Cultivating Beauty: Gardens in the 1700s

The 18th century was a time of remarkable change and development in many aspects of human civilization, including gardening. Gardens during this period became a place to cultivate plants, a canvas for artistic expression, a symbol of status and refinement, and a reflection of the evolving attitudes towards nature and landscape. This essay will explore the fascinating world of gardens in the 1700s, focusing on the plants they used and the broader cultural and historical context that shaped these green sanctuaries.
Cultivating Beauty: Gardens in the 1700s - Tree Nursery Co

Gardens in the 1700s

The 18th century was a time of remarkable change and development in many aspects of human civilization, including gardening. Gardens during this period became a place to cultivate plants, a canvas for artistic expression, a symbol of status and refinement, and a reflection of the evolving attitudes towards nature and landscape. This essay will explore the fascinating world of gardens in the 1700s, focusing on the plants they used and the broader cultural and historical context that shaped these green sanctuaries.

The 1700s witnessed a significant shift in garden design and philosophy. One of the most influential movements during this time was the shift from the formal and geometric gardens of the previous centuries to the more naturalistic and picturesque landscape gardens. The works of landscape architects such as Capability Brown in England and André Le Nôtre in France epitomized this transition. These visionaries advocated for creating gardens that blended seamlessly with the surrounding countryside, aiming to capture the beauty of nature in its raw form.

A wide array of plant species was employed to achieve this naturalistic aesthetic. Native plants and those that appeared to belong to the local environment were highly favored. Trees like oak, beech, and birch were commonly planted to provide the structure and canopy of these picturesque landscapes. Native wildflowers, such as foxgloves and bluebells, were allowed to flourish, adding a touch of wild beauty to the garden.

The concept of "the picturesque" was central to 18th-century garden design. It emphasized irregularity, asymmetry, and a sense of the sublime in the landscape. The plants chosen for these gardens were often selected for their ability to contribute to this aesthetic. For example, the weeping willow, with its cascading branches, and the rugged Scots pine, with its gnarled bark, were both prized for their ability to evoke a sense of the sublime.

One of the most iconic features of 18th-century gardens was the creation of artificial lakes and water features. These were often adorned with aquatic plants, such as water lilies and lotus, which added an exotic and ethereal quality to the landscape. The water features were not just for aesthetic purposes but also practical functions, like irrigation and water supply for the garden.

The 18th century was also a period of exploration and discovery, profoundly impacting the plants used in gardens. European explorers brought exotic plant species from their travels to Asia, Africa, and the Americas. These "exotic" plants became highly sought after and were prized for their rarity and novelty. The Orangerie, a glasshouse designed to protect citrus trees during the winter, was a common feature in European gardens. Citrus trees, including oranges and lemons, were symbols of wealth and sophistication.

One of the most famous examples of this fascination with exotic plants was the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in England. Founded in 1759, Kew Gardens became a center for studying and cultivating exotic plants worldwide. Plant collectors like Sir Joseph Banks and Sir Hans Sloane played crucial roles in expanding the garden's collection. With its palm house and tropical greenhouses, Kew Gardens showcased the diversity of plant life from far-flung corners of the globe. They fueled the European passion for collecting and cultivating exotic species.

Exotic Plants Was Poplar In The 1700s

In addition to exotic plants, the 18th century also saw a revival of interest in medicinal and culinary herbs. Herbs like lavender, rosemary, and thyme were cultivated for their practical uses and fragrant and aesthetic qualities. Herb gardens were often designed with geometric patterns, reflecting a nod to the formal gardens of earlier centuries.

With their timeless beauty and fragrance, roses held a special place in 18th-century gardens. The cultivation of roses reached new heights during this period, with a growing fascination for collecting and hybridizing different varieties. The French rose breeder Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, had an extensive collection of roses in her famous garden at Malmaison. The rose's association with love and beauty made it a favored choice for garden enthusiasts and poets.

Another noteworthy aspect of 18th-century gardens was topiary, the art of shaping shrubs and trees into intricate forms. This practice added an element of whimsy and artistry to the park, with geometric shapes, animals, and mythical creatures sculpted from living vegetation. Common plants for topiary included boxwood, yew, and hornbeam.

In addition to the plants, garden ornaments and networks have recreated a meaningful role in the overall design. Decorative elements such as statues, fountains, and pavilions were strategically placed to enhance the garden's aesthetic appeal. These structures often served as focal points, creating a sense of drama and grandeur within the landscape.

The 18th century also marked a period of scientific inquiry and botanical exploration. This era saw the publication of influential works like Carl Linnaeus's "Species Plantarum" (1753), which laid the foundation for modern taxonomy. Botanical gardens were established across Europe to study and showcase plant diversity. These institutions were not only centers of scientific research but also sources of inspiration for garden design.

Established in 1626, the Jardin des Plantes in Paris is a significant botanical garden of historical value. During the 18th century, it played a pivotal role in the study and cultivation of plants. The garden's mission encompassed scientific research and public education, reflecting the broader Enlightenment ideals of the era.

As the 18th century progressed, the influence of the Enlightenment on garden design became more pronounced. Enlightenment thinkers championed reason, science, and a closer connection to nature. These ideas found expression in the creation of gardens that sought to educate and inspire visitors. Botanical gardens, like those in Florence, Pisa, and Padua, were designed as living museums of plant diversity where visitors could learn about the natural world and its classification.

The Enlightenment also fostered a deeper appreciation for the aesthetic qualities of nature. This led to the development of the concept of the "picturesque" and the idea that the landscape should evoke emotions and a sense of wonder. Gardens in the 18th century were designed to elicit these emotional responses by carefully selecting and arranging plants and other elements.

In The 1700s Gardens Was A Symbol Of Wealth

In addition to the aesthetic and scientific aspects of gardening, the 18th century saw gardens used as symbols of political power and social status. Monarchs and aristocrats commissioned elaborate gardens to showcase their wealth and refinement. The gardens at Versailles, for example, were a testament to the grandeur and luxury of the French monarchy under Louis XIV.

Gardens also played a role in political and social gatherings. The salon culture of the 18th century often extended to garden parties, where intellectuals, artists, and nobility gathered to discuss ideas and enjoy the natural surroundings. Gardens provided a setting for leisure and conviviality, where individuals from diverse backgrounds could come together.

In conclusion, the gardens of the 18th century reflected the broader cultural, scientific, and philosophical trends. They were places of beauty, science, art, and social interaction. The choice of plants in these gardens, whether native or exotic, reflected a growing fascination with the natural world and a desire to connect with it in new and innovative ways. The legacy of these 18th-century gardens continues to influence garden design and our understanding of the relationship between humans and nature.