The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 1: Gardens and Governments

Gardening as a necessity and as a luxury

Previous - Next

Section 1 Gardening as affected by different Forms of Government, Religious, and States of Society 947. Gardening, as an art furnishing a part of the necessaries of life, may be practised under any form of government; and wherever there is some liberty and security of property, its productions of necessity and comfort will ensure its use. Wherever civilised man has a house, he will always have an accompanying spot for roots and legumes; and wherever he enjoys a farm, he will desire orchards or vineyards for fruits or wine, and copsewoods and forest trees for fuel and timber: shelter, shade, and ornament will follow in due time. Under a despotic form of government, the taste of the monarch will generally be indiscriminately followed by such of his subjects as can indulge in it; and thus fashion will assume the province of reason. Such a government must be favourable or unfavourable to the arts, according to the taste of its chief. Monarchs generally love splendour more than usefulness, and in gardening are less likely to render its useful productions common among their subjects than to increases the luxurious enjoyments of a few wealthy courtiers. This was exemplified in Louis XIV., who set the fashion of splendid parterres and water-works not only in France but in Europe; but never, in all probability, added a foot of ground to the garden of a single cottager, or placed an additional cabbage or potato on his table. Under republican governments, the first tendency of public feeling is to economy ; and, consequently, to discourage those arts, or branches of arts, which minister to luxury. Gardening, under such circumstances, will be practised principally as a useful art, and seldom either as an art of elegance and taste, or one of splendour and magnificence; and it will be encouraged more for its substantial benefits and scientific objects, than for its extraordinary productions and peculiar gratifications. In the beginning of the first French revolution; we find the compilers of the Encyclopï¾µdia (see the vol. sur l' Aratoire et Jardinage) holding light the productions of forcing-houses and the taste for double flowers; and on the first settlement of America, the same simplicity of taste prevailed, as it does still in Switzerland.