The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 4: British Gardens (1100-1830)

Hedge planting in England

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690. At what time hedges were introduced into England is uncertain. They would probably be first exhibited in the gardens of the Roman governors, and afterwards re-appear in those of the monks. From these examples, from the Roman authors on husbandry, or more probably from the suggestion of travellers who had seen them abroad, they would be introduced in rural economy. Marshall conjectures, that clearing out patches in the woods for aration, and leaving strips of bushes between them, may have given the first idea of a hedge; and this supposition is rendered more plausible, from the circumstance of some of the oldest hedges being in very regular lines, occupying much space, and consisting of a variety of plants. However originated, they did not come into general use in laying out farms till after the Flemish husbandry was introduced in Norfolk, about the end of the seventeenth century. (Kent's Hints, &c.) So rapidly have they increased since that period, that at the end of the eighteenth century they had entirely changed the face of the country. In the time of George I. almost every tract of country in England might have been said to consist of four distinct parts or kinds of scenery: - 1. The houses of the proprietors, and their parks and gardens, and the adjoining village, containing their farmers and labourers; 2. The common field or intercommonable lands in aration; 3. The common pasture, or waste, untouched by the plough; and, 4. The scattered or circumscribing forest, containing a mass of timber or copse. But at present these fundamental features are mixed and variously grouped, and the general face of the country presents one continual scene of garden-like woodiness, interspersed with buildings and cultivated fields, unequalled in the world.