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Gardening Through The Ages

Author : Mark Bartley

It is possible to trace the appreciation of gardening in England back several centuries, with food production being the mainstay of land use until the Romans started to introduce creative gardening and outdoor design. Popular gardening came along a little later when home ownership became more widespread in the twentieth century. Before that time, landscaped ornamental gardens were the preserve of royalty and the noble classes with the gardens at Hampton Court in Surrey being a perfect example of the grandest schemes of the era. Country houses across the land were not complete without walled gardens and sweeping lawns. A impressive as they were, many of these large gardens were destroyed during the 11 year Puritan period between 1649 and 1660 when England had no monarch following the execution of Charles I and Cromwell ruled as first Lord Protector of the Commonwealth.

Once the monarchy was reinstated, the rebuilding of impressive Royal gardens soon commenced with Hampton Court being redesigned in 1699, around the same time that large house and garden renovations were being carried out at Castle Howard in Yorkshire and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

In the years that followed the name of Lancelot "Capability" Brown became very well known as England's most talented and active landscape gardener. Brown was the creator of over 150 gardens up and down the country including some ambitious projects at places like Petworth House in West Sussex. The upper classes of the country seemed to be obsessed with ever more extravagant garden designs and schemes. All kinds of ambitious gardening designs were commissioned such as the Cascade at Chatsworth which also aimed to solve drainage issues on the estate and the creation of the huge lake at Blenheim, which was achieved by damming and diverting the River Glyme.

Italian design was often the major influence in these grand designs as they frequently included such features as fountains and wide walkways, symmetrical planting beds and grottos. The upper classes in France also followed suit with a fine example being the Chateau d'Anet, where today the large lawns and water features still remain. Just thirty miles to the east of Chateau d'Anet, while Hampton Court and Blenheim Palace were receiving their makeovers, the legendary Gardens of Versailles were being constructed for French royalty, at the time the largest gardens in Europe. Huge budgets were spent in constructing these gardens for King Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King. The design of the gardens was devised specifically with the Chateau in mind and included symbolic sun designs, impressive vistas over the surrounding landscapes and a positioning of buildings so that the sunlight shone and reflected directly into the Kings bedroom. A visit to Versailles is a must for gardening fans today, but for those unable to travel there, Google Street View cameras have been allowed into the grounds so that the magnificence of this remarkable place is available even for those unable to visit France.

Recent years have seen very few gardens of this former scale created, with the wealth required to fund such developments largely being found in other parts of the world. Gardening in England is now similar but no less enjoyable and certainly available to many more people, with home owners improving the area around their houses with impressive designs and layouts.

Gardening these days is as much a regular pastime as it is a creative process with an end result. The popularity of gardening in the UK is evident, not just from the various TV programmes and publications on the subject, but also from the huge number of retail garden centres in every major town or city and all the tidy and attractive gardens to be seen around the houses of the general population.

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Mark has written about gardening for numerous publications. He has written advice guides on gardening and other related subjects.

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Tags:   gardening, gardens, history

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Submitted : 2010-11-08    Word Count : 697    Times Viewed: 443