Middle Ages to Georgian Times
By John Harvey
Published by Shire Publications Ltd, Princes Risborough, UK, 1993
Shire Garden History Series no. 1, 2nd edition
Reviewed by Joan Dingley
Interest in Britain in
garden history increased with the founding of the Garden History
Society in 1965, and extensive literature searches on period gardens
have been undertaken. Archaeological excavations have also contributed
to the restoration or recreation of gardens more than a century
old, many sponsored by the National Trust.
John Harvey's concepts
for the restoration and recreation of historical gardens have wide
applications in maintenance programmes for all gardens and parks.
Harvey stresses that long-term upkeep of restored gardens must be
considered. A garden changes naturally at a fast rate, and heavy
costs of a major restoration can be wasted unless both an annual
and longer-term phased management plan of work is drawn up and strictly
Sound restorations or
recreations cannot be hurried, for all aspects of researches of
original archives and archaeological excavations have to be considered.
Plantings need to match the main period of the buildings in the
area. The author quotes the anomaly of using modern floribunda roses,
with no counterpoint in the 17th century, in a period rose garden
at 17th century Edgell Castle, Tayside.
Harvey comments on the
contribution trees made to the English landscape in the 18th and
19th centuries, and asks how this influence can be perpetuated.
Clear-felling and replanting has been shown not to be the answer,
and he urges better efforts to preserve original trees and hedges.
Restoration of period
gardens in Britain is described under five historical periods, and
examples are given for these periods, as well as some back-ground
on the historical influences of the time.
In the first period,
the Middle Ages (1066-1485), there are no written texts to serve
as guides, but fragments of information have been collected from
many sources. The Queen Eleanor Gardens, Winchester Castle, is a
restored garden of this period.
In the Tudor period (1485-1540)
and a later period (1540-1605) a more ornate type of formal garden
developed, with elaborate topiary and 'knot' gardens. With the invention
of printing the first English books on horticulture appeared: Thomas
Hill (1558) on horticultural practice, William Turner (1558) on
garden plants, and Gerard's Herbal or Generall Historie of Plants
(1597). With the Reformation, new eastern European plants and trees
were introduced to the West, e.g., tulips, ranunculus, horse chestnut.
There is a Tudor garden at the Tudor House Museum, Southampton.
The author divides the
Stuart period into two phases, 1603-1660 and 1660-1714. Extravagance
marked the first period, with wealthy courtiers establishing the
ornate layouts seen in France and Italy, building terraces and grand
staircases, lakes and waterways. Plant lists and catalogues produced
in this period provide a good background to the plantings of the
times. The year 1650, however, marked a downturn in our horticultural
history, with the Parliamentary confiscation of large estates following
the Civil War. The later Stuart period thus ushered in the era of
the more modest 'home garden', incorporating orchard and kitchen
In the first Georgian
period (1714-1760) the author notes the development of the nursery
trade, the most notable being Furber of Kensington Gore, London.
A number of North American trees were introduced. The Georgian period
1760-1800 saw foreign trade and exploration introducing plants from
all over the world, and the rapid development of Kew Gardens followed.
The designer Lancelot 'Capability' Brown began to make an impact
on garden landscapes. The flower border developed as a garden feature.
The book concludes with
a short bibliography, list of abbreviations, and appendices. Appendix
I provides a summary of sources and connections under the different
chapter headings. Historical plant lists are given, taken from texts
mentioned in the bibliography. These lists are arranged in chronological
order, and to me are one of the most interesting features of the
book. The list from Robert Furber's catalogues, Kensington 1724-1730,
is truly remarkable. Appendix II lists roses in cultivation in Britain
before 1830, an interesting addition.
The book provides a valuable
and useful guide for visitors to Britain who are interested in garden
history. It is interesting to consider these phases of early garden
development in the context of New Zealand gardening. Cooks voyages
to New Zealand occurred in the periods 1768-1772 and 1772-1776.
Before this Maori immigrants had developed gardens based on food
crops brought from the warm Pacific Islands. Helen Leach's book
'1000 Years of Gardening in New Zealand' (1984) has described the
course of pre-European Maori gardening identified by archaeological
studies and followed the introduction of European food crops into
Reading Harvey's historical
account of period British gardens shows how early European settlers
in New Zealand would have been influenced by and profited from years
of gardening experience in Britain. I found this book very interesting
in New Zealand: Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture
1993 4(2): 5, 9
Reviews Main Page