How I remember my visit one summer to the Rockwood Mansion and its grand landscape in Wilmington, Delaware. I found this garden while I was doing research at the University of Delaware Library.
The house [above] was built in the 1850s and its landscape has been preserved. Rockwood provides insight into the style of landscape in the mid-nineteenth century on a property of a wealthy retired banker.
The owner Joseph Shipley who had lived in England for several years loved the English garden. He designed his landscape at Rockwood in the English garden style called gardenesque.
John Claudius Loudon, the eminent English horticulturist, writer, and landscape designer, loved the natural landscape design of Capability Brown and Humphry Repton, but also wanted to make sure there was room in the garden for new plants, especially trees and shrubs.
In the early nineteenth century plant hunters searched the world to bring back to England plants that would delight a gardener. In order to show off these new plants, which became an essential part of the new style of landscape, Loudon proposed a new word for that kind of garden where a natural look would include collections of trees and shrubs.
He called that design ‘gardenesque.’
When Shipley returned to America in the early 1850s, that is the kind of garden design he prefered for his own property.
A brochure about the Rockwood property that I received on my visit said, “The gardens were done in the Gardenesque style, which was a style developed from the 18th century theories of the Sublime, Beautiful and Picturesque…while adding garden ornaments and flower beds to its repertory.”
Shipley wanted to design his landscape in Wilmington to resemble his property in England which was called Wyncote.
John McGahey captured Wyncote’s spirit of gardenesque in his 1840 watercolor, simply called ‘Wyncote.’ [above]
Rockwood extends into 382 acres of farm and woodlands. The landscape surrounding the house includes a lawn, groups of tress, flowering shrubs, curved pathways, and, of course, ornamental gardens.
The gardenesque, according to the Rockwood brochure, focuses attention on the individual plants; foreign species were introduced and developed as a major element of the garden.
You can still visit the house and explore its historic landscape.
The nineteenth century English gardenesque landscape is preserved in Delaware.