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Gardens and Gardening

Page history last edited by Friederike Heinen 6 years, 2 months ago


Gardening (Brit. /ˈɡɑːdnɪŋ/, /ˈɡɑːdn̩ɪŋ/; U.S. /ˈɡɑrd(ə)nɪŋ/), as stated in the Oxford English Dictionary, is the action or practice of cultivating or laying out a garden (horticulture). Although gardening had been practiced before, it rejoiced in a rising popularity in eighteenth-century Europe with a special interest in it arising in Britain.


The graph below visualizes the appearance of the term gardening in British texts within the eighteenth century. It can be observed that around 1700 there were almost no mentions of the word, whereas throughout the century a rapid increase in the appearance of it followed with a peak around 1800.


     Figure 1 Appearance of the term gardening in British texts during the 18th Century



These developments can be perceived as indicating a growing interest in the theory of gardening as well as an increase in the actual practice of this activity. This can be validated by the great number of handbooks and dictionaries on the subject of gardening which have been published particularly in the course of the second half of the century. They include information on how to maintain different kinds of gardens and range from kitchen and fruit gardening to flower gardening and even landscape gardening. Although the latter one is often addressed by eighteenth- century authors through the use of the term gardening, it can be seen as closer connected to the term and practice of landscaping. This can be defined as the laying out of large gardens and picturesque landscapes as a kind of art and for the purpose of delight and amusement of the owners of the land, which were the nobility of the eighteenth century. Kitchen and fruit gardening on the other hand can be more easily connected to farming and therefore the cultivation and crop of edibles. Instead of serving mere amusement, these kinds of gardening were of a more practical character and Profit or usage-oriented. Therefore, the practice of gardening in connection to kitchen or fruit gardens should be differentiated from landscaping and the laying out of a landscape garden.
Another indicator for the presence of and the growing interest in gardening are the various newspaper articles or advertisements which make the sale of gardening tools, flowers and crops their subject as well as notes which provide evidence on theft of gardening Tools ( see figure 2).



Figure 2 Note in a newspaper from 1790 stating the theft of several gardening tools. The thief was sentenced to prison. 



Advisory works on gardening and their implications

It can be argued that the growing interest in managing a garden resulted from and at the same time served as a catalyst for an increase in the publication of books on gardening such as handbooks, dictionaries and gardening-calendars.
In his publication The Husbandman and Tradesman’s Gardening Calendar from 1791 author John Fallowfield gives a plethora of instructions on how to find the best location for a garden, which soil to pick and how to trench it in order to gain the most profit from it (cf. 7f.). Furthermore, he includes precise measurements regarding the walls of the ideal garden or the walks around it (cf. The Husbandman 8). Together with the accumulation of dos and don’ts and expressions as “let not” (ibid) or “must” (ibid) these precise numbers serve as an indicator that the practice of gardening was perceived as something that had to be regulated. The increasing number of people practicing gardening called for those who considered it a necessity to share advice on how to perform the activity correctly and prevent crop failure. Gardening was no longer perceived as something that anyone could do in just any way. On the contrary: the practice of gardening gained the character of a science in which there were strict standards that one had to follow in order to improve. This scientific character becomes also apparent when considering that the plethora of handbooks represents the undertaking of several experiments resulting in new discoveries, which then needed to be made accessible for everyone interested in the subject. The change from gardening being seen as a kind of art to being viewed as a science is also mentioned by George William Johnson in his article On the progress of gardening in England during the 18th century. He states that by adopting the classificatory system of Carl Linnaeus into his book The Gardener’s Dictionary author Philip Miller crossed the boundary between the practice of gardening and the science of botany (cf. 151). Thus, combining the two, gardening was enriched by the scientific systems and discoveries of botany and became a science itself (cf. ibid).
Furthermore, publications such as A New Gardener’s Dictionary by John Dicks or Everyman his own Gardener by John Abercrombie can be perceived as a representation of the amount of knowledge that was collected about numerous European or exotic plants in the eighteenth century. This can be validated by George William Johnson stating that “during this [c]entury above 5,000 new [exotic species] were introduced” (151). He furthermore elaborates that in the first edition of Philip Miller’s The Gardener’s Dictionary the number of plants mentioned was significantly smaller than in later editions of the book (cf. Johnson 151). The books on gardening also mention different techniques used in gardening as for example cultivating on hot-beds, in hot-houses or in green-houses.



Types of Gardening

Kitchen gardening

Kitchen gardening represented a great part of the practice of gardening itself. As already mentioned, there was a great variety of vegetables and herbs which were discovered and cultivated throughout the eighteenth century. In The Husbandman and Tradesman’s Gardening Calendar Fallowfield mentions for instance peas, beans or lettuce, of which the seeds should be sown in February (cf. 12). Moreover, he includes cauliflower (cf. ibid 12), carrots and chives (cf. ibid 14) amongst many others. John Abercrombie even gives advice on how to grow melons (cf. Every Man 1ff.) which shows that the British gardeners did also engage in cultivating more exotic plants in their kitchen garden.

As well as of a general garden, the formation of a kitchen garden was not perceived as something that could be performed coincidentally. According to John Fallowfield “the width of beds in kitchen [g]ardens, ought to be four feet; the vacancy, or alley between them, one foot” (The Husbandman 9). It becomes apparent that an important condition for successful kitchen gardening was detected in leaving enough space for the plants to grow (cf. ibid) and being very careful and aware of all the necessary details as for example the weather, temperatures and seasons. In addition Fallowfield considered the most important practices of kitchen gardening “good digging, and manuring the foil” (The Husbandman 9).



Fruit Gardening


The arrangement of a fruit garden and the activity of maintaining it can be perceived as being symptomatic for the situation in eighteenth-century England. As John Fallowfield mentions in his book, “all our [the English people’s] fruit-trees are principally natives of a warmer climate” (The Husbandman 8) which draws a connection to the culture of travelling that developed and increased throughout the century. It can be assumed that travellers did not only bring material commodities for instance in form of clothing or jewellery but also foreign fruits or seeds from their journeys. In this regard, the fruits can be considered as having been of a special and exotic character which might have had the effect that the possession of a fruit garden was also a sign of a certain wealth, depending on the kind of fruits inhabiting it.

An important part of the domain of fruit gardening was the plantation of trees which were mostly advised to be planted against walls, espaliers or orchards (cf. The Husbandman 8f.). It was perceived as very influential where the trees were located, as the fruit of different kinds of trees would grow better on different sides of the tree (cf. ibid 9). Some of the most mentioned fruits cropped from trees were apples, pears and apricots as well as cherries and plums (cf. ibid 11,13). Furthermore, winegrowing (cf. Everyman 21) and the cultivation of strawberries (cf. The Husbandman 16) can be perceived as having been favoured in the eighteenth century. Pineapples (cf. The Complete Kitchen Gardener 407), oranges and lemons (cf. The Lady’s Recreation 111) serve as examples for the English gardener’s interest in more exotic fruits as well as their ambition to conquer new realms.


Figure 3 A botanical drawing of a pineapple from the 18th

century. It was one of the favoured exotic fruits in England.




Flower Gardening


It can be argued, that the flower garden represented a realm of pleasure rather than a place for growing plants that were useful for a household. However, it becomes apparent in the number of advisory books that flower-beds and shrubbery still required intense, consistent and attentive care in order to achieve good results. The Husbandman and Tradesman’s Gardening Calendar offers several paragraphs focusing exclusively on the cultivation of exotic plants and flowers which shows that These, as well as the already mentioned fruits, were commodities brought into the country by the numerous travellers of the century. Some of the plants which can be assumed to have been typically cultivated, as they are mentioned frequently, are hyacinths and tulips (cf. The Husbandman 27) as well as auriculas (cf. ibid 17). Furthermore, much of the flower gardening was practiced by using hot-beds and greenhouses. For instance, Philip Miller suggests planting annual flowers as well as tuberoses on hot-beds (cf. Gardener’s Calendar 33) while coffee trees, jasmine and gladioli should be kept in a greenhouse or stove (cf. ibid. 17f.).


The Eighteenth-Century Gardener

Regarding the practice of gardening in the eighteenth century, it becomes apparent that the occupation of the gardener is of high importance and that it is relevant to examine which persons engaged in this activity.


Figure 4 Frontispiece of Everyman His Own Gardener


The picture above (Figure 4) is from the frontispiece of the 17th Edition of Everyman his Own Gardener by Abercrombie and in its foreground, it shows a man trenching a bed with a spade. Behind him are several kinds of plants as well as a hot-bed, another worker and a greenhouse. Besides the picture being a proper representation of the work of gardening, some of the needed tools and often used techniques (hot-bed, greenhouse), it also gives a suggestion on how the average gardener looked like in the eighteenth century. Instead of fine clothes, he wears a plain jacket and an apron of which both are of a more practical character. It can be assumed from his clothing that the person shown in the picture is a professional gardener who is employed at an upper-class estate. In the eighteenth century, gardening already provided employment for a number of people so that the designation gardener did not only address those who engaged with the activity for their own amusement or profit but also people who had made it their profession to cultivate the gardens of others.

Furthermore, John Fallowfield states in his preface to The Husbandman and Tradesman’s Gardening Calendar that he only included such plants into his book “as are useful and entertaining for the middling rank of mankind” (VI). This shows that the practice of gardening was not merely in the interest of the nobility who could afford a personal gardener as well as special kinds of plants or seeds but there were also numerous members of the middle-class who partook in the activity. Furthermore, the title of Fallowfield’s publication implies that also people who were employed in the business of trade engaged in the practice of gardening, which can be connected to their aim of selling the crops of their beds and trees to make profit.

Regarding the title of Every Man His Own Gardener, it becomes evident that John Abercrombie was of the opinion that gardening was suitable for everyone. It can be argued that it was his aim to give people the advice necessary to be able to cultivate their own gardens without having to employ a professional gardener.


Women in Gardening


Although at first the practice of gardening in the eighteenth century can be perceived as something that was suitable for a wide range of people, it becomes obvious very quickly that it was a realm which was primarily dominated by the male population. This can be verified by taking the several advisory publications on gardening into account of which the majority was written by men. Furthermore, those handbooks and calendars were predominantly addressed towards male gardeners. While Abercrombie with his Every Man His Own Gardener might have had the intention of appealing to a larger audience, the mere phrasing of his book’s title addressed not only a solely male readership but also presumed that women did not take any interest or activity in the subject of gardening.

In her article Women Create Gardens in Male Landscapes: A Revisionist Approach to Eighteenth-Century English Garden History author Susan Groag Bell addresses the absence of women from the realm of gardening in the eighteenth century and calls it a “historical anomaly” (473). Instead of being active gardeners, women at that time were mostly depicted as being connected to gardens merely in terms of their pleasure and enjoyment when taking a walk through them (cf. Bell 474f.). Therefore, eighteenth-century women seem to appear more often in connection to landscape gardens than kitchen gardens, although still rarely taking active part in the laying out of such (cf. Bell 475f.).

However, one book which does directly address and mention women in connection to the active practice of gardening is Charles Evelyn’s The Lady’s Recreation which constitutes the third part of the collection The Art of Gardening Improv’d [sic!] by John Laurence. As can be deduced from the frontispiece of the publication (Figure 5), there prevailed a certain notion regarding which areas of gardening were suitable for women and what a lady’s garden would look like.


Figure 5 The frontispiece of Charles Evelyn's The Lady's Recreation



The picture shows a walled garden containing a number of orderly structured, wide paths as well as trees, flower-beds and shrubbery in which some ladies go for a stroll. The whole portrayal seems to be a representation of classic femininity and beauty and engages more with the idea of women’s passive enjoyment than with their active work. The depicted is resembled in the title page which includes a shortened version of the table of contents. In the eighteenth century, the plantation of trees and flowers was often made the realm of women (cf. The Lady’s Recreation 1f.) Furthermore, the author includes the cultivation of more exotic plants and fruits in orangeries and greenhouses, which draws a connection between women and the extraordinary, exotic commodities of foreign countries that were introduced into Great Britain throughout the century as a result of increased travelling.



Gardening in Jane Austen’s Emma


Gardening and agriculture are aspects which show themselves to be relatively dominant in Jane Austen’s novel Emma published in 1816. On the one hand, they find portrayal in the character of Mr Knightley, on the other hand in farmer Robert Martin, who is a tenant of Knightley.

As Robert James Merrett emphasizes in his article The Gentleman Farmer in Emma: Agrarian Writing and Jane Austen’s Cultural Idealism, Mr George Knightley is a kind of gentleman farmer or “gentleman landowner” (711). By having the “largest estate in Highbury […] he […] nurtures the community” (Merrett 727), which renders him an important and essential figure within the town’s society. This influence of Knightley’s agricultural occupation and his cultivation of fruits and plants on the grounds of his estate is for instance represented by his annual supply of apples for the Bates family (cf. Emma 187f.). Therefore, it can be argued that Emma emphasizes the usefulness and profitability of farming, which is closely related to gardening, for the farmer or gardener himself as well as his customers.

Furthermore, regarding the fact that Mr Knightley sells part of his apples as well as he keeps a supply for himself (cf. Emma 188), it can be assumed that his orchards are of a relatively large size. Referring to Merrett’s observation on the magnitude of Knightley’s estate, it becomes obvious that a great part of this estate consists of agricultural spaces and thus, areas where gardening or farming are practiced. This notion is supported by the strawberry-fields, which represent another part of Knightley’s property.

In the context of gardening, the chapter of the strawberry picking shows itself to be of high importance, particularly Mrs Elton’s speech.


“‘The best fruit in England – every body's favourite – always wholesome. – These the finest beds and finest sorts. – Delightful to gather for one's self – the only way of really enjoying them. – Morning decidedly the best time – never tired – every sort good – hautboy infinitely superior – no comparison – the others hardly eatable – hautboys very scarce – Chili preferred – white wood finest flavour of all – price of strawberries in London – abundance about Bristol – Maple Grove – cultivation – beds when to be renewed – gardeners thinking exactly different – no general rule – gardeners never to be put out of their way – delicious fruit – only too rich to be eaten much of – inferior to cherries – currants more refreshing – only objection of gathering strawberries the stooping […].’” (Emma 282) 


It can be argued that this passage and the scene in general are a representation of a certain significance of the fruit as well as of the practice of gardening for author Jane Austen, as they are given a whole chapter, a considerable amount of text. The passage emphasizes the pleasure that can be connected to the act of cropping and gathering of useful fruits and that it can even become the centre of human interaction and thus valuable. Furthermore, Mrs Elton’s judgement of the quality and different sorts of the strawberries and their beds serve as a good representation of the generally increased interest of the population in gardening and farming in the eighteenth century. Moreover, the reference to the various opinions of gardeners and the differentiating rules implies a strong awareness of the practice of gardening and its pursuers. It can be furthermore seen as the presentation of a reason for the emergence of the plethora of advisory books during the century and an explanation for the increasing need of regulations for the practice of gardening.





Primary Sources


Abercrombie, John. Every Man His Own Gardener. 17th Edition. Dublin, 1779. Historical Texts  https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eccoii-1637800500&terms=john%20abercrombie%20every%20man%20his%20own%20gardener&date=1698-1802&undated=exclude&pageTerms=john%20abercrombie%20every%20man%20his%20own%20gardener&pageId=eccoii-1637800500-10


This advisory book on gardening deals with the work that has to be done every month of the year. Its frontispiece as well as the mere title regarding the notion of the gardener, his appearance and who could be occupied with gardening in the 18th century makes this book very interesting. Furthermore, it contains a plethora of interesting details on the cultivation and managing of a garden which are not included in other works.


Abercrombie, John. The Complete Kitchen Gardener and Hot-Bed Forcer. London, 1789. Historical Texts https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0179700600&terms=the%20complete%20kitchen%20gardener&date=1699-1801&undated=exclude&pageTerms=the%20complete%20kitchen%20gardener&pageId=ecco-0179700600-10


This book focuses especially on the cultivation of the kitchen garden and the use of hot-houses, hot-beds and the like. It is interesting because it also contains detailed information on the cultivation of pineapples.


Austen, Jane. Emma. Ed. James Kinsley. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.


This piece of literature serves as a good representation of the perception of gardening and its importance in the 18th/early 19th century. It helps to understand the amount of awarness people of that time had of the practice of gardening even when they themselves were not gardeners. 


Evelyn, Charles. The Lady's Recreation. London, 1717. Historical Texts https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eccoii-1598000400&terms=the%20lady's%20recreation&pageTerms=the%20lady's%20recreation&pageId=eccoii-1598000400-10

As part of:

Laurence, John. Gardening Improv'd. London, 1718. Historical Texts https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-1130401000&terms=the%20lady's%20recreation&date=1699-1801&undated=exclude&pageTerms=the%20lady's%20recreation&pageId=ecco-1130401000-10


This book deals with the cultivation of flower gardens and greenhouses and focuses more on the aspects of landscaping and the lay-out of pleasure grounds. However, it is most interesting because it directly concerns women and gives the reader an idea, which realms of gardening were occupied by the female population.


Fallowfield, John. The Husbandman and Tradesman's Gardening Calendar. Preston, 1791. Historical Texts https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0063001700&terms=gardening%20calendar&pageTerms=gardening%20calendar&pageId=ecco-0063001700-10


This is an advisory book on gardening which deals with the practice of the kitchen garden, the flower garden and the fruit garden according to the months of the year. It contains a plethora of information and details on the right lay-out of the garden and the cultivation of plants which shows that in the 18th century people made many observations in this field and introduced many new regulations.


Miller, Philip. The Gardeners Calendar. 2nd Edition. London, 1733. Historical Texts https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0580000400&terms=Philip%20Miller&date=1699-1804&undated=exclude&pageTerms=Philip%20Miller&pageId=ecco-0580000400-20


This advisory work is similarly structured to the ones by Abercrombie and Fallowfield, which shows that a certain format, that of a garden calendar, was favoured. Regarding the fact that Miller was one of the most influential gardeners of his time, this book serves as a helpful addition to the former stated.


"Advertisements and Notices." Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 26 Oct. 1769. 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection. Gale Primary Sources, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/677g79. Accessed 9 Mar. 2018.


This newspaper offers a couple of advertisements for the sale of gardening tools or estates with gardens. It shows a certain prominence of the practice of gardening and also that a garden was a common part of an estate.


"Advertisements and Notices." Morning Post, 15 Sept. 1777. 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection, Gale Primary Sources http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/67S7Y2. Accessed 10 Mar. 2018.


This newspaper contains an advertisement for the sale of gardening tools. It shows a certain prominence of the practice of gardening and the apparent need of and demand for appropriate tools.


"News." Public Advertiser, 25 Sept. 1790. 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection, Gale Primary Sources, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/677Lo7. Accessed 9 Mar. 2018.


This note reports the incident of a theft of gardening tools which seems curious compared to our modern time. It is interesting because it suggests that those tools were of a certain importance or value and apparently objects of need and want.


Secondary Sources

“gardening, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, January 2018. Web. 8 March 2018.


Bell, Susan Groag. “Women Create Gardens in Male Landscapes: A Revisionist Approach to Eighteenth-Century English Garden History.” Feminist Studies, 16.3 (1990). 471-491. JSTOR http://0-www.jstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/stable/3178016


This article is about the role of the women in the realm of 18th-century gardens and gardening. It sheds light on the fact that this field was primarily shaped by male persons and that women in its context were often only connected to pleasure and exotic commodities


Johnson, George William. "On the Progress of Gardening in England during the 18th Century." A History of English Gardening. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2012. 147-270. E-Book. https://0-www-cambridge-org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/core/books/history-of-english-gardening-chronological-biographical-literary-and-critical/269754B7408A9688CD6D17BEA1B84C3E


This article gives a lot of information on the improvements in the realm of gardening throughout the 18th century and provides a good basis for understanding how much change actually happened during that time.


Merrett, Robert James. “The Gentleman Farmer in Emma: Agrarian Writing and Jane Austen’s Cultural Idealism.” University of Toronto Quarterly, 77.2 (2008). 711-737. Project Muse http://0-muse.jhu.edu.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/article/254237


The article deals with the role of the gentleman farmer in Jane Austen’s Emma, observing how he is perceived by protagonist Emma and what his significance is in the context of his society. The text helps to understand the importance of gardening and farming in terms of providing nourishment for a community.



Visual Sources

Figure 1:

Historical Texts https://historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/results?terms=gardening&date=1698-1802&undated=exclude


Figure 2:

Note from "News." Public Advertiser, 25 Sept. 1790. 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection, Gale Primary Sources, http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/677Lo7. Accessed 9 Mar. 2018.


Figure 3:

Fruit Pineapple from a painting by G.D. Ehret. 18th C. http://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822003594387. Web. 26 Mar 2018.


Figure 4:

Frontispiece of Abercrombie, John. Every Man His Own Gardener. Being a New and Much More Complete Gardener's Calendar and General directory than any one hitherto published. 17th Edition. Dublin, 1997. Historical Texts https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eccoii-1637800500&terms=john%20abercrombie%20every%20man%20his%20own%20gardener&date=1698-1802&undated=exclude&pageTerms=john%20abercrombie%20every%20man%20his%20own%20gardener&pageId=eccoii-1637800500-10


Figure 5:

Frontispiece of Evelyn, Charles. The Lady's Recreation. London, 1717. Historical Texts https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eccoii-1598000400&terms=the%20lady's%20recreation&pageTerms=the%20lady's%20recreation&pageId=eccoii-1598000400-10

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