This was a period of unrest in British history. It saw civil war, the execution of the King, the rise of the Protectorate, the Restoration of the Monarchy and finally in 1688, stability.
But there was much development in the style of gardening. Knot gardens were becoming less popular with the new fashion of dividing the garden into square walled plots. John Parkinson suggested that the outer square could be surrounded by hedges while the internal squares could contain ‘walks either open or close, either publick or private, a Maze or Wildernesse, a Rock, or Mount with a Fountain in the midst thereof to convey water to every part of the Garden.’
Inigo Jones (1573-1652) was responsible for introducing classical and Renaissance architecture to England. In 1613, Jones returned to Italy with his patron Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel where he studied the works of Andrea Palladio. [Arundel Castle in West Sussex] [A gate designed by Jones at Chiswick House in London]
In 1661, Andre Mollet’s Le Jardin de Plaisir was published in France and although it was not translated into English until 1670, it had a major influence on English garden design. Mollet divided the garden into two parts – ‘the inward embellishments’ and ‘the outward Works.’ His basic principle was that the gardens must relate architecturally to the house or palace with an emphasis on planting trees in an axial formation.
'a great Walk of double or treble rank, either of female Elms, or of Lime Trees, which are the two sorts of Trees which we esteem the fittest for this purpose; which Walk ought to be drawn by a Perpendicular Line to the Front of the House, and of a convenient and proportionable breadth to the House.'
Mollet’s book was illustrated with thirty copperplates including his ‘parterres de broderie’ ( Wilton House).
John Tradescant the Elder (1570-1638) began his career as head gardener to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury at Hatfield House and later at Cranborne Manor. In 1610/11, Tradescant went to Holland to collect fruit trees for Cecil’s estates. In 1630, Tradescant was made Keeper of Charles I’s gardens, vines and silkworms.
Tradescant travelled widely and brought back numerous seeds and bulbs to the UK. He opened a nursery at Lambeth which he ran with his son John Tradescant the Younger. In their catalogue of 1656, the Tradescants listed over six hundred plants for sale.
On his travels, Tradescant also collected a ‘Cabinet of curiousity’ which he housed at the ‘The Ark’ in Lambeth. The Musaeum Tradescantianum was the first museum open to the public. [Many of these curiousities can be seen at The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and at The Garden Museum in London]
The Tradescant father and son were buried in the churchyard of St-Mary-at-Lambeth. Their tomb can be seen inside the Garden Musuem.
During the Stuart period, variegated plants were often included in gardens as they were considered ‘curious’ with their colours ‘emulating the two royal Metals [green and white] that by the Gilders hand adorn the Palaces of Princes.’. Water was also an essential part of the garden – ‘a Garden [cannot] ever be said to be complete, nor in its full splendour and beauty, without this Element of Water.
With the influx of plants from abroad, it became necessary to provide protection for them in winter. ‘Glass cases’ were built at Hampton Court although many plants died from toxic fumes from the coal fires. The problem was solved in 1684, when Mr Watts, Head Gardener at Chelsea Physic Garden built a tunnel running the length of the greenhouse with a fire underneath the floor.
George London (active c1681-1714) co-founded the Brompton Nurseries in 1681. By 1689, three of the original partners had left, and Henry Wise (c1653 – 1738) joined the practice. It became the most well-known and successful horticultural practice of the period. Wise worked at the nursery dispatching trees and shrubs while London travelled 50 or 60 miles a day to give advice on ‘most of the Noblemens and Gentlemens Gardens in England.’
London introduced different styles of parterre – a formal garden on a level base, decorated with plant beds, often symmetrical and connected by paths – dependent upon the size of the garden. London took inspiration for the delicate flourishes he included in parterres from fashion: ‘Imbroidery is those Draughts which represent in Effect those we have on our Cloaths, and that look like Foliage, and these Sorts of Figures in Gard’ners language are call’d Branch-work. Below this Foliage certain Flowers seem to be drawn, which is that Part of Imbroidery which we call Flourishings’.
Using London’s plans, the National Trust has restored the garden at Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire. Other gardens where the pair worked include Longleat in Wiltshire; Chatsworth in Derbyshire and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire; Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire; Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire; Calke Abbey in Derbyshire; Hampton Court in London.
The Franco-Dutch style of gardening was introduced into Britain in 1688 when Parliament offered the throne to the Dutch William of Orange and his wife Mary, daughter of James II. With the influx of ideas and artists from Holland and France the new style of axial canals and topiary became fashionable. Although the majority of these gardens disappeared during the following centuries, Westbury Court in Gloucestershire is a great example.
Examples of Stuart Gardens can be seen at:
Chelsea Physic Garden