By the Victorian era, plant collectors were travelling to new and undiscovered lands, risking their lives to collect and document exotic and unknown species. Ernest Wilson found Lilium regale growing in South-West China, David Douglas introduced the flowering current, lupins and the eponymous fir while George Forrest brought back numerous rhododendrons and camellias. [Examples can be seen at Exbury in Hampshire; Minterne in Wiltshire; Sheffield Park in East Sussex; Leonardslee in West Sussex]
Vast amounts of money were invested by nurseries and other patrons in search of new plants. In order for owners to show-off their latest purchases, gardens returned to a more formal layout with ‘carpet-bedding’ – brightly coloured bedding-plants – becoming popular.
William Andrews Nesfield (1793-1881) was consulted at over 200 sites including Arundel Castle in West Sussex; Trentham in Staffordshire and Kew Gardens in London. At Arley Hall in Cheshire, Nesfield suggested parterres planted with brightly coloured bedding plants as well as avenues of trees.
With the industrial revolution and technological advances in the making of glass and cast iron, vast greenhouses were built. One of the first magnificent conservatories to be built was designed c1827 by Charles Fowler at Syon House in London. An architect, Fowler specialised in large industrialist buildings including the Covent Garden Market Buildings. In 1840, Joseph Paxton created the magnificent Great Conservatory at Chatsworth in Derbyshire and the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Temperate House at Kew was designed by Decimus Burton in 1860 to house plants from the Mediterranean, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South and Central America, Asia and the Pacific Islands. After a five-year restoration project costing £41 million, the Temperate House was reopened to the public in May 2018.
Arboretums were planted to display trees on a large scale while rockeries were made to show the advances in geology and man’s exploration of the mountainous regions of the world. [Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire]