British Gardening

The earliest account of the formation of gardens in this country, consists in the description of the enclosures made by the ancient Britons near their huts and villages, for the purpose of procuring such vegetable productions as they ordinarily needed. Of the gardens of the Anglo-Saxons, and of the race who succeeded them, we have no record except what occasional slight representations in their missals afford. But it is stated by Fitzstephen that in the time of Henry II., the citizens of London had large and beautiful gardens attached to their villas. In the reign of Edward I., it may be collected from Hollinshed’s Chronicle, that the cultivation of the garden was extended to the more curious and delicate productions ; but the wars of York and Lancaster destroyed all these occupations, and gardens in general ceased to be more than pleasure-grounds or kitchen-gardens of the rudest kind, until the time of Queen Elizabeth. King James I. of Scotland de-scribes the garden at Windsor Castle, where he was confined by Henry IT., as a place set thick with trees, and alleys of hawthorn, with an arbour in each corner. Much later, in the year 1512, the great Earl of Northumberland, whose household consisted of 160 persons, ” had but one gardener, who attended hourly in the garden for setting of erbis, and clipping of knottes, and sweeping the said garden clean.” In the gardens of Nonesuch, the palace of Henry VIII., constructed about the year 1540, we hear of shady walks, columns and pyramids of marble ” fountains that spout water one round the other like a pyramid, upon which are perched small birds that stream water out of their bills,” and of similar objects; but nothing of the more essential part of a garden,—its plants. Pleasure-grounds of this description, indeed, have existed in England ever since the Conquest.

Several ages, however, have been required to establish the true and correct principles of this art as adapted for the development of nature, not only in gardening but the general disposition of pleasure-grounds; during which the natural taste of the people and the influence of foreign taste have mutually con-tended with, and perhaps in turn corrected each other, until at length a sound system has been enunciated, based upon the true principles of art, and calculated to set forth the charms of nature in a manner the most efficient and perfect.

Gardening in England has had a double advantage over both painting and sculpture, in that in the first place ornamental grounds being the property of persons of affluence, the fullest amount of patronage has been afforded to the cultivation of the art ; and in the next place, persons of the highest taste and most extensive cultivation have been induced to turn their attention to landscape gardening, and to the laying out and adornment of their grounds.