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The new, long-awaited reference book Keywords in American Landscape Design, tackles terms that are important in the history of landscape in this country. In defining the term ‘ English style’, the book relies on English garden writer John Claudius Loudon’s early definition (1838). Loudon described the English style as irregular or natural, in which the grounds were formed in imitation of nature. Thus a contrast to a formal or symmetrical design distinguishes English landscape style in the early 1800s.
Andrew Jackson Downing (1815 – 1852), the American nurseryman, author, and landscape designer, in his work also calls the English style the modern or natural design.
From the 18th century the English style was picturesque and more closely resembled nature. That design became important in America in the 19th century, especially in the writing by seedsmen and nurserymen.
Charles Mason Hovey, a nineteenth century Boston nurseryman, edited an early garden magazine modeled after Loudon’s famous English magazine. Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan one day visited Hovey. Later in his own magazine Gardener’s Monthly, Meehan referred to Hovey as “for many years the chief representative of horticulture in America, who did yeoman service in its cause.” In 1840 Hovey also called the modern style of gardening the English style.
When you reject a formal, clipped look, or symmetrical focus, in the landscape and prefer a more informal look, could you call the natural or less formal, the English style?