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Nineteenth Century America Delights in Edward Kemp’s Book

At Chatsworth, the classic English garden with a blend of both natural and symmetrical design, you see this straight hedgerow, fronted by a statue.

Edward Kemp, the 19th century English garden designer, trained at the classic garden Chatsworth under Joseph Paxton.  He also assisted Paxton with the design of Birkenhead Park, which inspired American Frederick Law Olmsted.  In 1858  Kemp became one of the judges for the Central Park Competition in New York.

But it was because of Kemp’s famous book How to Lay Out a Small Garden that I mention him here.

The Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan in his magazine Gardener’s Monthly of 1864 praised the newest edition of Kemp’s book. Meehan wrote: “The task of an author is either to teach what is not known, or to recommend known truths by his manner of illustrating them. The latter would seem to have been the object that Mr. Kemp had in view when he prepared the excellent  work now before us, one of the best books on pure garden design in the English language.”

Thus Kemp, an English garden designer, went on to  inspire a host of American gardeners, much as he had in England.  His design ideas followed the natural landscape tradition of William Kent and John Claudius Loudon, but also admitted of symmetry in the garden where it would prove useful.

Meehan writes: “After laying down the principles upon which the art of landscape gardening is based, Mr. Kemp proceeds to show how they are to be applied and for this purpose he gives a variety of plans and details from his own practice.”

Kemp said in the book: “To regard a garden otherwise than a work of art, would tend to a radical perversion of Nature.”

The book became popular for American gardeners for the rest of the 19th century, and seed and nursery catalogs  frequently recommended it.

And so the story of how Americans grew to love the English garden continues with this chapter on Edward Kemp.

If you want to read his book,   check it out on Google Books


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