Change in the
New Zealand Home Garden
by Style of Element?
Reproduced from an article
by Helen M. Leach
of Anthropology, University of Otago
From The New Zealand
Garden Journal (Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture),
Vol. 1, No. 2, June 1996, pp. 12-18.
European and colonial garden
history is a relatively young study area; so it is not really surprising
that the full range of temporal phenomena have not been identified.
Most analyses have been of intersecting regional and chronological
styles whose rise and decline are measured in decades. In
my 1984 book, 1,000 Years of Gardening in New Zealand, I
employed a much longer-lasting unit, the tradition. Over
the one millennium of human occupation of this country, gardeners
have introduced the plants and concepts of two major horticultural
traditions: the first was the Oceanic with an antiquity of over three
thousand years in Polynesia and even longer, perhaps seven thousand
years, in Melanesia. Its origins may lie in the islands stretching
from New Guinea north to the Philippines.
If we are to come to terms with the past, present and future of
home gardening in New Zealand towns and cities, we need to step
back from the detail in order to take in the long view. Matching
one's perspective to the task in hand is important for all comprehensive
studies of change. Climatic change, for example, can be studied
in segments of tens and hundreds of thousands of years, as when
the glacial advances and retreats of the Pleistocene period are
analysed (Trenberth 1977). In contrast, secular climatic trends
show up by comparison of decade means over a century or so, while
other variations are examined within shorter intervals, such as
the 11 year sunspot cycles. Similarly clothing, architecture, and
furniture display cycles of change varying in the periodicity, as
well as longer term trends that are visible on different time scales.
The second tradition to reach New Zealand was the European. By two
thousand years ago it had amalgamated the gardening styles of the
Romans with the indigenous plant lore of local tribes in Western Europe.
By 1300 AD it had accommodated ideas and new plants from the Islamic
world, and it then went on to assimilate a whole raft of new plants
(but not concepts) from the Americas and the Far East in the last
few hundred years before the tradition was transplanted to New Zealand.
As a temporal and cultural unit, the tradition is most suited to discussing
changes in garden history that are compared over hundreds of years,
and involve contact and interaction between diverse cultures.
To my knowledge, the concept of the tradition has not been invoked
in any systematic way in analyses of garden history in European countries,
despite the fact that their time depth of human occupation is greater
than that of New Zealand. Instead, named styles have been the dominant
unit of analysis in the literature. Readers of English garden history
should be familiar with the following simplified sequence (Table 1).
Although these styles have come to 'represent' English garden history,
they are in fact highly restricted in their application. Firstly,
they refer to the ornamental/pleasure garden or park, not to the kitchen
garden or domestic orchard. Secondly, they relate to the ornamental
gardens created for or by wealthy landowners. Essentially these are
'designer garden' styles, although the growth of the middle classes
saw attempts to disarticulate them into forms and elements suitable
for smaller suburban villa and town gardens. Such a trickle-down effect
is widely recognised in all human activities subject to the fashion
phenomenon. But the copying of what was originally conceived of as
a stylistic unity for a particular landscape, with its own philosophical
connotations, dilutes the original meaning of the design to a mere
collection of elements without symbolic coherence. Thus much of the
original meaning of the style is lost, though as I will argue later,
the elements can be very long lasting and may outlive their style.
||800 - 1485
||1485 - 1642
||1. Early Tudor
||1485 - 1558
||1558 - 1603
||T. Hill, F. Bacon, J. Gerard
||1603 - 1625
||S. de Cans, I. de Caus
||1625 - 1642
|| 5. Commonwealth
|| 1642 - 1660
||6. Late Stuart
||1660 - 1714
||H. Wise, G. London, J. Evelyn
||'The English Style'
||1714 - 1804
||1714 - 1730
||C. Bridgeman, A. Pope, S. Switzer,
||b. Kent's Pastoral Scenes
||1730 - 1748
||c. English Rococo
||1740 - 1770
||T. Robins, S. Miller, T. Wright
||d. Capability Brown's Landscapes
||1741 - 1783
||e. Transitional Picturesque
||1788 - 1804
||H. Repton, Uvedale Price, R.
Payne Knight, W. Gilpin
||1804 - 1832
||W.S. Gilpin, H. Phillips
||Gardenesque & Victorian
||1832 - ?
||J. Loudon, Mrs. J. Loudon, C.
||1840 - 1870
||C. Barry, W. Nesfield
|late 19th and 20th Century
||Surrey School/Bloomsbury Style
||1870 - present
||W. Robinson, G. Jekyll, L. Johnston,
N. & C. Lloyd, V. Sackville-West
||1892 - ?1930
||R. Blomfield, H. Peto, T. Mawson
||1950 - ?
||G. Jellicoe, S. Crowe
1. Chronological table of English garden history analysed by style.
(Drawn from Jellicoe et al. 1986)
Further problems with
analysis according to style were pointed out by Kenneth Woodbridge
"The history of
garden design is bedevilled by problems of nomenclature even more
than that of other arts. The reason is partly semantic, in that
words lose their precise meaning and become used in a general
sense to the extent of being meaningless ... (p. 19)
When styles are examined closely, one of two things tends
to happen: there is either a closer definition leading to the
necessity of proposing other categories to harbor what has been
excluded, or there is a widening of the concept ... (p.20)
Of course, styles
are constantly evolving, and do not really fall into the neat
categories that this kind of nomenclature suggests ... (p.22)
But the trouble
with labels is that they provide a ready-made description that
may mislead and thus come between us and a direct response to
a work of all. Should we not, where possible, avoid them and ...
look at each garden in a period as an effort in its own tight,
created in a given situation?" (Woodbridge 1983: 12)
Styles from the last
three centuries before the 20th century are invariably associated
with key individuals (writers, philosophers, designers, practitioners
and talented amateurs) and often with specific gardens and characteristic
elements (such as the ha-ha in the early phase of the English Style).
In combination, these elements are often treated as the signature
of the style. As can be seen from Table 1, earlier styles are more
often referred to by reference to the reigning royal house, and
appear to have lasted longer. Is this shortening of the duration
of a style through history a factor of increasing rates of change
stimulated by a growing population and more communication, or is
it an artefact of document survival? The leading historian of medieval
English gardening, John Harvey, believes that stylistic changes
occurred within that period, but we are too far away in time to
see anything but the overall pattern and the long view (Harvey 1986).
Conversely, we are probably too close to the changes of the 20th
century to recognise clearly the styles that have prevailed since
the First World War. Can any of us answer the following questions?
Are our New Zealand home gardens gardenesque in style, formal revivalist,
or naturalistic, or all three? Is an informal garden of natives
a direct descendant of the picturesque style garden, or representative
of William Robinson's naturalistic, or the forerunner of the new
A more fundamental question
would be to ask whether any garden that has not been designed as
a unity, conforming to a particular philosophy of gardening or landscaping,
can be said to have a style. Of course if the answer is no, that
would rule out all the home gardens that have been subject to piecemeal
and progressive alterations. I believe that the great majority of
New Zealand home (and public) gardens consist of elements,
derived and selected from the whole range of previous and extant
styles. It is significant in this respect that the small but growing
literature on New Zealand garden history has found it very difficult
to apply English style names appropriately or consistently.
Rod Barnett's book Garden
Style in New Zealand (1993) featured a Buxton/Taylor pergola
on its dust jacket, and followed Tipples in identifying picturesque
and Edwardian architectural aspects in their designs. Overall, Barnett
sees a profusion of styles in New Zealand at each period of its garden
history. For example, New Zealand country garden style of the early
20th Century is described as "initially modelled on the English landscape
park, but heavily influenced by gardenesque eclecticism and the Robinsonian
woodland garden, and merged with an Arts and Crafts approach to structure,
layout and materials" (Barnett 1993: 68). Barnett is acutely aware
of questions of meaning, arguing that if "our gardens are meaningful,
then they need no further legitimation" Barnett 1993: 151), and that
the borrowing of foreign garden styles reduces them "to a mere shadow
of their prior meaning and greatness" (Barnett 1993: 143). Yet much
of the book is devoted to advice on choosing and adapting such styles
as Bloomsbury (e.g. Sissinghurst), Modernist, Sunset (Californian),
and Subtropical, for New Zealand use. His inclusion of Courtyard,
Terrace, and Country Garden as actual styles highlights the
difficulty that modern designers have in reconciling historical styles
with current garden types.
In Rupert Tipples' thorough study of Alfred Buxton as a garden designer,
he noted in one of his plans "the characteristic serpentine curves
of the 'picturesque' landscape style of John Claudius Loudon" (Tipples
1989: 58). Loudon is rather better known for his promotion of the
gardenesque style, while the serpentine curve is an important element
from the onset of the 18th century English Style. Tipples also draws
attention to the acknowledgement by Buxton's Landscape Manager,
Edgar Taylor, that he had been influenced by C. E. Mallows, an architect
"of the Arts and Crafts school, who was able to design in a number
of different styles" (Tipples 1989: 68). Among Mallows' most distinctive
garden elements are masonry-pillared pergolas and other structures
much used in the Formalist Edwardian style (Tipples 1989: 136).
It appears that Buxton and Taylor's 'designs' are largely derivative
and represent collections of elements, perhaps singled out for inclusion
by their clients, rather than unified and innovative designs.
Rather than struggling with styles as a framework for New Zealand
garden history, we could usefully adopt an element-based
approach which will not only reflect the gardeners' own selection
processes, but will reveal the rise and fall in popularity of each
component without tying it to a particular style.
Elements of the garden include both plants and structural features.
A good start has been made documenting the history of the introduction
of particular species and garden varieties to New Zealand, and recording
the progress made by local breeders and selectors (e.g. Challenger
1986/7; Nobbs 1988; Shepherd 1990; Rooney 1993). However the history
of garden structural features has scarcely been touched. It has to
be extracted from dated descriptions of gardens, catalogues and advertisements,
and from gardening books and pamphlets written in New Zealand. Preliminary
studies that I have made in this area suggest that it will be valuable
to compare the period of popularity of each selected feature with
that observed in Britain, the country which has most influenced New
Zealand home and public gardens.
Some elements, like lakes, chains of ponds, rustic bridges, bush walks,
avenue driveways, and ha-has, belong to larger gardens of the type
made for country homesteads or urban parks. Others which I will review
below were of a more flexible scale and could be adapted for smaller
town and suburban home gardens.
As a named element, the
shrubbery was recognised from the middle of the 18th century right
through to the late 1930s, a duration which exceeds that of the styles
which utilised it. Gilbert White (1975: xxi) made a 'shrubery' at
Selborne in the 1750s or 1760s. It appears to have been created for
the display of flowering shrubs, many of which had been introduced
to England from North America only within the preceding century (Harvey
1988). For William Cobbett in 1829, shrubberies and flower gardens
were the two main components of ornamental gardens (Cobbett 1980:
224). His more inclusive term for the part of the garden featuring
lawns, 'walks' (paths) and shrub-beds was 'pleasure-ground' (Cobbett
1980: 224 - 6). Early Victorian writers like Charles McIntosh (1853:
657, 698) provided planting instructions for gardenesque shrubberies
where the plants had to be spaced to allow their individual form to
be appreciated, and for picturesque shrubberies where the trees, shrubs
and undergrowth were encouraged to mingle.
From the 1840s shrubberies were an integral part of New Zealand gardens.
Felton Mathew's property in Auckland had a lawn with inset flower
beds, sloping down to a shrubbery consisting of mixed natives and
exotics (Cooper 1972: 28). Felix Wakefield's advice in 1870 to avoid
eucalypts in shrubberies gives some indication of the size of what
could be included in a Victorian shrubbery (Wakefield 1870). Matthews'
catalogue of New Zealand flora of c.1893 recommended certain native
species like Drimys (Pseudowintera) and Melicytus "for the ornamental
shrubbery". The popular New Zealand garden writer Michael Murphy (1907:
237, 246) provided lists of trees and shrubs for the shrubberies of
small gardens and noted that ornamental grasses could be included.
The one-eighth acre garden plan provided by A. E. Lowe (1915: 21 -
2) in 1915 shows shrubs on one side of the small front lawn. In the
spirit of the new era David Tannock (c.1914: 144) criticised the former
choice of shrubs, specifically targetting laurels, laurestinus, ponticum
rhododendrons, variegated hollies and "solemn looking cupressus".
He argued that flowering and ornamental foliage shrubs were ideal
for banks and terraces, and broke up the garden interior so that the
garden actually looked bigger, an equally important consideration
to the Victorians before him (Tannock c.1914: 23). A shrubbery also
provided excellent screening so that the front door could not be seen
from the front gate (Tannock c.1914: 24), again a Victorian preoccupation,
but this time with privacy rather than with the size of one's property.
After the First World War, the shrubbery began to lose its separate
identity in both New Zealand and English gardens. Young and Hay (1919:
33) wrote that while shrubs used to be massed together into shrubberies
which contained too many commonplace plants like laurels, the new
trend was towards shrub-beds and shrub-borders. There was increasing
interest in selecting shrubs for all year colour (Home & Building
1938 3(1): 45), and in combining shrubs with perennials in a mixed
shrubbery border (Building Today 1937 1(2): 41).
After the Second World War the outdoor room analogy became popular
in New Zealand garden writing, and mixed borders of flowers and shrubs
were seen as providing the essential background furnishings to the
outdoor living room (Elliott 1947: 540 - 1; Salinger et al. 1962:87).
Although massed plantings of rhododendrons, or Australian or South
African shrubs became relatively common in larger gardens, they were
no longer described as shrubberies. In fact the term seems to have
dropped from common use in the 1940s. Overall, the shrubbery lasted
nearly two hundred years (1750 - 1950) as a significant, named garden
Victorian period witnessed an episode of pteridomania which peaked
in the 1850s (Allen 1969: x, 72). Horticulturally it took three forms:
miniature ferneries in Wardian cases, fern houses (greenhouses dedicated
to fern cultivation) and outdoor ferneries. One of the first British
examples of the use of the term fernery was by Newman in 1840. He
was referring to an outdoor rockery specially designed to hold ferns
(Allen 1969: 70). Charles McIntosh (1853: 667) gave a combined entry
to 'The Fernery and Muscarium' in 1853, noting that "many ladies now
bestow great attention on ferns" to the extent that a specialist nursery
trade was developing. At the height of the craze, many conservatories
were furnished with rock mounds covered in ferns. Just such a display,
with a fountain at the summit, was mounted at the Floral and Horticultural
Show in Auckland in 1857 (Cooper 1972: 35). It is thus clear that
New Zealand gardeners were not slow to adopt the fashion.
Outdoor ferneries survived longer in Britain than their indoor counterparts,
being made from the 1840s into the early 20th century, in the form
of glens or rockeries. The reason for their survival may be their
association after 1870 with the natural or wild garden concepts promoted
by William Robinson. Robinson believed that it was more natural to
mix ferns with flowers, but figured a rock fernery of the 'pure' type
(Fig. 1) in his book The English Flower Garden (Robinson
1893: 131). The doyen of the formal architectural school, Thomas Mawson,
dismissed the fernery in one line as a "specialised branch of wild
gardening" (Mawson 1912: 212).
The wealth of fern species in New Zealand undoubtedly contributed
to the success of ferneries here. Thelma Strongman (1984: 89, 131
- 2) referred to an outdoor fernery in Christchurch in the 1870s-80s
and at Mt. Peel by 1887. By public request Michael Murphy enlarged
his section on fern growing in the second edition of his best-selling
book Handbook of New Zealand Gardening, c.1888. He wrote:
"The fernery, whether
under cover or out of doors, is usually the favourite spot in
the flower garden or pleasure grounds.
... the fernery
should occupy some quiet and shady, and, if possible, romantic
retreat. When the ground presents none of these features they
may to some extent be created by mounds of earth and excavations,
with roots of trees, rocks, and old bricks and slags tastefully
arranged." (Murphy 4th ed. 1907: 228).
D. Tannock described
a more naturalistic outdoor fernery in 1914:
"A sheltered hollow
makes a fine fernery; if there is running water so much the better...
If there is no natural gully one should be formed by throwing
up banks of soil on either side and the whole area enclosed with
scrub fences and shrubberies. The sides of the ravine can be faced
with rocks and broadleaf logs; they seldom rot and form a fine
host for polypodiums and the delicate filmy ferns. The path up
the bottom of the ravine should wind round precipitous bluffs,
and the heights can be intensified by planting tree ferns on the
top..." (Tannock c.1914: 139)
While Tannock's and later
Cockayne's ideal fernery took the form of an open-air and naturalistic
setting for ferns, there is evidence of popular interest in the
fernery as an actual construction. Tipples (1989: 101 - 4, 106)
described and illustrated elaborate rock and metal-framed ferneries
designed and built for wealthy clients by Buxton in 1914 and 1930-4.
The poor man's equivalent was outlined by Young and Hay in 1919:
Cockayne (1923: 104) considered
such artificial structures to be ugly, preferring to grow ferns in
the shade of trees. Whether the extraordinary Buxton ferneries of
the 1930s fit Allen's term 'hypertrophy' and 'over-extension' and
other trends to the 'extreme abnormal' which he believes mark the
close of a fashion (Allen 1969: 57), there is little evidence that
there was any further demand for the fernery as a distinct garden
element in New Zealand after the Second World War. I have found only
one post-war reference, and this, not surprisingly, was in Muriel
Fisher's book on Gardening with New Zealand Plants, Shrubs and
Trees (1970: 209).
"A cheap and effective
fernery can be constructed with walls of closely-packed manuka
scrub, secured to a wooden frame-work, with a roof of similar
material, sufficiently open to admit a moderate amount of light.
The rock-work should be arranged to suit the space available and
the kinds of ferns desired. Mossy stones are the best, if obtainable,
as they give a more natural appearance to the fernery." (Young
and Hay 1919: 101 - 2)
The decline of the fernery does not imply that ferns will be neglected
in the gardens of the future. Today there are signs that ferns are
being integrated with other native plants in groupings based on ecological
associations. The ecological garden of the 21st century should see
a strengthening of this trend.
a garden structure, the pergola is much younger than the fernery.
It provides a good example of the speed with which a fashionable element
was adopted in Britain and soon after, in New Zealand. Although early
Victorian gardens had rose arches and trellised coverings to paths,
which served to screen walkers from undesirable views (e.g. McIntosh
1853: 685), the pillared pergola appeared in Britain only towards
the end of the 19th century. William Robinson recommended the adoption
of both simple wooden pergolas using oak supporting posts, and the
more stately examples with stone columns, both of which he had observed
in Italy. A brick-pillared pergola (probably designed by Lutyens)
was a feature of Gertrude Jekyll's garden at Munstead Wood (Fig. 2),
and it was figured in Robinson's 1893 edition of The English Flower
Garden (Robinson 1893: 152). Architectural pergolas became frequent
components of Mawson's designs and his work influenced Buxton and
Taylor in New Zealand. Tipples commented:
"By about the time
of the First World War Buxton had taken up the English pergola
style of Lutyens and Mawson, and by the 1930s some of his pergolas
were Italianate." (Tipples 1989: 135)
This feature was not
confined to the wealthy, however. Home-made pergolas were easy to
construct, with the ubiquitous manuka pole providing a suitably
rustic appearance. About 1914, David Tannock was of the opinion
"Pergolas and rustic
fences are justly popular, and it may fairly be claimed that the
great improvement in the rambler roses is responsible for their
popularity." (Tannock 1914: 52)
Pergolas have continued
in use in New Zealand right through to the 1990s. Three factors
have aided their survival as a garden element. In the 1970s, the
desire for indoor-outdoor living saw the explosion of decks and
renewed interest in pergolas (Barnett 1993: 6). In the 1990s the
trend to small formal courtyard gardens of Mediterranean flavour
has also increased the demand for the pergola's shade-giving properties
and the opportunities it provides for vertical planting in a small
space. Thirdly, the development of timber preservatives has dramatically
increased their garden life span. In short the pergola is likely
to endure well into the 21st century as a garden element well adapted
to modern life-styles and garden use.
So far I have dealt with
quite complex elements which can persist in garden designs for over
a century. Of course there are certain simpler features which have
a much shorter popularity span. Crazy paving is one that appears to
have started in Britain with the work of Lutyens and Jekyll who explored
many different path surface finishes in their designs. Why crazy paving
emerged as the popular favourite is unclear. David Tannock described
it as in vogue in 1924 (Tannock 1924: 36), and it was frequently associated
with sunken gardens and pools in the 1930s (e.g. Building Today
1936 1 (1): 11). Tannock's 1934 book Practical Gardening in New
years crazy paving has become fashionable, and certainly it is
in keeping with formal design." (Tannock 1934: 6)
The spaces between the
stones or slabs he considered ideal for dwarf spreading and alpine
plants (idem). By 1932, however, English canons of taste
prescribed its use with formal architecture. The influential Studio
Garden Annual stated that for country houses:
"if the building
be regular and at all pretentious, the flags should be rectangular,
laid down as in conventional paving. But in the case of a small
country house or cottage of rustic aspect it would be quite in
order, and, indeed, more appropriate that the paths and approach
to the porch should consist of well-laid crazy pavement."
(Izzard 1932: 5)
In neither Britain nor
New Zealand did crazy paving remain fashionable after the war, possibly
because it was labour-intensive to weed, and could not be laid as
quickly as other path surfaces. The craze seems to have developed
and waned in the space of three or four decades at the most.
concept of gardening within the earth-filled pockets of a group of
'introduced' rocks appears to have 19th century origins in Britain,
although rock structures as landscape features to display the rocks
themselves can be traced to the 18th century (Hunt 1986: 11). Rocks
had been used extensively for grottoes and cascades in the 18th century
English Rococo Garden (Symes 1991). In the Regency and early Victorian
periods extraordinary heaps of assorted stones, vitrified bricks,
glass debris, shells or old tree roots became popular (Stuarty 1988:186).
These seem to have been more in the spirit of the 18th century rock
creations than as a setting for plants. Where plants were described,
they were generally ferns chosen for their picturesque and romantic
associations. Increasing upper class interest in travel in the European
Alps eventually created a demand for alpine plants rather than ferns,
and the recreation of Alpine rather than Highland scenery.
The popular garden writers railed against the lack of taste of most
rockeries (e.g. McIntosh 1853: 701) while praising rockeries that
seem equally incongruous today, such as Lady Broughton's 34 foot high
reconstruction of the Alps at Chamonix which rose out of her garden
lawn near Chester. It was built from limestone, quartz and spar, with
broken white marble chips to simulate snow, and alpine plants inserted
into the lower portions (McIntosh 1853: 702). To McIntosh and the
other Victorian garden writers, rockeries served as useful screens,
gave an illusion of space in town gardens, covered barren banks (Victorians
were troubled by unclothed surfaces), and imitated desirable natural
features (McIntosh 1853: 704).
Despite the continued British interest in this element, which gained
more impetus from Robinson's backing in the 1880s, there is little
evidence that the rockery was an important component of New Zealand
gardens until the end of the 19th century. The Matthews' catalogue
of New Zealand flora of c.1893 refers to particular natives as suitable
for rockeries, yet the newspaper description of their Hawthorn Hill
'show' garden in 1878 (Otago Witness 16/2/1878 p.21) fails
to mention any such feature. They were however, a prominent item in
this garden by 1922 (Otago Witness 25/4/1922 p.7, 33). I
suspect they were created by John McIntyre in the 1890s to house the
growing collection of alpines that he and Henry Matthews had gathered
from the wild.
By 1914, it seems that rock gardens were becoming very popular. David
"There is no section
of gardening that has made greater strides during recent years
than rock gardening ... in fact rock gardening might be said to
be the height of fashion in horticulture." (Tannock c.1914:
Although Tannock was
referring to both Britain and New Zealand, there is no real evidence
that this fashion was being led from Britain, for rock gardening
advice seems to have been more prevalent in New Zealand-authored
books of the post-war period than in the contemporary British literature.
For example, the New Zealand writers Young and Hay (1919: 97) wrote
is taken nowadays in the formation and cultivation of rock gardens.
The main reason for this is doubtless the fact that many new plants
suitable for such locations have been recently introduced."
Cockayne (1923: 24) stressed
the value of rockeries as sites for growing and displaying native
alpines, while a year later Tannock devoted a whole book to Rock
Gardening in New Zealand (c.1924). It featured an advertisement
by Alfred Buxton (Fig. 3) offering the firm's services for the design
and construction of rock gardens. Buxton's rock gardens fall mainly
in the period 1919-1937 (Tipples 1989: 68, 70).
Though the enthusiasm
for rock gardening may have waned in the 1930s (perhaps as the rockeries
of the 1915-25 period became progressively over-run with weeds such
as oxalis and couch grass), they continued in use well after the
Second World War. As with the mixed border, however, there was a
tendency to increase the variety of plant types in them from the
late 1930s. Dwarf conifers and other small shrubs were added to
existing rockeries to provide contrast and height (Building
Today 1937 1 (2): 45; New Zealand Gardener 1946 3(10):
549). By the 1970s whole rockeries were dedicated to conifers and
the work of caring for dwarf alpines had been eliminated, along
with the alpines, by mats of plastic and increasingly replaced by
bark since the 1980s. It is not surprising that new rockeries of
the traditional type have been a rare phenomenon since the 1980s.
Rock settings for a wider variety of ecological planting will probably
be the form in which rockeries make the transition into the 21st
There are many other structural
elements of gardens that deserve analysis, elements like sunken gardens,
herb gardens, herbaceous borders, lily ponds, rustic garden furniture,
formal roseries, gazebos, sundials, fountains, birdbaths, and patios.
Popularity has also waxed and waned for the other main category of
garden element, the plants themselves. For example, the late 19th
century saw a fashion for dressing the fronts of houses with climbers
and creepers, while at the same period statuesque sub-tropical plants
provided centrepieces for flower beds cut out of the lawns. Like certain
structural elements some plant genera such as roses have
had an appeal which spans centuries, though particular named varieties
of roses have had popularity spans of less than a decade. In this
case the cultivation of the rose genus could be treated as a marker
of the European tradition. The currently fashionable ground-cover
roses should probably be interpreted as a short-term element similar
to crazy paving. Although the nursery trade strongly influences through
its advertising the initial phase of popularisation of particular
varieties, the duration of the fashion is much less subject to trade
control. It may depend on such shifting public sentiments as nostalgia,
boredom, anxiety, or excitement. Functional considerations are also
relevant, such as the labour costs of maintenance, or changes in garden
My preliminary study has confirmed that like the plants, the structural
elements of gardens show great variation in their time span of utilisation
and popularity. They appear to have an existence which though influenced
by the designer styles is nevertheless quite separate. They frequently
outlive the styles with which they were first associated, and often
become elements of successive styles. This phenomenon also applies
to indoor decorative elements such as furniture and furnishings. It
is probably only explicable by looking at the meaning that the element
held for each user in the light of the popular literature of the time,
the tastes for art, rules of etiquette, feelings about social class
and race, and even nationalism (c.f. Leach 1994). For the future,
analysis of the meaning of garden elements offers us the opportunity
to look at the history of gardening in its widest social context rather
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I wish to express my
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Institute of Horticulture for their invitation to give the 1995
Ian Galloway Memorial Lecture.
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