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The Two Garden Styles, Natural and Formal, Appeared in Eighteenth Century England

The English landscape gardeners of the eighteenth century introduced the natural approach to the landscape, which included  such elements as extensive lawn areas, curved walkways, and even an element of surprise as one walked the landscape.

This design was a rejection of the formal design which had swept Europe in the seventeenth century, with Andre Le Notre’s design of the garden of Versailles as its finest example, where symmetry guided the choices in the landscape design.

British landscape gardener Charles McIntosh (1794-1864) wrote in his The Book of the Garden, published in 1853:  “Le Notre’s style rapidly spread in all improving countries. It was, as will be seen hereafter, adopted very extensively in Britain; and, strange to say, continued in great repute in this country fully half a century after the introduction of the English or natural style had been fully established.”

Scotland's Dalkeith Palace, best example of the work of landscape gardener Charles McIntosh (1794--)
Scotland’s Dalkeith Palace, best example of the work of landscape gardener Charles McIntosh, from F. O. Morris’ book County Seats (1880)

The proponents of both styles of landscape would continue to debate the value of each kind of garden design.

Popular English horticulturist and garden writer William Robinson at the end of the nineteenth century claimed the superiority of the role of the landscape gardener who knew plants as superior to the landscape architect  whose experience was limited to formal landscape plans.

The debate continued into the twentieth century and  gardens appeared in both versions, and sometimes in a combination of the two.

Even today both kinds of landscapes express two different kinds of design.



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