The Landscape Guide
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A 'terrifying alpine scene: the Devil's Bridge on the St Gotthard Pass. As the eighteenth century progressed, the emotions aroused by the passage of the Alps changed from fear to excitement. A scene from Salvator Rosa as illustrated in The English Landscape Garden. Frank Clark wrote that 'scandalous legends of lawlessness' became encrusted around the artist.

Travellers were frightened by wild scenery at the beginning of the eighteenth century. When passing through the Alps they would shut their eyes or pull down the blinds in their coaches to hide the jagged cliffs, the torrents, and the imminent prospect of being catapulted over a precipice. By the century's end this fear had so far diminished that a positive liking for 'Salvator Rosa and Sublimity' had taken its place. Travellers sought for ever-wilder places and garden designers responded to their new visual appetite. In the 1790s they invented the Picturesque Style, and in the century which followed they made 'wild', 'rock', and 'woodland' gardens to accommodate plants, notably rhododendrons, from far-flung lands and even from 'the eaves of the world'.

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The taste for wild scenery was partly a result of the Grand Tour through Northern Europe to Italy. As the eighteenth century progressed the passage of the Alps gradually changed from a genuinely terrifying experience to one which induced awe and fear at the time but which could be recalled at home with excitement and youthful pride at the dangers overcome. The effects of Alpine scenery on the traveller were a special interest of Frank Clark's:  

For what in fact the gardeners were trying to do.... was to recapture the emotions experienced during the Grand Tour when, after leaving the sunny plains of France and Italy, they had ascended the Alps to the very roof of Europe. Suspended between earth and sky they had seen with fearful fascination the complex pattern of the earth at their feet. Mountains, roaring cascades, the evidences of the convulsive forces of nature in these vast ranges, filled them with sensations of awe which they never afterwards forgot. The painter who had best been able to translate this experience into the idiom of paint was Salvator Rosa. Rosa, or Savage Rosa, as he was called, round whose life scandalous legends of lawlessness had become encrusted, the outlaw and friend of those banditti who had threatened their safety in the mountains, became the romantic hero, the pre-Byronic hero, of the age. His canvases, peopled with hermits and banditti and filled with twisted trees, tumbled rocks, cliffs, ruins and racing skies, enabled the traveller to re-experience the delightful horror of such scenery and to appreciate its significance when met with in poetry, the paintings of other artists and in landscape. The correct associational link was made by Walpole in a letter during his tour with Gray in 1739: 'Precipices, mountains, torrents, wolves, rumblings, Salvator Rosa!'

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The taste for wild scenery at home developed later. It was fostered by William Gilpin (1724-1804), the 'Master of the Picturesque and Vicar of Boldre'. Gilpin's great series of Picturesque Tours , published between 1782 and 1809, awakened British tourists to the rugged delights of the River Wye, North Wales and 'the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland'. His descriptions of picturesque scenery were followed by three essays which reached to the intellectual heart of eighteenth century garden design theory: landscape painting and the appreciation of nature. They were entitled Three Essays on Picturesque Beauty, on Picturesque Travel and on Sketching Landscape. Gilpin was highly critical of smoothness but loved rough shaggy scenery - both in the wilds and in gardens:  

But altho the picturesque traveller is seldom disappointed with pure nature, however rude, yet we cannot deny, but he is often offended with the productions of art....... He is frequently disgusted also, when art aims more at beauty than she ought. How flat, and insipid is often the garden scene, how puerile, and absurd! the banks of the river how smooth, and parallel! the lawn, and its boundaries, how unlike nature!  

He also suggested that if a landscape painter wished to paint a garden scene then he would have to:  

Turn the lawn into a piece of broken ground: plant rugged oaks instead of flowering shrubs: break the edges of the walk: give it the rudeness of a road: mark it with wheel-tracks; and scatter around a few stones, and brushwood; in a word, instead of making the whole smooth, make it rough; and you make it also picturesque.  

Since Claude treated the foregrounds of his paintings in this manner Gilpin took it that the correctness of his taste was established beyond all reasonable doubt.

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Sir Uvedale Price, was deeply impressed by Gilpin's aesthetic ideas and wished to find a way of applying them to gardens as well as to landscape painting. The title of Price's first book on garden design was An essay on the Picturesque, as compared with the Sublime and the Beautiful; and, on the use of studying pictures, for the purpose of improving real landscape. As the title implies, Price believed that the art of laying out real landscape should be based on a study of paintings and natural scenery. He echoed Gilpin's opinion that 'whoever views objects with a painter's eye, looks with indifference, if not disgust, at the clumps, the belts, the made water, and the eternal smoothness and sameness of a finished place'. Price speculated that Lancelot Brown would have thought the 'finest composition of Claude..... comparatively rude and imperfect..... though he probably might allow..... that it had "capabilities"'!  

Price championed the idea of making wild romantic gardens. He thought it impractical to make them sublime in Burke's sense of ' excite the ideas of pain and danger', but entirely feasible to make them picturesque in the sense of rough, varied, and intricate. He hated 'the tameness of the poor pinioned trees of a gentleman's plantation', and detested artificial lanes with uniform curves, regular gradients and neat grass verges. His love was for old country lanes and bye roads in which the ground: 

is as much varied in form, tint and light and shade as the plants that grow upon it...... The winter torrents, in some places wash down the mould from the upper grounds and form projections.... with the most luxurient vegetation; in other parts they tear the banks into deep hollows, discovering the different strata of earth, and the shaggy roots of trees. 

Price even thought that 'the tracks of the wheels contribute to the picturesque effect of the whole'. These were the effects which Price wished to create in gardens. However he aknowledged that: 

Near the house picturesque beauty must, in many cases be sacrificed to neatness..... It is not necessary to model a gravel walk or drive after a sheep track or a cart rut, though very useful hints may be taken from them both.

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Downton Castle

Price's friend and neighbour, Richard Payne Knight, was a less cautious man - and extremely rich. At Downton Castle 'large fragments of stone were irregularly thrown amongst briers and weeds, to imitate the foreground of a picture'. According to Repton this was an 'experiment' but J C Loudon must have seen it some ten years later and reported that fragments of rock were still 'scattered in front of Downton Castle..... quite unconnected with each other'. In his maturity Knight decided that it was more convenient to have a neat terrace in front of his castle. Downton Vale is a very Gilpinesque place and one of the most romantic 'improved places' in England. The estate, and Knight's views on terraces, will be further described in the next chapter.

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Loudon's design for converting the lakeshore at Harewood House from the Serpentine to the Irregular Style. The proposal was not based on an accurate site survey but Loudon's design intentions are very clear.

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The young Loudon was an ardent admirer of Price, Knight and total irregularity. He announced to the world in his first book that : 

I believe that I am the first who has set out as a landscape gardener, professing to follow Mr Price's principles. How far I shall succeed in executing my plans, and introducing more of the picturesque into improved places, time alone must determine'.  

Loudon was the son of a Scots farmer and had not been on a Grand Tour when he arrived in London at the age of 20. However he did have memories of the picturesque charm of the Water of Leith in Edinburgh, and of a park outside Edinburgh which had been laid out by a pupil of Lancelot Brown's. A tree belt hid the view of Craigmillar Castle and Arthur's Seat, and the brook which ran through the estate had, as Walter Scott later observed, been 'twisted into the links of a string of pork-sausages'. Scott, the arch-romantic, was also an admirer of Price and Knight. When judged by the principles of Price and Knight, Loudon complained that Brown's style was 'productive of the most tiresome monotony joined to the most disgusting formality'.  

Loudon's early work shows his interpretation of Price and Knight's plea for the picturesque. His mentors drew no plans but their admirer was a superb draughtsman. The sketches and plans which he published in Country Residences show 'Mr Brown's style' and 'the modern style' as practiced by himself(viz. figs ? and ? in Chapter 1). It is plain that 'the modern style' is more deserving of the description 'irregular' than any other style in the history of British garden design. Loudon employed the Picturesque Style for a large number of commissions in the first decade of his professional life, and published designs for numerous country residences, including Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire, Harewood House in Yorkshire and Barnbarrow (now Barnbarroch) in Wigtownshire. Next to nothing survives of his work but on some estates, including the grounds of Barnbarroch and parts of the lakeshore at Harewood, nature has been allowed to take her course and has created some of the effects which Loudon wished to attain by art.  

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Barnbarrow (Barnbarroch) in Loudon's drawing of the house as it stood in 1806. It shows a Brownian scene with lawns sweeping up to the house. Barnbarrow, in Loudon's design for converting the house and garden to the Irregular Style. Barnbarrow in 1986.

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The Picturesque Style had a profound effect on planting design. It offered a theory about the use of foreign plants in British gardens and provided a system of compositional principles which could be used to harmonise exotic and native plants. As will be discussed in the next chapter, this developed into the Gardenesque Style

Book III of Knight's poem The Landscape has a versified discussion of planting design. Knight was enchanted by the romance of the English landscape:  

O waft me hence to some neglected vale;
Where, shelter'd, I may court the western gale;
And, 'midst the gloom which native thickets shed,
Hide from the noontide beams by aching head!
For though in British woods no myrtles blow,....
No prowling tiger from the covert springs;
No scaly serpent, in vast volumes roll'd,
Darts on the unwary loiterer from his hold.  

He liked to see plants growing in luxurient good health and with no signs of regret for 'the comforts of a warmer sky'. This led him to prefer 'trees which nature's hand has sown', or which had adapted themselves to the British climate. His favourites trees were the English stalwarts, oak and beech:  

Let then of oak your general masses rise,
Wher'er the soil its nutriment supplies:
But if dry chalk and flints , or thirsty sand,
Compose the substance of your barren land,
Let the light beech its gay luxurience shew,
And o'er the hills its brilliant verdure strew.

Should time or fortune damage an ancient oak then Knight wished to keep its gnarled remains as one would a ruined abbey:  

If years unnumber'd, or the lightening's stroke
Have bared the summit of the lofty oak
(Such as, to decorate some savage waste,
Salvator's flying pencil often traced).
Entire and sacred let the ruin stand.  

Despite his love for native plants, Knight wished to see exotic plants in gardens - providing they were planted near the house or near water and not in the midst of a natural wood:

The bright acacia, and the vivid plane,
The rich laburnum with its golden chain;
And all the variegated flowering race,
That deck the garden, and the shrubbery grace,
Should near to buildings, or to water grow,
Where bright reflections beam with equal glow,
And blending vivid tints with vivid light,
The whole in brilliant harmony unite.....
But better are these gaudy scenes display'd
From the high terrace or rich balustrade;
'Midst sculptured founts and vases, that diffuse,
In shapes fantastic, their concordant hues.  

Knight 's exposition of the principles for selecting and using plant species were complemented by Price, 's ideas on how they should be composed to produce a 'brilliant harmony' with 'concordant hues'.  

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Rhododendrons -  'choice American plants' - at Scotney Castle. Pruce was the first author to advocate the use of exotic flowering shrubs outside the confines of the walled garden.

Price was the first author to write openly in favour of using exotic flowering shrubs outside the narrow confines of the walled garden. He said that if the improver seeks 'an infinite number of pleasing and striking combinations' then he should 'avail himself of some of those beautiful, but less common flowering and climbing plants'. Plantings of furze, wild roses and woodbine might, he suggests, be enlivened with 'Virginia Creeper, pericoloca, trailing arbutus' and 'the choice American plants .......such as kalmias and rhododendrons'. Price was much-read during the nineteenth century and this remark appears to have been widely influential, especially with regard to the planting of rhododendrons..

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Price was willing to allow flowering plants to be moved from their traditional positions 'in borders or against walls' but he insisted that they should be grouped to form painterly compositions. He believed that the eye of the landscape painter with its understanding of nature and the principles of composition was the best guide to good planting design. The painters he most admired were Claude, Poussin and Rosa. This idea assumed great importance during the nineteenth century and resulted in the romantic woodland gardens which now grace so many of England's stately homes. Scotney Castle in Kent is an outstanding example. Christopher Hussey writes that it was planted by his grandfather as a deliberate application of the principles of Sir Uvedale Price.

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The Picturesque Style is also of theoretical interest as an extreme application of the idea that art should imitate nature. As can be seen from the diagram it made great use of jagged irregular lines and represents the furthest possible remove from geometrical regularity. In the second half of the nineteenth century the Picturesque Style was used in the making of woodland gardens. Owners of gardens on the western shores of the British Isles acquired an enthusiasm for rhododendron woods arranged in 'painterly compositions'. Sir Joseph Hooker's Rhododendrons of the Sikkim-Himalaya (1849-51) illustrated and popularised the genus.

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Birkenhead Park, designed by Paxton with Edward Kemp as superintendent. A design by Edward Kemp for a quarry garden. The rough stone adds to the ruggedness of the scene
One consequence of the desire for the Picturesque was an enthusiasm for rock gardens.
Rocks in the garden at Scotney Castle.

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