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Loudon’s Gardenesque Landscape Style

Before John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843)  English garden writers mentioned only the modern or picturesque and the ancient or symmetrical landscape design.

[left: English immigrant and horticulturalist Henry Shaw’s home, now part of the Missouri Botanical Garden.]


In 1832 Loudon introduced for the first time a new landscape perspective which he  called gardenesque in his journal Gardener’s Magazine.  Loudon wrote: “Mere picturesque improvement is not enough in these enlightened times: it is necessary to understand that there is such a character of art as the gardenesque, as well as the picturesque.”

To focus on certain trees or shrubs, perhaps from America,  Loudon recommended that the landscape gardener position them together in such a way that the visitor will identify them and thus be able to learn about an individual plant variety, as in a botanical garden.

If the location happened to be on the lawn for the collection of plants, that was alright.

Henry Shaw in St. Louis built his nineteenth century landscape in the gardenesque style because he wanted visitors to learn about plants, and not just admire the garden.

But it was Loudon, after his trips to visit  European gardens and his long involvement in landscape design, who first introduced the gardenesque style.

In America seedsman Henry Dreer would echo Loudon’s words in his 1888 company catalog.  Dreer wrote “To this class [gardenesque], belong the groupings of small shrubbery, the beds of perennials, which delight by their apparent disorder, the mixed borders which constantly present a change from grave to gay, from beauty of form and color to that which presents an appearance which would be ill-pleasing were it not for the single redeeming feature of fragrance which charms all the senses through one. For this style of gardening perennials are admirably adored, for they combine in a marked degree permanence and beauty.”

Dreer endorsed mainly the gardenesque view, discussing it in more detail than geometric or picturesque approaches. He sought to instruct the reader about landscape design as well as recommend what plants to buy from his company.

Nineteenth century America followed the gardenesque style, often at the inspiration of the seed and nursery industries.


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