Sojourns in nature : the origins of the British rock garden
The popularity of the rock garden is seen as a late nineteenth century phenomenon, which followed the creation of the Backhouse Nursery rock garden in York, England, in 1859, although a few earlier gardens are sometimes mentioned as isolated incidents. This thesis proposes that the rock garden evolved out of efforts to cultivate alpine and rock plants, and traces interest in their collection back to sixteenth century Europe. A terraced garden at le Jardin des Plantes, Montpellier, France, indicates that by 1598 there was interest in simulating specialized plant habitats. The earliest known rock garden was built in Orford, England, about 1767, and by the early nineteenth century, rock gardens were popular garden features, as may be seen from the numbers of articles in the horticultural press. From these published accounts, the design, construction, culture, planting, and maintenance of rock gardens are compared and studied. As proof that rock gardens were created as places to grow alpine and rock plants from the first, lists of alpine and rock plants recommended for gardens between 1789 and 1856 are analyzed. The majority of the plants on these lists were low, spreading, needed the improved drainage offered by the structure of the rock garden, and, to a lesser extent, had alpine origins. Between 1789 and 1856 the reasons for plant choice did not change significantly. This thesis explores the origins of the rock garden, studies its history, and analyzes its structure and plants to place it in context with the rest of landscape history.