The lawn is a gift of the English garden tradition from the eighteenth century. Early…
One of the research activities I enjoy is scouring library archives for their treasures.
Recently I spent an afternoon in the Special Collections at Harvard’s Loeb Design School. There I came across the book The Gardens of England (1857) by artist E. Adveno Brooke.
The book was filled with page-length drawings of prominent English gardens from the first half of the nineteenth century.
The name William A. Nesfield (1793-1881) appeared as the landscape gardener for more than one of these gardens. He has been called “Victorian England’s most famous landscape gardener.”
Nesfied’s signature design element became carpet beds of flowers and colored foliage plants. He could weave such plants in a design as intricate as any carpet maker. Brooke displayed the colors of each property’s carpet bed in careful detail in the book’s drawings.
Carpet bedding became popular in America as well. Such beds often appeared on the cover of seed catalogs like Peter Henderson’s of 1886 [above].
Edward Hyams, however, in his book The English Garden had little tolerance for carpet beds.
Hyams wrote “The detail of Nesfield’s work was, in short, repulsive, and he was one of those responsible for that disagreeable kind of gardening known as ‘bedding out’.”
Nesfield’s style of carpet bedding, however, lasted much of the nineteenth century, and appeared in landscapes both in England and in America.