from where it is possible to view the tranquil lake which is encompassed by bamboos, rock formations, and exotic trees. One can also see a bridge across the lake and a tower beyond sitting high. There is also a walk around the lake which leads to a temple.
Later in the nineteenth century Japanese interest impacted upon gardening style. It was popularised by Josiah Consider whose books on the subject ‘Landscape Gardening in Japan’ (1893) and ‘The Floral Art of Japan’ (1899) attempted to enlighten the public. However, no real attempts to recreate Japanese gardens occurred until the twentieth century. An example is the Japanese garden at Kildare in Ireland (1906) and at Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire which incorporated stepping stones, lanterns and extravagant attempts at Japanese plantings which included rare, exotic plants.
Eclecticism in the Nineteenth Century
During the mid Victorian era following the great Exhibition of 1851 British gardens were very eclectic and designed to educate. Paxton’s design at Sydenham included concrete dinosaurs in a show of man’s ascent over animals, and indeed Britain’s ascent in the world. But building many different types of gardens revealed that no clear style had yet evolved. At Alton Towers, along with its Chinese constructions were buildings of Italian, Greek, Gothic and Indian origin as well as a topiary garden, alpine garden, and a replica of Stonehenge. Biddulph Grange also included an arboretum, ‘stumpery’ of tree roots, a lake garden, an Egyptian scene with sphinxes and topiary in the form of pyramids, an Italian terrace, and a chapel-like building with an Egyptian tomb on one side and what appears to be a Cheshire cottage in a Swiss style on the other side.
In Europe, eclecticism also had an impact. Of note is the garden at Muskau in Germany which was extensively gardened and designed by Fürst von Pücker-Muskau after he inherited it from his father. It comprised a large park of hills and woodland. Muskau used it to create a variety of scenes with different themes. These included a mining scene, a race track, a fortress, an observatory, a vineyard, and a mansion scene. He also created a ‘pleasure-ground’ which was a natural landscape and formal flower beds near the mansion which were enclosed with trellis, ironwork, timber, pebbles, box hedging, urns, or earthenware. These beds were set out in ostentatious patterns such as a star shape, a flower head, a dice, peacock feathers, or a cornucopia. The nineteenth century taste for eclecticism in garden design was mocked by Gustave Flaubert in his novel ‘Bouvard et Pécuchet’ (1881). In this novel, Flaubert’s comic protagonists who came into a lot of money attempt to create a garden having stumbled across a copy of Boitard’s ‘The Garden Architect’. They go on to create a monstrosity of a garden incorporating a mishmash of styles.
From the search for style in the nineteenth century emerged two forms of expression which were to influence the gardens of Britain, Europe and the United states. These were the use of massed bedding plants and the adaption of neo-Italian style in garden design. Typically they were used together with bedding flowers highlighting the statues, gravel and grass of the Italian-style features.
Eclecticism in the Twentieth Century
In the twentieth century eclectic gardens such as those mentioned earlier at Biddulph and Alton Towers continued to be made. The gardens at Compton Acres in Dorset and at Dumbarton Oaks near Washington are prime examples, but they include plantings of more recent cultivars. Similarly, gardens replicating specific styles continued to be constructed. There was a glut of Japanese style gardens in the West many of which did not work terribly well because they relied upon lanterns, bronze cranes and Japanese plants but little else. There were, however, some fine examples which achieved the sensitivity and subtlety of authentic Japanese gardens none more so than Tollard Royal in Wiltshire and Nordpark in Düsseldorf.
Of the eclectic twentieth century gardens one of great note is the Duke Gardens at Somerville, New Jersey in the United States. It houses some eleven large gardens each representing a different garden style and each entirely under a glass roof. Different styles include American Desert, American Colonial, English, French, Italian, and so forth.
Along with eclectic gardens, massed bedding plants also continued into the twentieth century and are still very popular today. They are to be found across Britain and Europe.
Resurgence of the Renaissance Garden
The twentieth century also witnessed a resurgence of the Italian Renaissance garden in Europe. A good example is the garden at Renishaw in Derbyshire which Sir George Sitwell planned and replanned over several decades. Here the main garden is of a geometrical shape and is comprised of terraced lawns as it moves away from the house. There are walkways which bisect the main axis at right angles and the lawns are edged with high hedges of yew. Huge paired groupings of statues and a fountain run down the central axis and woodland frames either side of the garden.
Burle Marx (Roberto (1909-1994)
A Brazilian Landscape Architect who was one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. Before Burle Marx, Brazil’s gardens had more of a Portuguese and French influence, but Marx developed a style identified by the use of Brazilian native plants with informal sculptural forms. Characteristics of Burle Marx gardens are typically free flowing patterns, water, ground covers.
Bill Mollison and Permaculture
Permaculture is a concept that combines the words “permanent” and “agriculture”. It was developed in Australia by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren with the aim of creating sustainable production systems. It is based on ecological principles and incorporates other natural gardening and farming systems such as organic gardening, no-dig gardens, companion planting and biological pest control.
Permaculture has been a major force since it was conceived in the 1970’s. Permaculture clubs associations and groups have been established in most countries; and hundreds of thousands of people have become devoted to this style of gardening.
We see greater diversity in today's gardens than ever before. All of the influences of the past are still with us; but gardeners and landscapers are each and every one different; and come to developing gardens with their own unique palette of experiences and influences.
This course will expand your awareness and reveal possibilities you may not have thought of.
By studying different landscape styles and understanding how they are created, you will nurture and develop your own creative abilities and expand what you are able to achieve in the world of landscaping.
Many are written by the principal (well known gardening author John Mason), or other staff. All have been reviewed and approved by our academic experts (to be accurate and relevant to students studying our horticulture courses).