If you’ve read Golden, you’ll know that Lady Johanne loves her garden. In her story, her husband’s physical absence during the war and emotional absence at home drove her to find a distraction, ending up with a passion for gardening. After the war and her husband’s death, she moved herself and her daughter to her uncle’s house, Ellenly, where she was allowed to manage his ancient garden according to her tastes.
I was going to do this all in one post, but whoo boy, is there a lot to talk about. The Georgians loved gardening.
So, today, we’re going to get into why country gardens are such a thing, what they represent, and what they were used for.
Obviously, you have to have land to have a garden. Land is everything to the gentry. That’s what landed gentry means, you’re not just a noble by blood, you have an estate that generates income.
Then you need money to hire gardeners, you need money to buy the plants, which are sometimes exotic and imported, and then also need special tending like greenhouses, etc.
Some gardens have features like fountains (which are purely aesthetic, meaning they’re not used to water anything, and they require engineering and access to a water source), or ancillary buildings like gazebos. Some were designed by famous professional designers (watch this space for a post about Capability Brown, the most famous landscape designer of the age).
To design, tend, and enjoy a garden, you have to have time. Sure, peasants had vegetable gardens, and the big houses had little veggie gardens that served the houses attached to the kitchens, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
Easily, the only fresh air and exercise a wealthy person got in a day was a stroll through the grounds. And of course, you couldn’t grab your hand weights and power walk across the sweeping lawns. You had to dress up, get together with your fancy friends, and stroll. And it has to be beautiful, or what’s the point?
Like everything else about wealth and class, everything you did was on display, and everything was a competition. It wasn’t enough to have a garden, you had to have the best garden. You couldn’t call your friends, so, really, the only way to socialise was to physically visit. So, there were parties and house calls and tea, and all the rest of it, a lot of which happened in the garden. So, your garden had better be on point. And if you saw someone’s garden that was better, you improved yours. And the cycle repeats. You added a new maze or a new hybrid or a water feature or hire a landscaper; whatever you had to do that set your garden apart.