Italian Garden Design Swept Across the Estates of America’s Gilded Age

At the end of the nineteenth century when the wealthy built their country estates, it was not uncommon to incorporate an Italian design in the landscape.

America continued to reflect English garden style at that time.  By then the Victorian period had seen the demise of its carpet bedding on the lawn, but witnessed in its place an interest in the wild garden, Gertrude Jekyll’s garden designs, and even a return to a more formal garden.

Alice Morse Earle in her book Old Time Gardens, which she wrote in 1901, said, “Within the past five our six years there have been laid out in America, at the country seats of men of wealth and culture, a great number of formal gardens–Italian gardens some of them are

You can find a history of nineteenth century American gardening in the book Old Time Gardens by Alice Morse Earle.

worthily named, as they have been shaped and planted in conformity with the best laws and rules of Italian garden-making–that special art.”

In the western part of Massachusetts, home of the Berkshires, you can still see Edith Wharton’s Mount, her house and extensive Italianate landscape.  She loved the Italian garden and even devoted a book to the subject.

By 1900 American gardening was evolving into a more formal approach, along with the arts and crafts movement which enabled a newly discovered appreciation of native plants.

The formal garden look sometimes took on the Italian style.


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