In 1650 English essayist Francis Bacon wrote, “Men come to build stately sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were the greater perfection.” Trace 1000 years of British garden history from its earliest beginnings through the 18th century. Perfecting the art of gardening has been an active pursuit of many civilizations, though none have worked at it so long or so diligently as the British. Medieval monastic gardens cultivated medicinal and edible plants in practical yet beautiful layouts. In the late 1500s, two of Queen Elizabeth I’s most trusted advisors competed for her favor by creating sensational garden works of art inspired by French and Italian pleasure gardens. By the mid-18th century English gardens became less formal and more naturalistic, a trend led by Lancelot “Capability” Brown, a master landscape gardener. England’s great landscape parks owe much of their present character to Brown; under his influence, English gardens took on a back-to-nature look with acres and acres of rolling lawns, trees, and streams.
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