The beauty and intricate designs of the world-renowned English gardens have been part of the world since the Romans conquered the British Isles in the 1st century. While they have been part of society since the beginning of time, it was not until the Middle Ages that the gardens became much more important in the lives of the British people.
The gardens were not just for aesthetic purposes; they were also functional to everyday life, providing food and medicine, using herbs and other plant life. This was mostly in the monastery setting, and castles and larger estates would install smaller gardens with paths through the flowerbeds.
While the raised flowerbed gardens with footpaths are what most people think of when they think of English Gardens, there are actually a few different designs of gardens1:
- Roman Britain: formal, low hedges
- Medieval: small enclosed, with turf seats and mounds
- Tudor: know gardens, enclosed in hedges or walls
- Stuart: formal Italianate and French styles
- Georgian: informal, landscaped, open parkland
- Victorian: bedding plants, colourful, public gardens
- 20th Century+: mixed styles, herbaceous borders
Influences for the English Gardens, while they started with Roman conquerors, have been touched by various other cultures and ideas throughout time; including the French. As the world grew, so did the types of flowers that were included in the gardens. A few of the more typical flowers one might find in an English Garden would be:
The beauty of these gardens has transcended the ages and they continue to be an inspiration to many people from all over the world who fall in love with the landscapes, the footpaths, the beautiful and fragrant blooms throughout.
Yes, these Gardens’ are man-made, invented for the world to enjoy the beauty of the nature around them. Perhaps The Bard himself explains it best; from his work of art, Twelfth Night2, “Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and white Nature’s own sweet and cunning hand laid on.”
Without the hand of nature, we would not be able to have these beautiful escapes from the chaos of the world we live in. English gardens have been cemented in English and World history, they have survived everything that has come since they were first brought to the UK and have continued to grow and advance with the changes in our society and growth of the horticultural world.
2 Twelfth Night; Act 1, Scene 5.1; Shakespeare, William (~1601)