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John Claudius Loudon - father of the English garden

Article Index

  1. John Claudius Loudon - father of the English garden
  2. Early life
  3. His first commissions
  4. His development of hothouses
  5. Development of his gardenesque style
  6. Loudon, the journalist
  7. Public parks and cemeteries
  8. His legacy
  9. Endnotes and further reading
  10. All Pages

The Victorian writer and designer John Claudius Loudon has been described as the ‘father of the English garden’.[1] Louise Wickham looks at his work and contribution to the British garden.

Introduction

Without John Claudius Loudon, it is unlikely that we would have the modern garden in its present form, and indeed the passion (or obsession) for gardening both professionally and as a hobby.

Loudon’s work as a journalist and author led to the ‘democratisation’ of gardening. Through his articles and books, the pleasures of gardening, growing plants and garden visiting became available to people at all levels of society, either in their own modest gardens or in public areas such as parks.

Cheaper printing methods allowed his ideas to be widely dispersed and ‘as the most distinguished gardening author of his age…rather than through his garden designs … Loudon gained historical significance'.[2] It is due to him that the gardener took over from the landscape designer in the 20th century.

Circular bed When Loudon was born in 1783, the Landscape movement was at its height, for those who had the land and the wealth to afford it. In contrast, most of the population in England who had access to a garden, carried on gardening in a formal style that had changed little since the 17th century, with a predominance of flowers.

An example of circular beds, typical of gardenesque style. Copyright Louise WickhamIn his early career, Loudon designed in a naturalistic style, while in later years he was at the forefront of the return to formality with his ‘gardenesque’ style of planting. However, as John Harris points out, this was not such an abrupt change as it may seem, as ‘the early 19th-century gardenesque style of Loudon’s day was, in fact, a child of the 18th century’,[3] with its flower beds, serpentine lines and use of shrubs.