The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 2: Roman Gardens (500BC-500AD)

Influence of Pliny's Garden Design

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60.That the style of Pliny's villa gave the tone to the European taste in gardening up to the end of the 17th century, is sufficiently obvious. It is almost superfluous to remark, observes the author of the Historical View, the striking resemblance which Pliny's gardens bear to the French and Dutch taste. The terraces adjoining to the house; the lawn declining thence; the little flower-garden, with the fountain in the centre; the walks bordered with box, and the trees sheared into whimsical artificial forms; together with the fountains, alcoves, and summer-houses, form a resemblance too striking to bear dispute. �In an age,� observes Horace Walpole, �when architecture displayed all its grandeur, all its purity, and all its taste; when arose Vespasian's amphitheatre, the temple of Peace, Trajan's forum, Domitian's bath, and Adrian's villa, the ruins and vestiges of which still excite our astonishment and curiosity; a Roman consul, a polished emperor's friend, and a man of elegant literature and taste, delighted in what the mob now scarcely admire in a college-garden. All the ingredients of Pliny's garden correspond exactly with those laid out by London and Wise on Dutch principles; so that nothing is wanting but a parterre to make a garden in the reign of Trajan serve for the description of one in the reign of King William III.� � The open country round a villa was managed, as the Roman agricultural writers inform us, in the common field system lately prevalent in Britain; there were few or no hedges, or other fences, or rows of trees; but what was not under forest was in waste, with patches of fallow or corn. Thus it appears that the country residence of an ancient Roman, not only as to his garden, as Horace Walpole has observed, but even as to the views and prospects from his house, as Eustace, and the translator of Girardin hint, bore a very near resemblance to the chateau of a French or German nobleman in the 18th century, and to not a few in France and Italy at the present day. The same taste, as that displayed by Pliny, appears to have prevailed till the fall of the Roman empire; and by existing in a faint degree in the gardens of religious houses during the dark ages, as well as in Pliny's writings, has thus been handed down to modern times.