Caroline has been specialising in facilitating garden visits and tours in the UK for 30 years. She is a keen amateur gardener and enjoys visiting gardens whenever she can. She has an exceptional black book of garden owners and head gardeners and has a great expertise of the best gardens to visit in different parts of the UK. View her English Gardens Itinerary here.
I wanted to touch on some of the most special and iconic British Gardens in this 'Gardens Chronicles Blog,' starting with a brief overview of English Gardens through history. We are one of the most garden-loving countries in the world with more gardens open to the public than almost anywhere else. We have an incredibly rich history with distinct eras of fashion in garden and landscape design and there are still supreme examples from all of these periods to be seen today all over Britain.
17th Century Formal Gardens
In the 17th Century formal gardens were in vogue, with topiary and box hedging being especially notable. Today you can still see some recreations of formal gardens in stately homes such as the wonderful Levens Hall in Cumbria, or closer to London, Hampton Court Palace has recently re-created the Privy Garden of William and Mary in the traditional formal style. We can arrange private tours at both these stately homes for a more indepth tour of traditional formal gardens.
18th Century Landscape Gardens
The 18th Century moved away from the very formal geometric French style of gardening, a perfect example being at Versailles, to a more natural setting for the great houses and country estates of landowners and aristocracy, with the aim of echoing the natural undulations of the English landscape. Ironically these were often carefully planned and placed serpentine lakes, clumps of trees and vistas to make a 'natural' view. The creation of some of the great Landscape Gardens are most notabley known from William Kent, Humphrey Repton and Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Stowe, Bowood and Blenheim Palace along with Hotel Endsleigh in Devon are examples of these grand landscape gardens still in use today.
The Victorian Era
The Victorian and British Empire era saw a craze for plant collecting from around the world that also led to a return to a more formal garden fashion with Italian style terraces and balustrades, parterres filled with bright colours of exotic species reared in the extravagant and elaborate glass houses - see Kew Gardens for some wonderful Victorian Glass Houses and the recently reopened Temperate House. The Victorians went mad for Rockeries to display plants collected from expeditions to mountain regions and Arboretums to display collections of trees on a grand scale.
The Arts & Crafts Movement
Needless to say next we have a reaction to all of this formality, led by William Robinson of Gravetye Manor, who favoured a return to informality and use of native plants. Thus a new style of gardening emerges at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th Century inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and this is the era which produced some of THE most iconic English gardens that we all know and love today. Our favourites of this movement being Sissinghurst, Hidcote and Great Dixter Gardens.
Woodland Gardens and beyond!
The start of 20th Century also sees the creation of some of the great Woodland Gardens (which I explore further in my up & coming 'Gardens Themes' Blog) before we finally arrive in the latter part of the 20th Century and the 21st century, where names like Rosemary Verey, Beth Chatto, the Marchioness of Salisbury, Russell Page, Geoffrey Jellicoe, Margery Fish, Dan Pearson, Tom Stuart Smith, Piet Oudolf and many, many more have created and are creating some spectacular gardens and influencing new trends in garden design in the UK.