Although blogging is a relatively new idea, the concept of sharing information and events about horticulture is not. John Claudius Loudon, Scottish botanist, garden designer and author, started the Gardener’s Magazine in 1826. Describing himself as the conductor, Loudon’s aim was: ‘to disseminate new and important information on all topics connected with horticulture…to raise the intellect and the character of those engaged in this art’ and hope that its ‘readers may reasonably expect it to improve as it advances’. I will let you, dear reader, decide which objectives we share.
Reading through the first few issues, I came across excerpts from the Journal of Mr. Lenne, Royal Garden Engineer at Potsdam, with extensive annotations by Loudon [the comments of Loudon and quotes from Lenne are in italics below]. Lenne was born in Bonn in 1789 and after completing an apprenticeship as a gardener, he studied botany in Vienna. Like many of his contemporaries, he travelled and worked extensively in Europe:
…he was sent to Paris and placed under the late Mr Thouin, in the Jardin des Plantes; he next went to Sicily to teach the culture of asparagus and make various improvements in the garden of a German officer, who had married a rich Sicilian heiress. After remaining there two years, he came to Naples, and spent some time with his three countrymen, gardeners, at the botanic garden in the city, the Royal garden at Portici, and the English garden at Caserta.
The Jardin des Plantes was created in Paris by Andre Thouin in 1780s primarily as a public park although it also focused on education with a botanical institute and a laboratory. The Botanic Garden at Naples had only been opened in 1811 while the gardens at Portici were ‘chiefly walled, cultivated enclosures abounding in oranges, figs and grapes, with straight alleys and wooded quarters entirely for shade’. [An Encyclopaedia of Gardening, J.C. Loudon]. The English garden at Caserta was created in 1760 by John Graeffer who had been sent to the King of Naples by Sir Joseph Banks. The Palace was compared to Versailles while the English garden with its cascade and canal was ‘as perfect a specimen of English pleasure-ground as any we have seen on the continent…[it was] originally laid with Kensington gravel [with] every exotic, which at the time could be furnished from the Hammersmith nursery’. [An Encyclopaedia of Gardening, J.C. Loudon].
In 1823 he came to England, and remained in this country for two or three months. Having during that period had frequent occasion to see Mr. L., we found him one of the most intelligent of the various young German gardeners who have visited England since the peace. At the same time it is proper to remark, that his stay was too short, his knowledge of the language too imperfect, and his travels in the interior of the country too limited, to enable him to form a just notion of the English mode of laying out grounds. His remarks, therefore, as an artist, may be considered of less interest that as those of a general observer and a foreigner.
Loudon’s outspoken views on Lenne were, according to a contemporary account by the German historian, Frederick von Raumer, widespread during this period. They were ‘rooted in prejudice [and] as long as most Englishmen [or Scotsmen] regard their own point of view as the sole, unalterably, and inviolably right, and that of their opponent as absolutely wrong, each party loses sight of that higher ground which overlooks both, and which it ought to be the aim of all civilization and all government to reach’. However, Loudon does agree with Lenne that ‘the public walks of the continental towns, such as the Tuillerie-gardens of Paris…have advantages over those of London.’ Lenne continues:
‘To enjoy the [Parks] it is necessary to be a man of fortune, and take exercise on horseback or in a carriage, for, excepting in St James Park and Kensington-gardens, there is neither a seat nor a shelter for the pedestrian.’ The Regent’s Park he describes as particularly deficient in these respects, and observes that in the distant parts of it there ought not only to be seats, arbours, and bowers of shelter, but places of refreshment and amusement. He notices the trifold fence of the circus at the end of Regent’s Street, and the double fences and locked gates off most of the squares, as truly English. These things, he says, made him reflect on the liberality of his king, and other German princes, who generously throw open their gardens to the public at every hour of the day; ‘and often’, he adds, ‘when viewing them, I thought of the gardens of Potsdam, so richly ornamented; open at all times to all manner of persons; and the perfect preservation of which shows the people properly appreciate the favour of their monarch.’
How wrong he was.
More articles from the Gardener’s Magazine will appear in future blogs