The 18th century Picturesque Garden movement in England reflected a changing attitude to nature.
Rather than formality and control, garden design was inspired by the new fashion for paintings of wild, romantic landscapes. With banks of long grass, artificially aged structures, and respect for local flora, the Picturesque Garden movement made a revolutionary statement about the rigors of aristocracy.
These gardens were intended to appeal not only to the eyes, but to the heart and mind. Often they were deliberately kept wild and overgrown.
Within the naturalistic looking gardens of this era, there was often a sequence of features that referred to a fantasy story or classical legend. A recurrent theme was a ritual journey where an individual’s character is tested.
The Picturesque Garden at Hamilton Gardens makes reference to the story of The Magic Flute. Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791, just months before his death, the fairy tale opera tells of a hero’s journey through trials to enlightenment and love.
Along with many other influential thinkers of the time, Mozart was a Mason. His fantasy-filled opera is laden with Masonic symbols, which were also commonly found in garden designs of that period. Symbolism that can found in our garden varies from lions and sphinxes to Palladian pavilions and the three forms of classical pillar.
The fashion for the Picturesque was at its peak in author Jane Austen’s time. “A prettyish kind of wilderness” (as she put it in her novel Pride and Prejudice) was highly sought after. This style of landscape architecture became widely popular outside of England too, from Stockholm and Naples to St Petersberg and the Hudson Valley.