Archives for March 2017

London’s Holland House Introduced Dahlias

London’s Holland House Introduced Dahlias

A late eighteenth century painting of dahlias in England indicates the plant, native to Mexico, had already appeared in the country.

It would take a couple of decades, however, to assume its popularity among gardeners everywhere.

In early nineteenth century England the dahlia made its grand appearance in the garden of Lord and Lady Holland. It was after that time that the plant became so popular that by the 1830s some over eager gardeners even became afflicted with ‘dahlia mania.’

Their estate called Holland House in London’s Kensington section had become a gathering place for artists, writers, and politicians.

In her book Holland House: A History of London’s Most Celebrated Salon Linda Kelly tells the story of the Hollands and their many nightly dinner guests who sometimes included Lord Byron and even the Prince of Wales.

Kelly writes “The dinner book [at Holland House], kept by Allen [family doctor who lived with the Hollands], sometimes recorded as many as 50 guests. “

She also writes about the many trips the Hollands took that often included an entourage of servants and a cook.

It was on one of their trips that Lady Holland first saw the dahlia.

Between 1800 and 1805 Lord and Lady Holland lived in France, and also in Spain, where Lady Holland spotted the new flower called ‘dahlia’ that had reached Spain from Mexico about fifteen years earlier.

Lady Holland sent some seeds home to England in 1804 and it is on the strength of that shipment that she is given credit for the introduction of the dahlia into England.

From these came nearly all the dahlias grown in gardens in those early years.

Kelly writes “Lady Holland took great pleasure in the gardens at Holland House…In summer its borders were bright with dahlias.”

Her husband celebrated Lady Holland in this poem he wrote for her:

“The Dahlia you brought to our isle

Your praises forever should speak:

Mid gardens as sweet as your smile,

And in colour as bright as your cheek.”

 

Remember Gardens Speak

Remember gardens speak.

Visiting gardens can open the door to ideas you might express in your own garden.

It is not a passive experience when you step into someone else’s garden to see what the owner has done.

It’s quite the opposite. The garden speaks to you.

A garden can connect with a visitor in a special way.

Just think of a garden that you have visited.

Like time spent with a friend you have not seen for a while, you find you could have stayed there for hours.

In his book The Arcadian Friends: Inventing the English Landscape Garden Tim Richardson says , “Landscape gardens are not passive; they speak to us, and as we progress around we communicate back with our actions, and later with our memories.,”

His reference point is the extensive garden of the aristocrats that date to the seventeenth century. His book reveals the inspiration and the work of installing such gardens like Stowe and Rousham that still open their doors to visitors .

But I think you can use his thought and apply it to any visit to a garden.

As spring and summer approach, you know you will seek out gardens to visit.

The garden at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Connecticut is now on my list. I prefer gardens of the late nineteenth century, whether Victorian, Arts and Craft, formal, or natural. That period, when the seed and nursery industries became so important to gardeners, reveals the role of the garden industry in the style and fashion of American gardens.

I remember visiting the Tiffany Gardens Bed and Breakdast in New Hampshire. A row of ferns, rose astilbes, and yellow ‘Stella de Oro’ daylilies just stopped me in my tracks. [below]

Tiffany Gardens Bed and Breakfast in New Hampshire

Rochester, New York’s James Vick spent time visiting gardens as part of his role of owner of a seed company in the nineteenth century.  He traveled in both America and Europe and always mentioned the gardens he had seen.

In 1878 Vick wrote about the English Ivy he had seen on his visit to England. He said, “Those who have visited the Ivy-clad cottages and palaces and ruins of the Old World, will never forget the admiration with which they first beheld this wonderful plant.”

The memories of gardens visited continue for a long time.

Landscape Painting Inspired Eighteenth Century English Garden

Landscape painting inspired eighteenth century English garden.

The English garden took a new direction in the early 1700s.

The landscape became an expression of art, fashioned with materials like land form, plants, stone, and water. The aristocratic landowners, who fostered this new garden style, claimed it offered a more natural look, rather than one based on formality and symmetry.

Landscape painting became the inspiration for this new landscape garden.

The landscape painting most influential included mountains, trees, various images of sunlight, clouds, water, pathways, and sometimes classic structures like temples.

In the process the English garden, expressed in eighteenth century landscapes like Stowe, Rousham, and Stourhead, became a work of art.

In his book The Arcadian Friends: Inventing the English Landscape Garden Tim Richardson says           “[During the late 1730s and 1740s] the political charge of landscape design did not exactly diminish, but it was challenged by a fashionable new aesthetic sensibility with regard to outdoor scene-making that was largely derived from painting.

“The landscape garden was now beginning to be viewed as much as an artform as it was a vehicle for political self-expression.”

It was landscape painting that motivated this new English garden.

Edward Hyams writes in  The English Garden that Henry Hoare in his garden at Stourhead had carried out in nature’s own materials the landscape on canvas of Claude, Salvator Rosa and Zuccarelli.

Variety Marked Eighteenth Century English Garden

Variety marked eighteenth century English garden.

How well I remember my visit to the garden at  Stourhead, built in the mid 1700s.

We drove a couple of hours west of London, near Mere, Wiltshire to find Stourhead which today covers 2,650 acres.

What impressed me were the different kinds of art that I found in the garden as I walked around like the temple, the grotto, the lake, and the Palladian bridge.

Tim Richardson writes in his book The Arcadian Friends: Inventing the English Landscape Garden “Even more than concepts such as ‘naturalism’, ‘informality’, or ‘wildness’, or even the symbolic content of the design, it was variety which emerged as the most important structural element of the eighteenth-century landscape garden.”

From the moment the visitor’s guide instructed me to follow the path through the woods up the hill to the grand house, I was surprised at every turn in Stourhead.

I never knew what I would find as I walked the path around the lake. The path offered its own twists and turns.

There were so many beautiful parts to this landscape garden design.

No wonder Richardson refers to Stourhead as one of the greatest of all Arcadian landscapes.

Palladian bridge at Stourhead

Stourhead took decades to bring it to the look it has today. Gardeners moved the earth to form the hills, and engineers built the lake which now fills the role of the central feature in the landscape.

Edward Hyman writes in his book The English Garden, “Landscape gardening on a heroic scale, involving the moving of vast quantities of earth, the making of lakes and the planting of woods, distinguished the eighteenth century in England.”

You can only imagine the array of projects that the landscape at Stourhead demanded to acheive the look we see today.

Stourhead, a work of art, succeeds on its variety of design elements in the landscape.

Top Ten Cottage Garden Flowers Include Hollyhock

Top ten cottage garden flowers include hollyhock.

Recently the magazine The English Garden posted online an article entitled “Top Ten Flowers for a Cottage Garden.”

Since I am interested in cottage gardens, I had to have a look at the article.

Of  the group of flowers mentioned in the article I discovered that I grow about half of them in my garden.

The list of ten includes the hollyhock. [below]

Hollyhock [Courtesy of The English Garden article]

I am not surprised at that choice since it is a popular flower, showy, and easy to grow.

Easy for everybody that is but me.

I have tried to grow it many times, but without success. It could be that I have too much shade in my garden.

The hollyhock has a long history, and is not native to Europe or America. 

The Latin name for the plant is Alcea rosea, but sometimes the name Althaea rosea may appear.

Nineteenth century Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) preferred Althaea.

Vick wrote in his magazine Vick’s Illustrated Monthly in 1878, “The true name of the Hollyhock is Althaea Rosea, and it is supposed to be a native of China, from which country it was introduced into Europe three hundred years ago [1578]. In regard to its origin, however, there seems to be some doubt, some authors claiming Syria as its native land, which an old work on Gardening, in our possession, published a hundred and fifty years since, calls it the Egyptian Hollyhock.”

Horticulturist Noel Kingsbury connects this flower to the cottage garden. In his new book Garden Flora: The Nature and Cultural History of the Plants in Your Garden he writes, “”These are short-lived non-clonal pioneer plants, as can be appreciated by the alacrity with which the cottage garden hollyhock grows in paving.”

He too recognizes the hollyhock’s ideal fit for a cottage garden.

He writes, “By the 18th century the hollyhock had become a cottage garden plant across Europe.”

 

 

English Landscape Garden Reflected Baroque Tradition

English landscape garden reflected baroque tradition.

In landscape history it is important to note the influence on a particular period’s garden design or style.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.

It is the Dutch that gave us the word ‘landscape’ but they also influenced the English landscape garden of the early 1700s.

Tim Richardson writes in his book The Arcadian Friends: Inventing the English Landscape Garden: “It could be argued that the landscape movement was not primarily a reaction at all, but grew organically out of the tradition of the baroque formal garden, particularly the ‘Dutch’ elements of it, and in so doing retained many of its features.”

The landscape garden borrowed features from the baroque garden, like the formal and symmetrical French design that one could see at Versailles with its grand formality, straight lines, elaborate parterres,  and symmetry.  The landscape of Louise XIV’s summer palace designed by Andre LeNotre illustrated a sense of  human domination over nature.  Nature is to be subservient to man, according to the philosophy of the baroque period. Religious sentiment too supported that view by interpreting the garden of Eden story with God’s command for human dominion over all of nature. 

Hampton Court in the late 1600s illustrated that baroque look as well. [below]

Notice the straight lines in the design but also the use of water.  All the plantings filling in each partere surrounding the fountain illustrate the formal look of the design.

Hampton Court Palace’s grand garden was laid out in baroque style. [Courtesy: News Team International]

The grand view with a lawn would become the signature look of the landscape garden, but it was also part of the baroque style  at Versailles where the lawns swept down from the Palace. 

The English borrowed the very name of this art form of using plants, stone, and water to create an outdoor scene of natural beauty. Richardson writes, “The word ‘landskip’ was a term derived from the Dutch landscape or ‘land shape’, which was used exclusively to describe landscape paintings.”

It was both the Dutch and French influence in landscape design that the new English landscape garden of the early 1700s reflected.

 

Coastal Wilderness Marks 1920s South Florida Garden

Coastal wilderness marks 1920s south Florida garden.

I recently went back in time along the coast of South Florida to visit an island garden from the 1920s.

In Fort Lauderdale Frederic Clay Barrett and his wife Helen built the house with its garden called Bonnet House on Birch Street. The street is named after Hugh Taylor Birch, Mrs. Barrett’s father who gave the thirty-five acres as a wedding gift.

Bonnet House is situated on a coastal barrier island with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Intracoastal Waterway to the west.

Barrier islands protect the mainland from the impact of the ocean tides and currents and also provide a habitat for many kinds of wildlife.

The gardens at the Bonnet House present a visitor with several areas of both desert and tropical plants.

Barrett planted a desert garden near the main house. The garden measures three-fourths’ of an acre and serves as a transition area for the natural barrier island habitat to the south and the main house to the north.

Main House

The house was built in southern plantation style. [below]

Main house at Bonnet House

A near-by lily pond features the bonnet lily, after which the house was named, and provides a respite for the visitor.

Mrs. Barrett collected orchids and housed them in the Orchid House, also not far from the main house.

An alley of palm trees [below] ends up at a fountain, designed and built by Barrett, who, along with his wife, was an artist.

An alley of trees

The beach path leads you right up to a black iron fence separating the property from the beach. Many trees and shrubs line the path, holding in the soil but also teaching a visitor what the land looked like before the commercial development in the area.

Near the house six tall Hibiscus shrubs have become a dense screen of green leaves with orange and red flowers which were in bloom during my visit. [below]

A group of Hibiscus shrubs near the house

Visiting this garden is a trip back in time. Bonnet House also lets you see what the Florida coast looked like before the many condos and hotels lined Fort Lauderdale’s beach.

Dahlias Still Enchant Gardeners

Dahlias still enchant gardeners.

I love dahlias. What can I say?

But then gardeners have loved this plant since it was first introduced from Mexico into Europe in the eighteenth century.

We treasured them so much that both in England and in America the early nineteenth century witnessed a ‘dahlia mania.’  Gardeners coveted the newest dahlia.

Head gardener at Chatsworth Joseph Paxton (1803-1865) wrote a book called A practical treatise on the cultivation of the dahlia (1838).

In the book Paxton said “The state of perfection to which [the dahlia] has already attained is absolutely unparalleled in the history of any other plant or tribe of plants at present known to our collections; and perhaps I shall not be guilty of a departure from truth when I say, that it is at present by far the most interesting, beautiful and popular autumnal-flowering plant, of which the gardens of this country can boast.

“It is conjectured, that the number of named sorts of varieties of this plant now in cultivation, exceeds one thousand.” It was the 1830s and already gardeners could choose from one thousand varieties of the dahlia.

Dahlias continue to enchant gardeners to this day.

Recently I received a notice from Longfield Gardens about its offer for a selection of ‘border’ dahlias. That is a terrific idea. 

Why not plant dahlias as a border?

Border dahlia called ‘Gloria Pablo’ [Courtesy Longfield Gardens]

Dahlias are a terrific flower for containers, beds, as well as borders.

Paxton wrote “No plant, or tribe of plants, of the most acknowledged beauty, or the most extensive variety of form and colour, has ever excited so much interest and attention, or been so successfully and universally cultivated by British florists and horticulturists, as the one here noticed.”

English horticulturist Neil Kingsbury said in his new book Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants in Your Garden that today there are fifty-seven thousand varieties of dahlias on the market.

Surely that number is more than enough for that dahlia enchantment so many of us feel.

Eighteenth Century English Landscape Garden Included Flowers

Eighteenth century English landscape garden included flowers.

The modern landscape garden began its influence on the evolution of the English garden in the early eighteenth century.

Its distinctive features included views of a long extensive lawn, curved pathways, wooded areas, perhaps a deer park, classic buildings, and even a wild garden.

Flowers were also an important part of this design tradition.

Tim Richardson writes in his book  The Arcadian Friends: Inventing the English Landscape Garden, “As the landscape garden took shape, flowers continued to play an important role, either formally arrayed in those parterres retained from the old baroque style, or else included in the woodland and grove plantings in the new ‘wilder’ parts of the landscape.”

Flower gardens were not generally considered a part of the picturesque or naturalistic tradition, originating in the early eighteenth century. The sweeping lawn dominated the view.

Mark Laird

Mark Laird’s research also illustrates the importance of flowers in this early English garden.

In his book The Flowering of the Landscape Garden: English Pleasure Grounds 1720-1800  Laird makes the point that flowers were an integral part of that  eighteenth century picturesque tradition.

John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843), prolific garden writer and a successor to both William Kent and Capability Brown in his role as England’s premier landscape gardener, practiced a landscape design with a picturesque look that also included flowers.

Throughout his designs, beginning at Scone in Scotland, Loudon advocated for flowerbeds in the landscape.

In the mid-nineteenth century American nurseryman and landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing proposed Loudon’s landscape design, including, of course, flowers as part of the landscape.