The lawn is a gift of the English garden tradition from the eighteenth century. Early…
English Garden inspired Victorian America.
The early 1700s in England saw a revolution in landscape design. The design included a more natural look, often with an area called ‘the park’, and of course a lawn and trees along with water as a prominent feature.
This new landcape, embodied in the English garden, rejected the formality of earlier garden design.
Laid out in the mid 1700s Stourhead represented that design. Here you see its palladian bridge that separates two areas of the garden. [below]
The landscape was called modern to distinguish it from the older, or ancient design style which was more both formal and symmetrical.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s America also adopted this modern style, especially on the east coast estates of the wealthy. The sweeping lawn and curved path ways to the house embodied the English garden in its modern look.
The division between ancient and modern landscape style persisted well into the nineteenth century in Victorian America.
Rochester, New York seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) wrote in the 1881 issue of his magazine Vick’s Illustrated Monthly, “What is called the modern or natural style of landscape gardening had its origin in England at the commencement of the eighteenth century. Previously to this time the style of ornamental gardening in Great Britain was similar to that of the other nations of Europe, which, in contradictinction to the natural, is termed the artificial style.”
Vick often wrote about the value of the English landscape in its modern design. His new seedhouse, built in 1880, included a landscape in that modern style. [below]
Though the revolution in English garden design began in the 1700s and continued into the 1800s, today we still can experience its impact.
We talk about a return to a more natural look, with the use of native plants, and even naturalizing with bulbs in the landscape, as a way of separating that design from the more formal and symmetrical look.