Monday, 27 April 2015

Two Books / The History Of Gardening.

Gardeners will be astounded to discover how little of their craft is new. Most of the methods used today hark back to ancient civilizations and the gardens of Egypt, Rome, and Persia. Illustrated with hundreds of photographs and line drawings, An Illustrated History of Gardening is an authoritative tome tracing the history and development of this centuries-old craft. Grafting techniques, lawn care, propagation, irrigation, greenhousing, and specialty gardening are some of the topics thoroughly discussed, and illustrated, within this book. No less fascinating are the surveys of ideas about composting from ancient times through the experiments in commercially produced fertilizers carried out by early-American gardeners such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin to a discussion of the relative merits of organic and chemical gardening. The gardener has always been a person of imagination and adaptability, and An Illustrated History of Gardening shows how this craft has survived for thousands of years.

An Historical Look at the Art of Gardening

By Anthony Huxley, foreword by Charles Elliott
Copyright 1978, 1998

The Lyons Press, New York

ISBN: 1-55821-693-6.

"The Illustrated History of Gardening" by the late Anthony Huxley captures elements of what gardening must have been like in days long past, as well as a sense of more recent changes in how and why we toil in the earth. Published in 1978 and re-released with a foreword by Charles Elliott in 1998, the 352-page book provides unique insight into methods of cultivation ranging from irrigation to weed control, with a comprehensive look at the use of such tools and techniques throughout history.

A formidable and vast subject, Huxley does a good job of looking at a broad range of cultures and subjects, within the context of the "history of gardening." However, since it was written more than 20 years ago, Huxley also has managed to present his case from an era gone by: from the 1970s, the days when population growth and gas shortages necessitated smaller gardens and a renewed reliance on "community plots" and vegetable gardens. But mostly the book is dedicated to the evolution of gardening throughout history, and it remains interestingly relevant to gardening today.

The book is half what it says: an illustrated history. It is in fact a compilation of prose that addresses certain technologies, such as the evolution of irrigation methods, then contrasts them over a period of thousands of years. That in turn is supplemented by a collection of photographs and art, compiled by Maurice Michael and reprinted here in black and white.

From the plans for the St. Gall monastery and its "physic garden," dated 820 A.D., to a London rooftop in the recent 20th century, the use of art to explain antiquated methodology is particularly helpful. But Huxley also relies on the work of his predecessors, noted writers who range from Virgil to Emerson, to provide the background and sentiment of gardening throughout the centuries. When the modern gardener may have tired of learning about the latest trends and techniques, he or she will be fascinated to learn that many fundamentals of gardening today date back to the ancient civilizations and the gardens of Rome, Egypt and Persia.

According to Huxley, the earliest garden cultivators were believed to have lived around Jericho in Palestine in 8,000 B.C. Such history is interesting not only because Huxley jumps around from century to century, but also because he compares a wide variety of cultures (Roman, Greek, English, Dutch) in looking at the evolution of gardening.

A chapter-by-chapter account leads the reader through the evolution of techniques of lawn care, gardening under cover and other topics, with a comprehensive look at essential operations and the development of garden tools. It is obvious that Huxley looks upon these times past with some longing. "In recalling primitive beginnings of cultivation, one is reminded of man's constant instinctive urge to have plants around him," Huxley writes. "Our gardens are echoes of the primeval green world in which our ancestors lived and evolved, a world which  we are all too busy destroying today."

In one of the many attributions featured in this book, Sir Francis Bacon, more than three centuries ago, said gardening is "the purest of human pleasures." He said it offered a "refreshment to the spirits of man." But it is the craft of gardening on which this book primarily focuses. "Gardeners are first of all artisans, only secondarily artists," notes Huxley.

In the newly added foreword, Charles Elliott explains that this historical volume "has less to do with theory than with things." "An Illustrated History" deals with the tools, techniques, devices, procedures and "all the paraphernalia that gardeners have invented, improved, employed successfully or otherwise ... over the centuries," Elliott explains.

The development of tools alone covers a wide breadth of topics, including, for example: planting beds, containers, hedges, fences, methods of sowing and planting, controlling pests, watering, feeding, training, forcing and protecting.

The artwork featured spans decades - as well as countries - but most date from the periods concerned. Many have not been published in years. And only in a few cases does Huxley include photographs or drawings of tools or devices that are still in use today. "The illustrations are a very important part of this book, and much time has been spent in searching for them," he explains.

Huxley also has made a point to use original quotes–and their original spellings. A Providence, Rhode Island, land grant dated 1681, for example, reads, "The northwestern Corner being bounded with a pine Tree... the Northeasterne Corner Bounding with an old Walnutt stumpe... the South Westerne Corner with a Chestnutt Tree." These attributions, Huxley notes, "may seem quaint." But such honest use of words is also refreshing and direct, and that's "all too seldom (seen) today," he adds. In many cases, the origin of the quotes is also historically significant.

While garden writers have penned their words in abundance during the last few centuries, that wasn't always the case. In some ancient civilizations, such writers were far and few between, or, like the Romans Columella and Pliny, were "virtually unique," says Huxley.

In the course of his study, Huxley also found it interesting that many cultures developed similar kinds of garden implements about the same periods, without having any connection or at all knowing what was happening in other parts of the world. He also felt it interesting that certain techniques, first developed out of practical necessity, later became full-fledged art forms in and of themselves. The basic plant bed is one such example.

Originally designed as a way to prevent stepping on plants, the technique developed into "pure design" and later, with the aid of improvements such as irrigation, led to the evolution of ornamental fountains, spouts, basins and more. Gardening as we know it has, of course, long since moved beyond the basic necessity of growing food. Throughout the years, people have been attracted to the earth and plants for reasons relating to leisure, diversion and decoration.

While looking at the past, Huxley also strives for modernity in his prose. In talking about ancient methods, he compares them to modern developments and the use of such techniques today. After all, he notes, "history only stopped yesterday." As with art, he sparingly incorporates references to modern equipment, stressing that it is in fact "the forgotten past which (most) fascinates."

Huxley died in 1992 at the age of 72. A member of Britain's intellectual aristocracy, he was related to Darwin supporter T.H. Huxley, zoologist Sir Julian Huxley, and novelist Aldous Huxley. In 1949, he joined the staff of the weekly magazine, "Amateur Gardening." After that, his list of accomplishments is quite extensive: Throughout the years, he worked as editor, writer, lecturer, photographer, tour leader and more. He wrote nearly 40 books on the topic of plants, and was editor of the authoritative Royal Horticultural Society's "Dictionary of Gardening - the Illustrated History."

Of Huxley's talent for the historic, Elliott notes, "The combination of... pictures and Huxley's magpie taste for the odd fact will fascinate anyone who has ever pruned a rose or hoed a row of beans. Although there are plenty of bad or failed horticultural notions included along the way, Huxley makes plain that there's no call for us to feel superior to our predecessors."

Even the thoughtful gardener today, Elliott adds, "might strike an idea or two worth trying again today, even though it may be a couple of hundred–or thousand–years old. After all, we've still got caterpillars, if not Arcadian asses." In the end, Huxley stresses that gardening is a devotion which brings happiness to many. "Without green and flowering plants for pleasure as much as food, the world would be a much poorer place," he says.

The Pleasure Garden: An Illustrated History of British Gardening
Scott-James, Anne; Lancaster, Osbert (illustrator)

From Roman peristyle to 20th century patio, Anne Scott-James conducts us through 2000 years of the English garden; to linger happily in simple enclosed courtyards of medieval days, and the formal showpieces of Jacobean England, and, later, to wander through sweeping, moody landscapes of the 18th century.

We learn of each age's distinguished botanists, designers, and architects who, together with contemporary social conditions and sheer fad and fashion, shaped these bowers of delight.


The Italian Renaissance inspired a revolution in private gardening. Renaissance private gardens were full of scenes from ancient mythology and other learned allusions. Water during this time was especially symbolic: it was associated with fertility and the abundance of nature.
The first public gardens were built by the Spanish Crown in the 16th century, in Europe and the Americas.

Garden à la française
The Garden à la française, or Baroque French gardens, in the tradition of André Le Nôtre.
The French Classical garden style, or Garden à la française, climaxed during the reign of Louis XIV of France (1638–1715) and his head gardener of Gardens of Versailles, André Le Nôtre (1613–1700). The inspiration for these gardens initially came from the Italian Renaissance garden of the 14th and 15th centuries and ideas of French philosopher René Descartes (1576–1650). At this time the French opened the garden up to enormous proportions compared to their Italian predecessor. Their gardens epitomize monarch and 'man' dominating and manipulating nature to show his authority, wealth, and power.

Renée Descartes, the founder of analytical geometry, believed that the natural world was objectively measurable and that space is infinitely divisible. His belief that "all movement is a straight line therefore space is a universal grid of mathematical coordinates and everything can be located on its infinitely extendable planes" gave us Cartesian mathematics. Through the classical French gardens this coordinate system and philosophy is now given a physical and visual representation.

This French formal and axial garden style placed the house centrally on an enormous and mainly flat property of land. A large central axis that gets narrower further from the main house, forces the viewer's perspective to the horizon line, making the property look even larger. The viewer is to see the property as a cohesive whole but at the same time is unable to see all the components of the garden. One is to be led through a logical progression or story and be surprised by elements that aren’t visible until approached. There is an allegorical story referring to the owner through statues and water features which have mythological references. There are small, almost imperceptible grade changes that help conceal the gardens surprises as well as elongate the gardens views.

These grand gardens have organized spaces meant to be elaborate stages for entertaining the court and guests with plays, concerts and fireworks displays. The following list of garden features were used:
The renaissance style gardens at Chateau Villandry
Cul de sac
Grottos with rocaille
Parterre de broderie
Patte d'oie (Goose foot)
Tapis Vert

Mediterranean Gardens
Due to being an early hub for Western society and being used for centuries, Mediterranean soil was fragile, and one could think of the region’s landscape culture to be a conflict between fruitfulness and frugality. The area consisted largely of small-scale agricultural plots. Later, following World War II, Mediterranean immigrants brought this agricultural style to Canada, where fruit trees and vegetables in the backyard became common.

Anglo-Dutch formal gardens
Picturesque and English Landscape gardens

Forested areas played a number of roles for the British in the Middle Ages, and one of those roles was to produce game for the gentry. Lords of valuable land were expected to provide a bounty of animals for hunting during royal visits. Despite being in natural locations, forested manor homes could symbolize status, wealth and power if they appeared to have all amenities. After the Industrial Revolution, Britain’s forest industry shrank until it no longer existed. In response, the Garden City Movement brought urban planning into industrialized areas in the early 20th century to offset negative industrial effects such as pollution.

There were several traditions that influenced English gardening in the 18th century, the first of which was to plant woods around homes. By the mid-17th century, coppice planting became consistent and was considered visually and aesthetically pleasing. Whereas forested areas were more useful for hunting purposes in Britain during the Middle Ages, 18th century patterns demonstrate a further deviation in gardening approach from practicality toward design meant to please the senses.

Likewise, English pleasure grounds were influenced by medieval groves, some of which were still in existence in 18th century Britain. This influence manifest in the form of shrubbery, sometimes organized in mazes or maze-like formations. And though also ancient, shredding became a common characteristic of these early gardens, as the method enabled light to enter the understory. Shredding was used to make garden groves, which ideally included an orchard with fruit trees, fragrant herbs and flowers, and moss-covered pathways.

The picturesque garden style emerged in England in the 18th century, one of the growing currents of the larger Romantic movement. Garden designers like William Kent and Capability Brown emulated the allegorical landscape paintings of European artists, especially Claude Lorraine, Poussin and Salvator Rosa. The manicured hills, lakes and trees dotted with allegorical temples were sculpted into the land.

By the 1790s there was a reaction against these stereotypical compositions; a number of thinkers began to promote the idea of picturesque gardens. The leader of the movement was landscape theorist William Gilpin, an accomplished artist known for his realistic depictions of Nature. He preferred the natural landscape over the manicured and urged designers to respond to the topography of a given site. He also noted that while classical beauty was associated with the smooth and neat, picturesque beauty had a wilder, untamed quality. The picturesque style also incorporated architectural follies—castles, Gothic ruins, rustic cottages—built to add interest and depth to the landscape

Controversy between the picturesque school and proponents of the more manicured garden raged well into the 19th century. Landscape designer Humphrey Repton supported Gilpin's ideas, particularly that of the garden harmonizing with surrounding landforms. He was attacked in the press by two rival theorists, Richard Payne Knight and Uvedale Price. Repton countered by highlighting the differences between painting and landscape gardening. Unlike a painting, the viewer moves through a garden, constantly shifting viewpoints.

The French landscape garden, also called the jardin anglais or jardin pittoresque, was influenced by contemporary English gardens. Rococo features like Turkish tents and Chinese bridges are prevalent in French gardens in the 18th century. The French Picturesque garden style falls into two categories: those that were staged, almost like theatrical scenery, usually rustic and exotic, called jardin anglo-chinois, and those filled with pastoral romance and bucolic sentiment, influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The former style is represented by the Désert de Retz and Parc Monceau, the latter by the Moulin Jolie.

The rusticity found in French Picturesque gardens is also derived from an admiration of Dutch 17th century landscape painting and works of French 18th century artists Claude-Henri Watelet, François Boucher and Hubert Robert.

English gardens: the common name in the English speaking world, of interpretations, derivations, and revivals in the style of the original Landscape Garden examples.

'Gardenesque' gardens
The 'Gardenesque' style of English garden design evolved during the 1820s from Humphry Repton's Picturesque or 'Mixed' style, largely under the impetus of J. C. Loudon, who invented the term.

In a Gardenesque plan, all the trees, shrubs and other plants are positioned and managed in such a way that the character of each plant can be displayed to its full potential. With the spread of botany as a suitable avocation for the enlightened, the Gardenesque tended to emphasize botanical curiosities and a collector's approach. New plant material that would have seemed bizarre and alien in earlier gardening found settings: Pampas grass from Argentina and Monkey-puzzle trees. Winding paths linked scattered plantings. The Gardenesque approach involved the creation of small-scale landscapes, dotted with features and vignettes, to promote beauty of detail, variety and mystery, sometimes to the detriment of coherence. Artificial mounds helped to stage groupings of shrubs, and island beds became prominent features.

The books of William Robinson describing his own "wild" gardening at Gravetye Manor in Sussex, and the sentimental picture of a rosy, idealized "cottage garden" of the kind pictured by Kate Greenaway, which had scarcely existed historically, both influenced the development of the mixed herbaceous borders that were advocated by Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood in Surrey from the 1890s. Her plantings, which mixed shrubs with perennial and annual plants and bulbs in deep beds within more formal structures of terraces and stairs designed by Edwin Lutyens, set the model for high-style, high-maintenance gardening until the Second World War. Vita Sackville-West's garden at Sissinghurst Castle, Kent is the most famous and influential garden of this last blossoming of romantic style, publicized by the gardener's own gardening column in The Observer. The trend continued in the gardening of Margery Fish at East Lambrook Manor. In the last quarter of the 20th century, less structured Wildlife gardening emphasized the ecological framework of similar gardens using native plants. A leading proponent in the United States was the landscape architect Jens Jensen. He designed city and regional parks, and private estates, with a honed aesthetic of art and nature.

In the 20th century, modern design for gardens became important as architects began to design buildings and residences with an eye toward innovation and streamlining the formal Beaux-Arts and derivative early revival styles, removing unnecessary references and embellishment. Garden design, inspired by modern architecture, naturally followed in the same philosophy of "form following function". Thus concerning the many philosophies of plant maturity. In post-war United States people's residences and domestic lives became more outdoor oriented, especially in the western states as promoted by 'Sunset Magazine', with the backyard often becoming an outdoor room.

Frank Lloyd Wright demonstrated his interpretation for the modern garden by designing homes in complete harmony with natural surroundings. Taliesin and Fallingwater are both examples of careful placement of architecture in nature so the relationship between the residence and surroundings become seamless. His son Lloyd Wright trained in architecture and landscape architecture in the Olmsted Brothers office, with his father, and with architect Irving Gill. He practiced an innovative organic integration of structure and landscape in his works.

Subsequently Garrett Eckbo, James Rose, and Dan Kiley - known as the "bad boys of Harvard", met while studying traditional landscape architecture became notable pioneers in the design of modern gardens. As Harvard embraced modern design in their school of architecture, these designers wanted to interpret and incorporate those new ideas in landscape design. They became interested in developing functional space for outdoor living with designs echoing natural surroundings. Modern gardens feature a fresh mix of curved and architectonic designs and many include abstract art in geometrics and sculpture. Spaces are defined with the thoughtful placement of trees and plantings. Thomas Church work in California was influential through his books and other publications. In Sonoma County, California his 1948 Donnell garden's swimming Pool, kidney-shaped with an abstract sculpture within it, became an icon of modern outdoor living.

In Mexico Luis Barragán explored a synthesis of International style modernism with native Mexican tradition. in private estates and residential development projects such as Jardines del Pedregal (English: Rocky Gardens) and the San Cristobal 'Los Clubes' Estates in Mexico City. In civic design the Torres de Satélite are urban sculptures of substantial dimensions in Naucalpan, Mexico. His house, studio, and gardens, built in 1948 in Mexico City, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Roberto Burle Marx is accredited with having introduced modernist landscape architecture to Brazil. He was known as a modern nature artist and a public urban space designer. He was landscape architect (as well as a botanist, painter, print maker, ecologist, naturalist, artist, and musician) who designed of parks and gardens in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and in the United States in Florida. He worked with the architects Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer on the landscape design for some of the prominent modernist government buildings in Brazil's capitol Brasília.

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