Each garden is different. Some gardens are multi-layered with threads from earlier designs woven together to make something new while others carry little evidence of what was there before. Under each historical section, there is a selection of gardens which reflect the style of that period, some of which have original features.
Although this website focuses on the style of gardens from the Medieval period to the Edwardian era, garden design is not contained, it is continually evolving. This is reflected in the explosion of garden designers from 1910 until the present day.
From 1066 to 1500s
Gardens have long been associated with the image of paradise. The hospital of St Giles in Norwich was founded in 1246 and had a walled herb garden, kitchen garden, orchards, a landscape garden for the ‘Master’ and a ‘paradyse’ garden for the monks.
from 1485 to 1603
The influence of the Renaissance left its mark on the gardens of the Tudors which can be seen in the inclusion of architectural features. The most common characteristic from this period is the knot garden.
Photo: Hampton Court Palace
from 1600 to 1700s
By the seventeenth century, knot gardens were becoming less popular with the new fashion of dividing the garden into square walled plots. On the accession to the throne of William and Mary, ideas flooded in from Holland and France including the fashion for axial canals and clipped yews.
Photo: Westbury Court
from 1714 to 1830
After Queen Anne’s death in 1714, her cousin George I of Hanover became King. As a culmination of their classical education, it had become fashionable for aristocrats to travel to France and Italy on their ‘Grand Tour’ often bringing back sculptures and paintings from their travels. This was reflected in the style of gardening which changed from formality to a more naturalistic design usually with the addition of classical buildings.
from 1720 to 1760
Popular at the same time as Arcadian gardens, the Rococo style (the rough rocks ‘rocaille’ and shellwork ‘coquille’) was light-hearted and depicted scenes of love, nature and amorous encounters.
from 1768 onwards
Another style of gardening that began during the eighteenth century was the Picturesque. Edmund Burke provided a platform in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful from which writers developed their ideas.
Photo: Hawkstone Follies
from 1837 to 1901
By the Victorian era, plant collectors were travelling to new and undiscovered lands, risking their lives to collect and document exotic and unknown species. Parterres planted with brightly coloured bedding plants became popular.
Photo: Lyme Park
At the end of the nineteenth century, with imperialism and the British Empire at their height, a new wave of politics emerged in England: socialism. There was a move away from ‘carpet-bedding’ to two different styles of gardening: The Arts and Crafts Movement which harked back to the medieval style of small enclosures, gardens walls, orchards and topiary, and a more natural approach to gardening.
The middle of the twentieth century saw the rise of Modernism with art and architecture influencing garden design.
Many of the most iconic gardens in England were created during this period including Great Dixter, Hidcote and Sissinghurst.
Photo: Great Dixter, Sussex