Last week I had the pleasure of visiting a private garden on three acres, south…
Modern landscape garden included ferme ornee.
When the new English landscape garden appeared in the first half of the seventeenth century, it was marked by the elements of both nature and art.
The ‘ferme ornee’ or the ornamental farm appeared as part of that new, modern style.
Ferme ornee means a farm designed for both utility and beauty, the buildings treated decoratively and contributing to the aesthetic effect within a picturesque landscape.
Horticulturist Stephen Switzer, in his book The Nobleman, Gentleman and Gardener’s Recreation (1715), first described the practice of the ferme ornee. He wrote, “By mixing the useful and profitable parts of Gard’ning with the Pleasurable in the Interior Parts of my Designs and Paddocks, obscure enclosures, etc. in the outward my Designs are thereby vastly enlarg’d and both Profit and Pleasure may be agreeably mix’d together”.
His English readers, steeped in the classics, would detect, in the juxtaposition of useful and pleasurable, the classic view of the twin aims of poetry, inherited from Horace, “to instruct and to delight.”
Tim Richardson writes in his book The Arcadian Friends: Inventing the English Landscape Garden, “Ferme ornee, or ornamental farm, was the first example of an important sub-genre of the landscape garden.”
In this country the ferme ornee also interested Thomas Jefferson as he considered how to landscape his hill property called Monticello.
Philip Southcote in the 1730s developed a ferme ornee as part of his English landscape at Woburn Farm. Thomas Whatley later wrote about it in his book Observations on modern gardening (1770).
Through Whatley’s book Jefferson learned about the ferme ornee, which he adopted at Monticello. [below]
In 1786 Jefferson, along with John Adams on their tour of English gardens, had visited Woburn Farm near Chetsey, formerly owned by Southcote. The landscape included the ferme ornee.
That particular ferme ornee impressed Jefferson.
Landscape architect Rudy Favretti wrote in his article “Thomas Jefferson’s ‘Ferme Ornee’ at Monticello”, “The experience greatly enriched his [Jefferson’s] ideas about creating a ferme ornee at Morticello.”
The modern English landscape garden of the early eighteenth century thus impacted farming as well as the pleasure garden both in England and America.