what is THE english GARDEN?
The English garden is an eighteenth-century garden; it does not have geometric elements that precisely define the areas and spaces. The English garden is very natural, but that does not mean that careful planning is unnecessary.
It is also called “English landscape park” and is a type of garden developed during the eighteenth century that no longer makes use of geometric elements to define and circumscribe the space, as in the French garden (arboreal wings or perspectives), but is based on the ” combination of natural (luxuriant but never uncultivated) and artificial elements, including caves, streams, ancient trees, bushes, pergolas, temples and ruins, which those who walk discover without ever getting an overview, but which also give the idea of very natural space, typical of the new style.
The English garden usually includes expanses of rolling lawns contrasted with groves of trees and recreations of classical temples, Gothic ruins, and other constructions with picturesque architecture designed to recreate an idyllic pastoral landscape. In addition, the canonical English park contains several romantic elements: always present is a pond or pond with a pier or a bridge.
Overlooking the pond, there is a circular or hexagonal pavilion. Sometimes the garden also has a “Chinese” pavilion. The external areas of the English country houses retain their natural and romantic formation just described. The most European English garden is also full of “eye-catchers,” or elements that attract attention, such as caves, lookout points, pavilions, fake ruins, bridges, and statues, even if the main ingredients of landscape gardens in England it is the expanses of rolling land and water, in contrast with a wooded background. The dominant style was revised in the 19th century to include more “gardenesque,” thus incorporating gravel walks and tree plantations to satisfy botanical curiosity and, above all, the return of flowers in large flower beds. This is the most imitated version of the landscape garden in Europe in the 19th century. One of the best-known English gardens in Europe is the Englischer Garten in Munich.
A brief history of the English garden
The first English gardens we know were designed by the Roman conquerors of Great Britain in the first century AD. We know very little about Anglo-Saxon gardens, as those warlike peoples did not consider gardening important.
Only in the Middle Ages did it return to be important in British life, especially in monasteries and castles, where gardens were given space in small courtyards, with turf and high mounds, or mountains, which provided a view of the surrounding landscape.
In the late Middle Ages, there was the advent of stately fortified homes, and the garden became a simple green space surrounded by hedges or fences.
The next phase of the English garden came after the Reformation. Many landowners fenced off common land to create parks to keep deer or livestock.
The Tudors then followed the Italian influence in the creation of gardens that reflected the alignment of the house, creating a harmony of lines and proportions that was missing in the medieval period. For the first time since the Romans left the island, the sundials and statues became authentic garden ornaments.
On the other hand, the Stuarts were slaves to the French fashion for gardens. The main feature of this strictly formal French style was a broad avenue lined with rectangular flower beds surrounded by low hedges.
In the eighteenth century, there was an oscillation between the Renaissance formality and a more “natural” aspect. One of the leading promoters of this style was Lord Burlington’s patron. The English garden began to be inspired by the Enlightenment concept of nature. The new technique was invented by two landscape designers called William Kent and Charles Bridgeman, who, working for wealthy clients who had large country estates, had a classical education and were patrons of the arts.
Kent created one of the first authentic English gardens at Chiswick House. This park had many formal elements taken from the French garden, but it had something new: the recreation of an Ionic temple set in a theater of trees. Stowe, Buckinghamshire, was a radical departure from the traditional garden. Commissioned by Richard Temple, the original design was very formal, but Kent created a new design style by including Palladian elements, such as the bridge and numerous temples.
The garden attracted visitors from all over Europe, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It was then inspiration for landscaped gardens in the rest of Great Britain and on the continent.
The most influential figure in the later development of the English landscape garden was Lancelot Brown. His contribution was to simplify the original design by eliminating geometric structures, alleys, and parterres, replaced with verdant lawns and sweeping views towards isolated groups of trees—making the landscape even bigger. He also inserted artificial lakes, dams, and canals, creating the illusion that a river flowed through the garden.
After the end of the Seven Year’s War in 1763, French nobles could travel to England and see this new garden design concept. Thus began to adapt this style to the gardens on the rest of the territory, starting precisely from France. The main novelty consisted of easy maintenance and the scarce need of gardeners.
In the Victorian era, there was another significant turning point, and greenhouse plants, exotic colors, and intricate designs were introduced. There was a profusion of public gardens and green spaces destined to bring culture to the masses. The taste in the late Victorian period varied between the formal and the “wild” garden, supported by the influential writer William Robinson.
During and after the industrial revolution, progressive movements arose to correct numerous imbalances in the city, to improve the standard of living of the population and the unsanitary housing conditions. One of these stressed the need for industrial cities to have tree-lined “public promenades” as a benefit for the health of the citizen. Green areas entered the urban fabric, initially in a private, later public capacity. The best exponent of this period is Humphrey Repton, who made a breakthrough in landscaping garden design by introducing gravel walks and reintroducing separate flower gardens.
Gertrude Jekyll is probably the most influential gardener of the twentieth century in England. She popularized the herbaceous border and garden planning based on color schemes. She built this project on the “Cottage garden” tradition, which boasted the profusion of flowers wherever space permits, and of climbers on racks and walls. Jekyll saw the house and the garden as a whole rather than the garden as an afterthought of the building.
The main features of the English garden
This type of garden is inspired by the “oriental garden,” particularly the Chinese one, described by English travelers. It is seen as the place where the emotion, aroused by the succession of various elements that are always different, is consolidated by the harmony that binds the various parts through the juxtaposition of opposites, such as the regular to the wild, the majestic to the elegant, to balance the different emotions. This type of garden can be confusing and messy yet elegant at the same time.
When it is said that this new style is born from the Illuminist conception of nature, it can express emotions as it is, without adding new elements that create geometric figures, as happens with the Italian garden. The relationship between man and nature appears to have changed profoundly: the critical component of the English garden becomes naturalness; and if at first glance, it may seem like a set of plants and flowers disorganizing each other, a kind of natural wood, this is not the case at all. In fact, in this garden, the plants are given meticulous care and attention but no rules to follow or rigid schemes.
The scientific observation of nature led man to understand the absolute unity that binds everything, deepening the perfect harmony that presides over natural laws. This admiration is transformed into considering nature as a “work of art.” The path of the English garden does not follow a model; it does not have straight and linear tracks but is twisted and always different. Planting, albeit with an apparent free pattern, always highlights the needs and requirements of the plant itself.
The design of the English Garden
To create the English landscape park, it is necessary to know its philosophy: nature is free and capable by itself – without human intervention – of arousing emotions. In this garden, the beauty of natural landscapes is best expressed: plants and flowers are planted based on a pre-established idea, but they are luxuriant and free to express themselves in all their splendor. However, the care that this environment requires is not few: it is necessary to choose the right plants, which will then be placed in the ideal position concerning solar radiation, soil moisture, and other vital factors, to be then able to perfectly integrate the natural elements with artificial ones.
An excessive presence of the latter would end up disorienting attention from the natural part to focus on the architectural one. This is a significant constraint; the final result will be perfect if the observer feels welcomed in a natural space as if he were in a forest and can exploit the artificial elements.
The construction time of the English garden depends above all on the size of the space. Once the park has been created, it is advisable to carry out careful maintenance, to be entrusted to a specialized person if you cannot personally follow the various stages, including pruning. It is a question of having to monitor each species’ state of health and intervene where a problem seems to arise.
Many may think that an English garden, which appears so “wild,” does not need to be cared for, but this is not the case. The appearance of the English garden continues to give small corners of green that are indeed very interesting, but they need the same care that can be given to other places. When designing an English garden, the type of vegetation typical of this green space must be taken into account, trying to reconcile it with the characteristics of its land and the climate where it will arise. Shrubs cannot be missing because they are ideal for enriching the avenues and are used to create shaded areas in the relaxation area, which, through outer covers, allows you to use the garden during the day.
Depending on the climate and the soil, you can choose exotic plants that perform decorative and aesthetic functions, secular or evergreen trees, and withstand scorching climates, humid or dry climates. The choice of suitable vegetation will reduce the costs and times of maintenance and care of the garden. It is also important to insert the flowers. During the project phase, it will be necessary to decide whether to give the garden a mono or multicolored appearance, and the choice will depend on personal taste, but also on the species of flowers that will best adapt to the climate composition of the soil and the available space. Nature must, first of all, prevail over the inanimate elements.
Watercourses: an English garden lends itself very well to rivers, such as streams, ponds, or waterfalls. Their presence is necessary to enhance the presence of vegetation and to give the garden a charming and natural appearance. The watercourses must be designed based on the effect you want to give to your garden, where the plant species present and the space available will also decide. A large waterfall will be more suitable for a villa. Smaller areas lend themselves to creating small streams, such as lakes or streams. If the space available is not excessive, it is advisable not to exceed with the furnishing accessories, to better privilege nature, which will allow you to create a perfect English garden, as tradition dictates.
Differences between the English Garden and the Italian Garden
The English garden and the Italian garden have many different elements. The Italian garden is synonymous with precision in the forms and design of the park with an architectural function as if it were a building element. On the other hand, the English garden surpasses this rigid scheme to complement a more accessible and “natural” style, not to be confused with a disorganized planting. The introduction of aquatic elements, such as waterfalls or ponds, help to create a natural landscape that makes you forget you are even inside a garden. This is precisely the peculiarity of the English garden: the visitor feels immersed in nature and is ideally at ease there, just as if he were inside a forest. Comparing the Italian garden with the English garden, it must be emphasized that they are born following two different lines, the first linked to the concept that the garden designs a space that reflects man’s desire, following particular shapes. In contrast, the park to the English is a sort of opposite to all this, because it prefers to give the idea of a garden setting, albeit well cared for.
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