The traditional English landscape garden had lots of wall fountains and is thought to be a type of garden that was developed in 18th-century England, originating as a revolt against the architectural garden, which relied on rectilinear patterns, sculpture, and the unnatural shaping of trees. The revolutionary character of the English garden lay in the fact that, whereas gardens had formerly asserted man's control over nature, in the new style, man's work was regarded as most successful when it was indistinguishable from nature's. In the architectural garden the eye had been directed along artificial, linear vistas that implied man's continued control of the surrounding countryside, but in the English garden, a more natural, irregular formality was achieved in landscapes consisting of expanses of grass, clumps of trees, wall water fountains and irregularly shaped bodies of water.
English Gardens Change From Formal to Natural With the Addition of Wall Water Fountains
In the 16th century the English philosopher Francis Bacon was outspokenly critical of the artificiality of "knot gardens." He was supported in the early 18th century by Joseph Addison and Alexander Pope, who argued that trees should be allowed to grow into natural shapes; by the artist William Hogarth, who pointed out the beauty of a wavy line; and by a new attitude that nature was good. As the factotum of the Whig aristocracy, William Kent was responsible for beginning the wholesale transformation of the old formal parterres into the new fashion. The classic example of the transformation was at Stowe in Buckinghamshire, which included wall water fountains was where the greatest of England's formal gardens was developed by stages turned into a landscaped park under the influence of Kent and then of Lancelot Brown.
It is no stretch of the imagination to say that England has produced the most famous landscape gardens in the world. It has been said that gardens are to the English what cuisine is to the French. The English love their wall water fountains with incredible designs.
What Makes an English Landscape Garden Grow so Well?
There are many factors that differentiate English landscape gardens from American ones. The most obvious difference is the English climate. It offers ideal growing conditions for many plants because it lacks harsh extremes of temperature and provides necessary moisture throughout the growing season--conditions few areas in the United States can claim. Too many warm, sunny days in a row may be great for the gardener's disposition, but plants conditioned to moist, overcast days quickly begin to show signs of stress. The reverse also poses a problem: A string of rainy days may be great for the plants but can make it impossible to do much in the garden except hand weed. Wind also contributes to the look of English landscape gardens. The clipped yew hedges that serve as a background for seemingly endless borders were grown primarily to shelter plants. The wall water fountains are usually turned off and pipes drained during the winter months.
But it is not only what the English plant that makes their English landscape gardens so characteristic, it's where and how they plant. If there is a bit of bare dirt somewhere and a way to coax something to grow in it, count the space filled. Blank walls are strung with wire and every imaginable vine or shrub trained to grow up them. The wall fountains serve as a focal point for the overall design. Fruit trees and hedges serve as living trellises for clematis, roses, and other climbers. Plants are grown over, under, around, and through each other, creeping out onto gravel and stone paths and softening the hard lines of terraces and steps. Once garden space runs out, attention is turned to any object that will serve as a pot. Old horse tanks, bicycle baskets, kitchen sinks, and the occasional rusted teakettle can become home to some gem bought or "pinched" during a weekend garden visit.
Even the lawns in English landscape gardens are gardened by mowing different areas at varying heights and intervals. These areas, known as "rough-mown turf," not only provide an opportunity to experiment with line, pattern, and texture but also host naturalized plantings of bulbs and meadow plants. In addition, they serve as transitions between highly maintained areas of the English landscape garden and abutting naturalized areas, such as woodland or cropland.
Another aspect of English landscape gardening is the absence of power tools. Initially, it may seem quaint to learn to garden the old-fashioned way, all the time believing that it was simply because the rototiller may be broken. Rototillers are actually available but are seldom used because the action of the tines creates a hardpan that impedes drainage beneath the fluffed soil. In addition, the planting density is often so high that a tiller would damage the roots of nearby plants and destroy hidden bulbs. Tractors and wagons for transporting heavy materials are available also, but because most of the lawns are soft and impressionable, wheelbarrows are preferred--though they often are rusted out or plagued with a low or flat tire.
Give a man a bag full of seeds or a bucket of bulbs and he will plant them in a straight row every single time. Nature does not do this. Flowers and trees grow naturally in a random pattern, almost as if Mother Nature, herself has tossed the seeds and plants to land where they may. This philosophy is the entire basis for an English landscape garden and the wall water fountain is merely icing on the cake.
Elizabeth Jean is a writer, gardening enthusiast and frequent contributor to Garden-Fountains.com, a premier water feature web site where you can find a beautiful collection of indoor and outdoor fountains, waterfalls and garden statuary.