Cherrill Sands on gardens, landscapes and plants.
Gardens in Surrey
With the benefit of a varied landscape, gentle climate and proximity to London, Surrey has many fine gardens. From formal 17th century examples, to planned parks of the18th century, through Arts & Crafts delights to some modern designs of the 20th century.
Since ancient times exotic animals have caused excitement, amazement & delight. Collections were installed in private parks, then zoos, and in buildings which were places of entertainment & study as well as landscape features. Hear stories of curious collections, of animals that have inspired music, art & poetry and some that have escaped captivity and now flourish in our countryside.
Garden Theatre / Theatre in the Landscape
The Greeks set a high standard with stunning amphitheatres and near-perfect acoustics. By Renaissance times outdoor theatre spaces were status symbols for performances of music and early opera. During the 20th century open-air theatres had a revival, often built by local communities, drama groups or students. Designs varied from amphitheatres to structured green rooms and informal natural spaces.
Tulips and Turbans
The vibrant colour of tulips, heralding spring, and the beauty of its form has delighted many people over the centuries. Hear the story of how the tulip came to Europe, the subsequent tulip mania, and the later tulip craze in Turkey.
Medieval, Georgian and Public Parks
In the Medieval period, parks were enclosed areas for hunting and entertaining. By the 18th century the desire was for an idyllic Arcadian landscape with scenes creating different moods. Public Parks, begun in Victorian times, were created for the urban poor and filled with facilities and attractions which after a decline in the 1980’s have been reclaimed as popular public spaces.
Grottoes – shrines to shell-encrusted wonders
Natural caverns with freshwater were seen as spiritual places and so shrines were built around them. This idea developed into ornamental grottoes for gardens, which varied from dark tunnels of mystery to shell-encrusted delights. Some 18th century grottoes survive, while more recently, new grottoes have been created at Leeds Castle and Cherkley Court.
Hermitages & the Pleasure of Melancholy
Once places of retreat and meditation, from the 17th century onwards hermitages were deliberately constructed in gardens to add mood and atmosphere, particularly when a ‘hermit’ was ‘in residence’. Hear stories of hermits, happy melancholy and melon feasts.
Women Gardeners of the 20th Century
The twentieth century brought emancipation for women, horticultural colleges and for some, artistic fulfilment in the garden. Hear about creative women and their gardens, including Gertrude Jekyll, Margery Fish, Vita Sackville West and Beth Chatto amongst others.
Gardens Through History
Ancient Roman Gardens
The Romans left written descriptions of their gardens and horticultural advice, but only after archaeological investigations at Pompeii could physical lay-outs be clearly seen. Archaeological remains and surviving wall paintings show the ornaments they enjoyed, while pollen analysis and plaster casts have revealed the plants used.
Medieval Gardens – the ‘Hortus Conclusus’
The enclosed medieval garden was a place for growing food and medicine but also for precious and scared plants. Plants were admired and valued, from the notorious mandrake to the romance of the rose. The recreated Medieval Garden at Winchester, although small, shows ideas still popular today.
The Drama & Splendour of Tudor Gardens
The glamour of the Tudors and the Court, was so visible in their costume and buildings. This spread into their gardens and the wider landscape, where they enjoyed festivities and entertainment. Take a closer look at the recreated Tudor gardens at Kenilworth Castle, and the courtyard at Hampton Court Palace.
Georgian Gardens – the ‘Natural’ Style
The English Landscape Movement, or ‘Natural Style’, which started in Britain and spread across Europe and on to America, had sweeping dramatic landscapes and eye-catching follies. Gardening was considered an art form alongside painting and poetry, with key words like ‘serpentine’ and ‘asymmetrical’. That appreciation of nature has stayed with us in our art, literature and landscape.
Regency Gardens (from 1794 – 1830’s)
This was a time of growing confidence, with expansion into India providing inspiration for exotic buildings like Sezincote and the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, which was surrounded by glorious flower gardens. On a smaller scale, the picturesque cottage became popular, with Blaise Hamlet as an ideal surviving example.
With the growing British Empire, plants poured in from around the world, aided by the ‘Wardian Case’, which allowed successful plant transportation. New fashions spread, including bedding and sub-tropical planting, moist, misty ferneries and rockeries with a particular new ornament - gnomes.
Arts & Crafts Gardens
The Arts & Crafts Movement was a reaction to mechanical mass production and encouraged a return to craftsmanship. The partnership of Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll combined geometric structure softened by profuse planting. Their use of pergolas, formal pools and yew hedge remain design favourites to this day.
Twentieth Century, 1919 onwards
View the playgrounds of the ‘bright young things’ and the colour of the Festival of Britain at Battersea. See the influences of modern architecture, art, space travel and ecology on landscape and formal gardens, and the more recent garden ‘attractions’ of Alnwick in Northumberland and Eden in Cornwall.
Email: Garden History