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A Nineteenth Century English Garden Writer Recognized Two Landscape Styles

I was first introduced to William Paul, a nineteenth century English nurseryman, in Writing the Garden  by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers.

She recognized his talent in writing about such common garden topics as trees and soil in his book The Hand-Book of Villa Gardening which is really a collection of his letters.

In his book Paul also clearly distinguished two kinds of landscape style, geometric and irregular.

He wrote, “The style of gardening must of course be adapted to the house. The  geometric is a style much approved for small gardens, and numberless pleasing examples are floating on the memory while I write.  In some cases, however, the English, or irregular style is preferable”.

Details about each style were not there, but he clearly sets up the distinction between the two.  He calls the irregular style the “English” style, as if giving to the English the distinction of providing the inspiration for that style. He is writing this in 1855.

Stourhead, a landscape dating from the 18th century,  still stands as an example of the natural English garden style.

What he makes clear to the reader is that the formal or geometric style is the opposite of the irregular style, which was called various names from the early 1700s including natural, picturesque, and even gardenesque.

Stourhead [above] represents the irregular landscape designed in the mid 1700s.

By the end of the nineteenth century  a battle raged between the two camps, each embracing one style over the other, especially as expressed in the work of horticulturist William Robinson (1838-1935) and architect Reginald Bloomfield (1856-1942).

Today gardens often are a blend of both, and not really simply a reflection of one style over the other.

The fact that William Paul recognized so matter of factly the two styles tells us the English garden was at one time more closely aligned with the irregular.

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