Stuart Gardens
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. John Parkinson (Paradisi in Sole,1656) 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.’ [1] 

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’ [2] and ‘the outward Works.’ [3]  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; [4]

Mollet’s book was illustrated with thirty copperplates including his ‘parterres de broderie’ (see Wilton House).

As interest in gardening spread, it became popular to have exotic and unusual plants. Many were imported from Turkey, Persia and the Americas, and were sold through nurseries which were mainly based in the capital. John Tradescant’s catalogue of 1656, listed over six hundred plants for sale at his Lambeth nursery.

Variegated plants were considered ‘curious’ and were associated with nobility. John Worlidge dedicated a section to ‘Variegated or Gilded Leafed Plants’ [5] in Systema horti-culturae:

These Perennial Greens are very Ornamental, planted in their proper places of your Garden and Avenues, by reason of their perpetual Verdure…For what can be most pleasant than to have Groves of Walks…apparrelled with Gilded party-colour Garments, some with yellow and Green, others with white and Green, emulating the two royal Metals that by the Gilders hand adorn the Palaces of Princes. [6]

Worlidge also gave a detailed account of different methods of bringing water into the garden for he argued, ‘a Garden [cannot] ever be said to be complete, nor in its full splendour and beauty, without this Element of Water. [7] 

With the influx of plants from abroad, it became necessary to provide protection for these plants in the winter. ‘Glass cases’ were built at Hampton Court but the problem was how to heat these rooms. A major breakthrough came in 1684 when a new greenhouse was built by Mr Watts at Chelsea Physic Garden. It had a tunnel running the length of the greenhouse with a fire underneath the floor; John Evelyn was so impressed by this method that by 1691 he had created his own. [8] 

The Stuart period saw civil war, the execution of the King, the rise of the Protectorate, the Restoration of the Monarchy, the Battle of Sedgefield and finally stability in 1689 when Parliament offered the throne to the Protestant William of Orange and his wife Mary. This heralded an influx of Dutch artists as well as new ideas from Holland and France including axial canals and topiary, the latter signifying man’s control over Nature.

[1]  John Parkinson, Paradisi in sole paradisus terrestris, or A choise garden of all sorts of rarest flowers, 1656. p. 3-5

[2] Andre Mollet, The garden of pleasure, 1670 p. 2

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., p. 1

[5] John Worlidge, Systema horti-culturae, or, The art of gardening, 1677 p. 79

[6] Ibid., pp.79-80

[7] Ibid., p. 42

[8] John Evelyn Kalendarium hortense, or, The gard’ners almanac, 1691 p.156

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