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How to Improve Your Garden - Regency Style

Are you tired of your garden’s symmetrical design? Are you sick of trees lining every walk as if they were planted with a measuring stick? Are you totally over your lawn looking like it stepped out of the early 18th century? Then you are ready for improvements!

Gardens of Branicki Palace, Poland, 18th-century print by Tirregaille (top); Water at Wentworth, Yorkshire, by Repton (bottom), both images appear courtesy of Wikicommons

In “Mansfield Park,” Mr. Rushworth is very interested in “improving” his property by updating his gardens to a modern Regency style. According to David Shapard's annotated "Mansfield Park," traditional formal gardens were arranged in geometric symmetrical patterns and long walks were lined with trees planted at regular intervals. As the those fashions faded in the middle to late 18th century, wealthy landowners began to favor a more natural design with meandering paths and scattered clumps of foliage. Mrs. Norris calls such a grouping of trees (or sometimes other plants) a “plantation,” not to be confused with the American term. Another big change was to obscure the front of a building with trees and shrubbery until one was so close that it surprised the visitor with its massive size. Both styles, however, maintained edible plants such as the apricots Dr. Grant ignores.

Portrait of Humphry Repton, courtesy Wikicommons

In discussing Mr. Rushworth’s grand designs, he and the Bertrams mention a Mr. Repton. Humphry Repton was real person and he really did charge 5 guineas (a guinea being just over a pound) per day for his services. Jane Austen knew this because her cousins had hired him to improve the Adlestrop estate in Gloucestershire. He wrote and illustrated several books regarding landscaping and gardening, and his works are still available today.

Here’s a few of his hot tips:

* Shrubbery is a great way to partition off different areas of your yard.

* Avoid mixing and matching looks, like Gothic with Greek.

* Man-made lakes are acceptable, but don’t create fake ruins on your property.

* When placing a water feature, put it on a lower elevation than on a hill.

To read more of Repton's hot tips and insights, check out his book “The Landscape Gardening and Landscape Architecture of the Late Humphrey Repton, Esq.”


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