After 200 Years of Gardens, What Does the Future Hold? ; the British Love Affair with Backyards Has Seen Fashions Change Radically in the Past Two Centuries. Now, However, Climate Change May Exert a New and Powerful Influence. Terry Kirby Reports
Kirby, Terry, The Independent (London, England)
IN VICTORIAN and Edwardian days, gardens were peaceful vistas; green lawns surrounded by flowerbeds, disturbed only by the click of a croquet ball, the tinkle of water or the buzz of the lawnmower.
By the start of the 21st century, this idyllic vision had been transformed into "outdoor rooms" where we spent our leisure time. There are decked spaces for barbecues, fountains are known as water features and flowers have become distinctly passe.
But how will the garden of the future look? The issue of climate change raises big questions: will we have too much water or too little to sustain our traditional lawns and roses? And will figs and grapes take over from blackberries and plums? Then there is environmental sustainability, a factor undreamt of by those of previous generations who plundered the world for plants, then dug up peat bogs to nurture them.
To answer some of these questions the Royal Horticultural Society, which has been chaperoning Britain's love affair with the garden for 200 years, has created seven gardens showing the trends at work over that time.
The "Gardens Through Time" project, constructed at the RHS's Harlow Carr site near Harrogate in North Yorkshire, shows that gardening has never been fixed in some turn-of-the-century suburban prototype, but has constantly adapted and changed, from the ornate landscaping of the Regency period to the present desire for decking and stones via the Victorian passion for such things as monkey- puzzle trees. The gardens are to be the subject of a BBC series to be shown this autumn.
"These seven gardens are a living encyclopedia of gardening history over 200 years," said Matthew Wilson, curator of Harlow Carr. "They show how gardening styles have changed as a consequence of technology, plant introductions, social changes and personal taste."
The idea of the modern domestic garden began during the Regency period, depicted in the first of the RHS gardens. The influence of the great landscape gardeners, Capability Brown and Humphry Repton, set the fashion for features including paths, designed so two ladies could walk side by side, immaculate lawns, raised flower beds, with edges to protect them from croquet balls, and hidden follies for picnics and romantic trysts.
In the 19th century, the industrial revolution and Victorian empire-building influenced garden style. Industrialists paid plant hunters to bring home exotics from distant parts of the world for the gardens of the estates they created with their new wealth. This was the society that created such places as the now-restored Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, just one of many similar enterprises in that county, favoured for its warm and wet climate.
The South American monkey-puzzle tree, now found in many domestic and public gardens, was typical of the plant brought back during this era. "Prized by the Victorians for its strange appearance, its potential size may not have been foreseen, rather like the leylandii cypress that has become so popular today," Mr Wilson said.
Glasshouses, helped by the abolition of the glass tax in 1845, potting sheds, pagodas and rockeries also date from the Victorian era, as do the first lawnmowers. They were made in 1832 by Edwin Budding, who based them on a machine used in cloth mills to remove the nap of newly woven fabric.
As wealth increased, so did the ambitions of the gardeners. The third of the RHS gardens shows that, by the end of the century, the kitchen garden had become a dominant feature, providing fruit and vegetables to feed the groaning tables of large Victorian families.
Dinner parties were held in conservatories filled with exotic ferns and orchids. At the grand houses, glasshouses were being used to grow melons and grapes.
The key plant of the era was the rhododendron, first brought back from the Himalayas by …
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Publication information: Article title: After 200 Years of Gardens, What Does the Future Hold? ; the British Love Affair with Backyards Has Seen Fashions Change Radically in the Past Two Centuries. Now, However, Climate Change May Exert a New and Powerful Influence. Terry Kirby Reports. Contributors: Kirby, Terry - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: October 4, 2004. Page number: 12,13. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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