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The American Garden versus the English Garden

The American Garden versus the English Garden.

Recently I came across an article by Noel Kingsbury that brought out the difference between the English garden and the American garden.

The name of the article was Why American yards will never rival British gardens.

I couldn’t believe it.

The story features Daniela Coray, an American garden designer who studied in England where she won awards for her designs. She later came to America to work as a garden designer for a Washington, DC garden center.

Coray said, “This is a key difference between American and English gardening… it’s a status symbol. We don’t have a robust gardening culture and I rarely have clients interested in planting.”

Americans, she argues, are more interested in how the garden provides a sense of social status.

I understand that motivation completely. It supports the reason that from the mid-nineteenth century many people spent fortunes on their suburban landscapes.

Last week I flew to Florida to attend the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition in Fort Lauderdale, a trade show for the green industry. The show included over 400 growers, many from southern Florida, with about 16,000 attendees who were mainly garden center owners in search of plants.

The day before the show started several of us took a special bus tour of gardens in the Coconut Grove section of Miami.

There we visited a beatiful garden, designed in a modern style, that showed exquisite use of lawn, shrubs, grasses, as well as orchids in the landscape. Here is a photo of the garden that I took that day. [below]

Florida garden with a modern design
Florida garden with a modern design

I think it is a beatiful garden.

Since the nineteenth century the seed companies and nurseries of America have considered the English garden the preeminent garden.

I think, however, we have some outstanding gardens here in America.

What do you think?

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I would estimate that England had a huge influence from the Victorian era, which even the world enjoys– including myself! America has not had its equivalent except maybe the WW2 Victory Garden. I do see American evidence of this today in older folks especially. Maybe since the pandemic has forced people to stay home we’ll see a bigger interest in gardening. I hope so.

    1. Hello Shelley, thank you for the comment.
      There is some evidence that a good percentage of people took up gardening in 2020, compared to earlier years. People were home and needed something to do. Why not garden??
      I agree that Victory Gardens played an inportant role at that time. Today we see some reflection of that in the numbers of people growing their own vegetables.

  2. Of course we have many outstanding gardens here in the US — it’s just that gardening as an art form is not something that the majority of Americans are aware of. I’m not sure why that is — it’s not like we don’t like gardens. I once read that Americans like visiting gardens, we just don’t enjoy the work of gardening. Perhaps it’s because we are innately lazy?? But then we wouldn’t be such workaholic moneymakers, would we? Who know why, but we are certainly not a keen gardeners as the Brits, surely.

    But I wasn’t that taken with the article by Kingsbury. It doesn’t really explain why our gardens will never rival theirs, other than that gardening isn’t our thing. But it doesn’t identify why precisely that is….

    1. Beth, thank you for your comment.
      The Telegraph article ends with a bit of recognition that America has contributed to garden design by our emphasis lately on native grasses and perennials, in a mass planting to create a sweep of form and color. Of course High Line in New York is a splendid new example of public green space. I was happy the article recognized that.
      You are right though when you say Americans are not lazy, but, as far as the garden is concerned, we do not see the garden as important as the lawn. So on that point I would agree with the author.
      For many Americans, the English garden means the lawn.

      1. A garden without practical use is not an American garden. This saying a garden for low utility purposes only is not American. An English garden has flowers, shrubs, and trees, things that are pretty to look at. American gardens have flowers, vegetable plants, and fruit trees. This author is confused I would suggest reading books about our founding fathers and their gardens. You can have an English garden and it be in Montana, it is still an “English” garden.

        1. Thank you for responding. I agree that one could have an English garden anywhere in the United States. My intent in writing the post here was to point out that some horticulturists and landscape designers still think there is a difference between English and American gardens. The two people that I quote, one English and the other American, share that view. The fact that an American would hold that opinion was what caught my attention initially.

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