The Landscape Guide

Flower gardens

In the sense of a garden devoted to growing flowers, the flower garden is an invention of the nineteenth century.

Flowers have been enjoyed in gardens since ancient times, but they were not the prime motive for making a garden. Today, many people believe flowers to be raison d'etre of gardens. Leisure and hobbies are modern possibilities. In past times the prime reasons for making gardens were:

  • for the protection of animals at night
  • for growing fruit and vegetables
  • for outdoor working and eating

Using a broad brush, the history of flower gardens can be sketched as follows:

  • The practice of interspersing flowers in fruit gardens continued from ancient times at least until the renaissance.
  • During the baroque period planting for show (and everything else for show) became common.
  • In landscape gardens, which were intended to be less boastful and more 'natural', flowers tended to be grown in special areas, like vegetables.
  • By the early nineteenth century Repton and others were recommending different types of flower garden as components of the Mixed Style.
  • At the end of the nineteenth century, protagonists of an Arts and Crafts approach to gardens were recommending that flowers be used in a garden like pigments in a paintbox. It was this approach which led to the development of modern flower gardens.

Renaissance gardens had space in which flowers could be grown but growing flowers was not the reason for making the gardens.

Nor was growing flowers the main role of landscape gardens.

Victorian flower garden

Arts and Crafts flower garden