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Grotto – Popular Garden Feature in the 16th Century

Garden historian Margaret Willes writes in her book The Making of the English Gardener,

“Grottos had become the fashionable feature of late sixteenth-century Italian gardens.

“They echoed the Mannerist style of Architecture of buildings, where the bizarre and the exotic were extolled.”

The grotto at Stourhead in England.

I remember visiting the grand garden Stourhead in England. Here is the grotto I saw during that visit. [right]

Rose Standish Nichols

Early twentieth century garden writer Rose Standish Nichols writes in her 1902 book English Pleasure Gardens, “Grottoes or artificial caves [in the gardens of early Rome] cooled by streams of fresh water served as musea, or thinking-places for  philosophers, where they could meditate in solitude, hidden from observation, protected from interruption, and sheltered from the heat of the midday sun in summer.”

Stourhead has its own grotto as well, built in the eighteenth century.  The English of that period showed their affection for Italian garden design, even in the rocks and water of a grotto.

Inside the grotto at Stourhead.

Italian garden design was important to the English, just as the English design became important to American gardeners in the nineteenth century with the help of the seed and nursery industries.  It still is popular today as well.

Here is the view from in the grotto at Stourhead looking at the lake. [left]

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