20th-century gardens: Edwardian to present day

Colour themed gardens reigned and, as a backlash against the hardships of two world wars, gardens became increasingly ornamental and low maintenance, culminating in the 1970s craze for conifers and grasses. 

However, as the century came to a close, the garden style became more relaxed with a new fashion for prairie planting and an interest in wild flower meadows, while many have rediscovered the joys of kitchen gardening and self-sufficiency.

Style at a Glance:

  1. Garden Rooms divide the garden into different themes
  2. Cottage gardening looking back to a less industrial age
  3. Woodland gardens
  4. Colour co-ordinated borders influenced by artists such as Gertrude JekyllPerfect lawns, the result of improved lawn mower machinery and chemicals
  5. Bedding, a direct result of the commercialisation of the nursery trade
  6. Prairie planting, a late 20th-century naturalistic style of gardening
  7. Rose gardens, as popular as ever

Where to see 20th-century gardens:

    Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

    The gardens at Anglesey Abbey were developed in the 1920s by the 1st Lord Fairhaven, blending the formal French style with 18th-century style natural landscaping. You can see an impressive display of statuary along with rare and interesting plants. More recently a winter garden has been established with a serpentine path flanked by groves of colourful-stemmed dogwoods.

    Buscot Park, Oxfordshire

    A rill running down through a series of pools and fountains to a large lake makes up this famous 1920s water garden designed by the architect and garden designer Harold Peto. Water gardens on this scale are rare and well worth seeking out. At Buscot you can also appreciate the original 18th-century landscape and the very large walled garden now planted up for ornamental effect.

    Castle Drogo, Devon

    This 20th-century castle, perched high on Dartmoor, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, one of the most famous architects of the day. Crisply trimmed architectural yew hedges reflect the austere building style of the castle, which in turn heightens the surprise of the exuberant herbaceous garden, with beds of various colours and textures flanking paths that form an Indian motif.

    Chartwell, Kent

    An important garden in the context of British history as it was the home of Winston Churchill. All the features of a mid-20th century garden are here: terraced lawns, ponds, flower borders and a walled rose garden, together with fine views over the Weald of Kent.

    Coleton Fishacre, Devon

    The home of the D’Oyly Carte’s in the 1920s, this garden is beautifully situated along a stretch of our coastline. The formal terraces contrast with steep descending paths. The use of bold and spectacular planting takes full advantage of the mild coastal climate.

    The Courts Garden, Wiltshire

    The Courts is a fine example of an early 20th-century garden. Between 1900 and 1911, Sir George Hastings planted a yew hedge as a background for his collection of statues, and it was around this structure that the subsequent owner, Lady Cecile Goff, created the garden we see today, which has an interesting variety of plants, a lily pond, pleached lime trees and a conservatory.

    Dunham Massey, Cheshire

    A new Winter Garden has been created here covering 7 acres, which makes it one of the largest in the country. It has been planted with thousands of bulbs and over a thousand varieties of shrubs, including 50 types of camellia. The well-known plantsman, Roy Lancaster, acted as advisor for this ambitious project.

    Hatchlands Park, Surrey

    Amongst the vast park at Hatchlands is a small formal box garden that was designed in 1914 by the one of the most influential garden designers of the 20th century, Gertrude Jekyll. Flower beds edged with dwarf hedging, are filled with old-fashioned roses, irises, peonies and other plants that were popular at the time.

    Hidcote, Gloucestershire

    A mecca for garden lovers, Hidcote Manor was created from 1907 onwards by Lawrence Johnston, an American who not only had a great love of plants but the vision to establish a beautiful garden in which to grow them. The garden is composed of a series of outdoor rooms each with its own character, ranging from formal and restrained to naturalistic. Colour is carefully considered and under our care from the middle of the 20th century this has been developed resulting in a white garden and the famous twin red borders.

    Hinton Ampner, Hampshire

    One of the great gardens of the 20th century designed by Ralph Dutton who united a formal layout with varied and informal planting, this was the signature style of the period. The garden has many uncommon plants together with fine lawns and terraces and magnificent views over the Hampshire countryside.

    Mount Stewart, County Down

    An impressive example of an idiosyncratic garden form the 1920s created by Lady Londonderry. Due to its mild climate the garden is able to support an unrivalled collection of plants, while colourful formal parterres and topiary add structure. Curious statues can be found in the Dodo garden, where each of the stone creatures represents friends of the family.

    Sissinghurst Castle, Kent

    Along with Hidcote, Sissinghurst is one of the most visited gardens in the country. Its setting, around an Elizabethan tower, is a romantic starting point from which Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicholson designed a series of ‘rooms’ divided by old walls and formal hedges and filled with an exuberant array of plants artfully combined.

    Snowshill Manor and Garden, Gloucestershire

    Just as Charles Paget Wades manor house is filled to overflowing with his collections, so the garden is a stage for his eclectic mix of garden artefacts such as troughs, cisterns, well heads, gate piers and a beautiful garden clock.  The garden is composed of a series of small rooms with ponds and waterspouts together with attractive herbaceous planting which is now run on organic principles.

    Tatton Park, Cheshire

    The garden at Tatton is among the most important in England and has been restored to its 1910 original design. Along with an array of glass houses, one of the most impressive features is the Japanese garden, restored in 2001.

    Tintinhull Garden, Somerset

    The garden at Tintinhull is tiny by our standards. It was largely the inspiration of Mrs Phyllis Reiss who moved here in 1933. Divided into separate areas by clipped hedges the garden is composed of several ‘rooms’, including an azalea garden, a fountain garden and a kitchen garden with espaliered fruit trees. A formal garden features a rectangular pool edged on either side with long flower beds, one contains a vivid colour scheme of reds and yellows while the opposite bed is pastel.