The days are getting longer here in the UK and the air smells of spring. After a long winter, my mind is starting to turn towards the garden. The snowdrops are already out and the daffodils are just beginning to open.
It started me thinking about Regency gardens, and of the passage in Mansfield Park where Mr Rushworth is keen to have his own grounds remodelled by Repton. Garden design was revolutionised in the Georgian era by Capability Brown, who removed the hard lines and formal patterns of earlier eras and replaced them with soft and natural landscaping. The term, landscaping, came about because the gardens were designed to seem as though they were a part of the landscape instead of being something artificial and man-made tagged onto it. Following on from Capability Brown - so called because he spoke of the capabilities of a garden - was Humphrey Repton.
From Mansfield Park:
(Mr Rushworth) had been visiting a friend in the neighbouring county, and that friend having recently had his grounds laid out by an improver, Mr. Rushworth was returned with his head full of the subject, and very eager to be improving his own place in the same way; and though not saying much to the purpose, could talk of nothing else. The subject had been already handled in the drawing–room; it was revived in the dining–parlour. Miss Bertram’s attention and opinion was evidently his chief aim; and though her deportment showed rather conscious superiority than any solicitude to oblige him, the mention of Sotherton Court, and the ideas attached to it, gave her a feeling of complacency, which prevented her from being very ungracious.
“I wish you could see Compton,” said he; “it is the most complete thing! I never saw a place so altered in my life. I told Smith I did not know where I was. The approach now, is one of the finest things in the country: you see the house in the most surprising manner. I declare, when I got back to Sotherton yesterday, it looked like a prison— quite a dismal old prison.”
“Oh, for shame!” cried Mrs. Norris. “A prison indeed? Sotherton Court is the noblest old place in the world.”
“It wants improvement, ma’am, beyond anything. I never saw a place that wanted so much improvement in my life; and it is so forlorn that I do not know what can be done with it.”
“No wonder that Mr. Rushworth should think so at present,” said Mrs. Grant to Mrs. Norris, with a smile; “but depend upon it, Sotherton will have every improvement in time which his heart can desire.”
“I must try to do something with it,” said Mr. Rushworth, “but I do not know what. I hope I shall have some good friend to help me.”
“Your best friend upon such an occasion,” said Miss Bertram calmly, “would be Mr. Repton, I imagine.”
“That is what I was thinking of. As he has done so well by Smith, I think I had better have him at once. His terms are five guineas a day.”
Anyone wanting to see a Regency garden these days can visit one at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, where they have restored the garden to be in keeping with the era of the building. For more details, have a look on their website here
The gardens are beautiful and they give a good idea of the kind of views our heroes and heroines would have had from their windows.