Stuart Gardens: c1600-early 1700s

The main development of gardens in the Stuart period is that of scale as they were influenced by the vast formal gardens of France, and later, in a more sober fashion, Holland.

These gardens were designed to be symmetrical with long axial walks and rides stretching into the woods and parks beyond, resulting in the advent of the Avenue. Great expanses of water were brought to life by dancing fountains or pleasure boats. Pleached trees formed the boundaries around the garden and elaborate free flowing parterres replacing Tudor knot gardens. Topiary was used to create formal shapes out of evergreen shrubs in the ultimate expression of man’s control over nature.

Style at a Glance

  1. Formal layout influenced by the great gardens of France
  2. Terraces controlling the irregular natural landscape 
  3. Parterres evolved from the Tudor knots
  4. Avenues, an expression of welcome as well as status
  5. Canals reflecting the fashion for all thing Dutch at the end of the 17th century
  6. Fountains and extravagant water displays to animate the gardens
  7. Topiary, an expression of the ultimate control over nature
  8. Wildernesses, not exactly wild, but a woody place for intrigue and exercise.

Where to see gardens with Stuart features:

    Blickling Estate, Norfolk

    The garden at Blickling extends to 55 acres and is one of the greatest in England, having evolved over the centuries to reflect different fashions. While much of the garden is the creation of the 20th-century society gardener Norah Lindsay, the paths running through the woods are remains of the 17th-century formal garden. These ‘allees’ were often in a goose-foot formation radiating out from the house through the ‘wilderness’, or wood, beyond.

    Chastleton House, Gloucestershire

    A rare gem of a Jacobean country house built between 1607 and 1612. The garden retains its Jacobean layout, divided into compartments according to use. Even some Jacobean planting has survived, in particular a mulberry tree and the ‘Restoration Oak’ planted in honour of Charles II, but most impressive of all is the circle of mysterious giant topiary shapes in the ‘Best Garden’.

    Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire

    Dyrham is a late 17th-century mansion in the Dutch style which had a spectacular formal water garden, depicted in a birds-eye view drawn before it was swept away in the 18th century. Evidence of this great garden still exists, in the terraces in the West Garden for example and in the water course which commenced with the statue of Neptune (who now stands in isolation amidst the hilly deer park), working its way down via an impressive sequence of fountains and cascades, to the existing pond below.

    East Riddlesden Hall, Yorkshire

    An historic pond with resident ducks adorns the front garden while the intimate formal garden behind is in keeping with the 17th-century style of the house. A herb border has been planted based on Culpeper’s Herbal of 1653 and facing this are bushes of black, red and white currants, highly esteemed fruit in the 17th century.

    Erddig, Wrexham

    The gardens at Erddig represent one of the most significant surviving examples of an early 18th-century formal garden in Britain. The central path to the canal pond is flanked by great formal lawns and apple orchards, divided by pleached lime avenues. The original gravel paths take you past fruit trees espaliered against the walls, a typical feature of gardens of this period.

    Ham House, London

    The 17th-century layout is clearly defined in this carefully restored garden where you can now experience the strong geometric lines of a formal wilderness, while the planting of the parterres with cotton lavender give a charming 20th-century twist. The borders, on the other hand, are planted in an authentic 17th-century style based on contemporary inventories.

    Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire

    The early 18th-century formal gardens at Hanbury, designed by the celebrated gardener of the day George London, have been painstakingly restored using a surviving plan from the period. Features include a sunken parterre, a fruit garden, a wilderness, summer-houses, an obelisk, a pool and delightful ornamental pavilions. Don’t miss the orangery complete with citrus plants.

    Packwood House, Warwickshire

    The famous yew garden at Packwood is said to represent the Sermon on the Mount and was originally set out by John Fetherston around 1650-70. A large yew is set on a tall mound reached by a spiral path. There's also a raised terraced walk that dates from the 17th century and bee boles are set into the original garden walls. Notice also the gazebos at each corner.

    Powis Castle and Garden, Welshpool

    The garden was originally laid out at the end of the 17th century and despite many subsequent alterations, several features remain from that period, in particular the hanging terraces planted with the now giant yew trees. These terraces were inspired by those of St Germain-en-Laye near Paris, where the 1st Marquis of Powis joined James II in exile in 1689. You can also see fine statuary by the workshop of van Nost.

    Westbury Court Garden, Gloucestershire

    This rare surviving Dutch water garden from the end of the 17th century was rescued and restored by us. The canal reflected the prevailing fashion for all things Dutch and the formal beds of 17th-century vegetables, together with many old varieties of fruit trees, demonstrate how gardens could be as beautiful as they were useful.

    Washington Old Hall, Tyne & Wear

    The gardens at Washington Old Hall represent those of a modest 17th-century manor house which was famously the ancestral home of George Washington. Although the present garden is newly created, it's filled with English herbs and flowers from the 17th century, many now rare. Other features include a walled border with buttresses, beech ‘elbow’ hedging and a wild flower meadow.