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In 1813 English Landscape Gardener Humphry Repton Proposed a Garden of Roses

Humphry Repton (1752-1818) along with William Kent and Lancelot Capability Brown share the honor of the three most famous landscape gardeners (or designers) in eighteenth century England.

Repton provided each of his clients with a book that he wrote and illustrated called the Red Book in which he recommended improvements in the landscape.

In the Red Book for the Earl of Bridgewater at Ashridge Park in 1813 Repton included an illustration of a proposed rosary, or rose garden.[below] The roses formed a circle of thin trellises whose hoopes may have been formed of iron according to Andre Rogger in his book Landscapes of Taste: The Art of Humphry Repton’s Red Books

Humphry Repton's Rosarium (1813)
Humphry Repton’s Rosary Drawing (1813)

What makes this image so powerful is that it illustrates that Repton designed with a love of the sensory pleasure a garden made of roses could provide.

Repton wrote in his Red Book to the Earl that the garden “is a piece of ground fenced off from cattle, and appropriated to the use and pleasure of man: it is or ought to be, cultivated and enriched by art.”

He writes too of the water in the rose garden in these words “Every drop of water used for the gardens should be made visible in different ways, beginning with a conduit in front of the conservatory, and from thence led to supply a jed d’eau in the rosary.” Thus he referred to the center of the fountain in the rosary with its upward spray of water.

Flower gardens were coming back into popularity by the end of the eighteenth century.  Also gardeners included other kinds of gardens in the landscape like an American garden, an arboretum, a grotto, and, of course, a rosary.

When Repton provided this aquatint, there was emerging a renewed interest in ornamental gardening, according to John Harris in his book A Garden Alphabet, a book dedicated to garden paintings, drawings, and aquatints of the English garden.

Repton’s illustration of the rosary represented an example of the beauty a modern garden could provide.


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