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.
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.