By 1900 the Formal Garden Reappeared

Garden design changes depending on what is important to the culture. Like food and clothing, our gardens also take on an appearance that is in fashion.

During eighteenth century England the picturesque or natural garden took center stage. A garden design that looked most like nature’s work inspired landscape gardeners like Kent, Brown, and Repton from that period.

Things changed by the end of the nineteenth century with a return to the formal garden both in England and America.

One of the leaders in the formal garden movement in America was the architect turned garden designer Charles Platt (1861-1933). Here is a picture of his house in the early 1900s in Cornish, New Hampshire. [below]

The home of Charles Platt in New Hampshire. [House & Garden, April, 1924]

The home of Charles Platt in Cornish, New Hampshire. [House & Garden, April, 1924]

Anne Helmreich in her book The English Garden and National Identity: The Competing Styles of Garden Design, 1870-1914, said “The rise of the formal garden paralleled the development of the landscape architecture profession [in England]. [In America] Charles Platt dedicated his career to gardens laid out in an architectural manner.”

Platt designed in the formal style, even in his own garden. Here is an image of his garden from the magazine House & Garden. [below]

The formal garden of Charles Platt in New Hampshire. [House & Garden, 1924]

The formal garden of Charles Platt in New Hampshire. [House & Garden, 1924]

Platt was at the center of the American movement for a return to the formal garden. Charles Downing Lay wrote in the journal  Landscape Architecture in 1912 “Platt entered architecture through the garden gate.” He first designed gardens and then later the house.

According to the book Edith Wharton and the American Garden, although they are better known for their artistic and literary contributions to American culture, Charles Platt, Maxfield Parrish, and Edith Wharton each played a signficant role in the transformation of the early twentieth-century garden in the United States.

It was the Italian garden that inspired both Platt and Wharton. Platt wrote his book Italian Gardens in 1894. A few years later Wharton wrote Italian Villas and Their Gardens to share her fascination with the Italian garden. Parrish provided the illustrations for her book. [below]

Wharton Italian Gardens book

A similar landscape change was happening in England at the same time. Thus, the formal garden appeared both in England and America by the end of the nineteenth century.

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