The earliest English gardens which we all know of were planted in 1st century AD by the Romans at their Roman Palace. Their construction has been done in parts but it is still considered as the most sophisticated English garden even today with the formal symmetrical planting of the low box hedges, high edges having small niches to hold the urns, gravel walkways, garden benches and the statues.
The English gardens which were near the house used to be landscaped, green and they would invariably lead down to waterside. The Romans are thought to be the ones who brought the roses to the English gardens of Britain.
The English gardens that many try to achieve today are often modeled on the pattern of 20th century gardens by Gertrude Jeckyll. He designed more than 400 English gardens by using textures and colors in a brand new style.
Back then, true English gardens were only devoted to kitchens, filled with fruits, herbs and vegetables but eventually it became less necessary for growing food in the gardens so flowers took over. Nowadays for most people, gardens are purely designed for the purpose of pleasuring the eyes.
In Medieval times, the greatest of the English gardens belonged to monasteries, especially the Benedictines, who were not living on the charity of local people. They always tried to stay self sufficient and primarily devoted towards their needs, grape arbors, creating fish ponds, herb gardens for their natural medicines, kitchen gardens for their vegetables and also English garden plants to get the flowers for altar.
To them, gardening was never a manual labor but they took it as an activity for calming their troubled souls. Even Medieval castles made room sometimes for small courtyard type gardens with turf seats and raised beds so that the ladies can sit, sew and just admire the beautiful views of their English gardens.
During the late years of the Medieval period, the castles gave way to fortified manors, thus leaving the English gardens to be a plain green space which was surrounded by the hedges or fences behind which the games of tennis and bowls were played. It was then that the Tudors arrived.
The Tudors were highly influenced by the styles of Italian gardening. They loved the harmony and proportion of lines and after the Romans, for the very first time, sundials and statues became popular.
During the 16th century of the Elizabethan Age, the Knot gardens became famous with the intricate patterns of the small box hedges which used to be filled with herbs, shrubs and flowers.
The most famous English gardens among these are present at the Hampton Court Palace which was a favorite Thames-side palace on the west of London for many British and English monarchs from Henry VIII onwards.
After the death of Queen Elizabeth I, the seventeenth century saw the advancement of the Stuart kings and queens. They followed the French style of formal gardening rather than the typical English gardens. The broad avenues were then removed from all the houses with beautiful arrangements of flowers at either side with the help of English gardening tools.
The mania for the bulbs reached its very peak during the year of 1637 when a bulb was exchanged for ten times the salary of an average skilled artisan. The multi-colored tulips were the most prized ones. Watering features also became the new and popular trend in English gardens around this time.
During the 18th century, the homes of England had a more natural English garden look. The paths were curved, not straight any more. All the ponds lost their geometric shapes becoming elegant lakes, and the trees were then planted in clusters with the gardens all opened up until finally, what we now know as the new landscape gardening was finally there.
The famous landscape gardener from that time was Lancelot Capability Brown. He got his nickname as he used to tell all his prospective clients how the English gardens had new and ‘great capabilities’. He designed more than 170 gardens on this style and pattern. To this day, up and down the country you can still see fine living examples of Capability Brown’s fine English gardens.