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Creating An Authentic Colonial Garden


Colonial gardens of wealthy landowners

The country estates of the wealthy landowners usually exemplified a combination of both naturalistic and formal garden designs. The popularity of Lancelot "Capability" Brown's naturalistic landscape styles in England influenced the garden styles of wealthy colonial American landowners like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Both Washington and Jefferson incorporated Capability Brown's landscape style of open lawns and groves of trees into their gardens at Mount Vernon and Monticello. Washington and Jefferson, as were the other wealthy landowners of the time, not completely taken by Brown's naturalistic landscape style as most kept formal garden designs around their mansions.


Colonial gardens of merchants and townsmen

The gardens of the merchants and townsmen in the cities and towns of colonial America differed greatly from those in the country. The gardens of merchants and townsmen were usually formal, laid out in a symmetrical pattern with each side of a central walkway reflecting the other. These gardens imitated the formal patterns which many of the merchants and townsmen were familiar with in Europe. Since these gardens were located within the colonial cities and towns, the plots of land were constricted by streets and buildings. Because of these constraints, a formal garden design worked well within this location. These formal gardens were placed near the home and were usually surrounded by a fence, wall, or a hedge to provide some privacy along with protection against the wind and animals. The walkways within the garden determined the size and shape--rectangular, triangular, or round, of the flower and garden beds. While the set up of the merchants and townsmen colonial gardens were similar in design, the plant material varied with the owner. Native trees, fruit trees, shrubs, herbs, fruits and vegetables could all be found within these gardens. Also specimen plants such as evergreen topiary, arbors, statues, and sundials were used in the colonial gardens of merchants and townsmen.