Twentieth Century Gardens

1900 – 1920 Arts & Crafts and Italianate Style

The style of gardening that accompanied Arts & Crafts houses reached their peak before 1914, with Gertrude Jekyll leading the way in design ideas and crucially plant selection. Her partnership with the architect, Edwin Lutyens, set a high standard that many aspire to today. These (often) new houses and gardens were firmly rooted in the English tradition, not of the 18th century landscape garden but further back to Tudor and Jacobean period. While Jekyll and Lutyens mixed the formal with the informal, others preferred a formality based on the Italian villas of the 16th and 17th centuries. This was not the first time Italy had inspired English gardens. However their influence arguably had a greater impact, as many of these Italian villas were now owned by Anglo-Americans.

1920 – 1950 Modernism vs the neo-Georgians

The First World War had a devastating impact on Britain and many houses and gardens never returned to their pre-war splendour. For some of the landscape architects of that period, such as Christopher Tunnard, it was an opportunity to do something radically different. Inspired by the Modernist movement in architecture, he sought to challenge the design ideas of the Arts & Crafts exponents. It seemed though that they were firmly entrenched and seminal gardens such as Hidcote and Sissinghurst won the day. This was further re-enforced as owners started opening up their gardens to the public and their layout of ‘garden rooms’ provided inspiration for those with more modest spaces.

1950 – 2000 Landscape Architecture and Gardens for all

The Institute of Landscape Architecture had been set up in 1929 but it did not really come into its own until the 1950s. Large urban areas were being rebuilt and the experience of the 19th public parks, demonstrated the need to consider green space. The 1951 Festival of Britain was designed to showcase the new ideas. In the private sphere, more people had a garden and the resources to develop it. The aspiring gardener could now visit more historic gardens (courtesy of the National Trust and others), read about and see new design ideas on television. Many adopted the popular ‘cottage garden’ style espoused by Margery Fish. There were however post-modern designers such as Ian Hamilton Finlay, who sought to challenge our ideas of what a garden is…