There are many grand estate gardens that can be visited. My recent visit to the Georgian Garden in Bath enabled me to see what an urban garden of the time would have looked like. The original garden from the 1770s had been buried following a change of level. An archaeological dig provided a magnificently preserved layout for a recreation.
Optimum View from the House
Georgian gardens were designed to be seen from the house. They were not seen as an extension of the house or as an outdoor room as they are today. The house’s occupants would have looked down on the garden from above. They would have had to pass through the servants’ areas of the house to access the garden directly.
Our modern concept of a garden needs a change of both physical and ideological perspective to appreciate the layout. The two beds running along each wall down the garden are not as straight as they appear, they are deliberately angled to make the most of the perspective from the house.
A Georgian Garden Uncovered
The Georgian Garden was recreated at No. 4 The Circus in Bath following an archaeological dig at the site. The project was undertaken by the Bath Archaeological Trust with the Bath Preservation Trust and the Garden History Society (now the Gardens Trust). The garden is markedly formal in style. There is no grass. Instead, there are 3 distinctive beds surrounded by gravel and some paving. Topiary is used to clip Yew and Box into neat shapes.
Before the Plant Hunting Craze
My main interest in the visit was discovering which plants were grown in Georgian gardens before the explosion of exotic plants into British gardens. Plant hunting expeditions transformed the British approach to gardening. Unfortunately, the archaeological dig and documentary searches revealed little about the plants that were grown at No. 4. Pollen analysis did not help the investigation either. The garden was recreated using plants known to have been in use in Georgian times within the layout exposed by the dig.
Garden Plants in Use
Despite my initial disappointment, I noted down all the plants growing in the garden from the little plant signs or from recognition. A few photos and a table of my discoveries follow.
|Botanical Name||Vernacular Name||Origin||Comments|
|Arbutus unedo||Strawberry Tree||Native|
|Artemisia arbrotanum||Southernwood||Origin uncertain but perhaps E. Anatolia||Grown in British gardens from 995 AD|
|Buxus sempervirens||Box||Very local as native, widely planted throughout Britain||Clipped and used to mark boundaries to borders|
|Campanula persicifolia||Peach-leaved Bellflower||Europe, now absent as a native from much of Western Europe.||Introduced into cultivation before 1596|
|Carex pendula||Pendulous Sedge||Native|
|Catananche caerulea||Cupid’s Dart||Western North Africa and South-Western Europe||Supposedly used by the ancient Greeks in love potions|
|Centranthus ruber||Red and White Valerian||Mediterannean||Grown in Britain from 1597|
|Cornus alba||White Dogwood||Eurasia||Introduced to cultivation in 1751|
|Dianthus barbatus||Sweet William||Mediterranean, southern and central Europe.||Cultivation in monastic gardens from 16th century|
|Eryngium maritimum||Sea Holly||Native|
|Ficus carica||Fig||Northern Asian Minor, spread by Romans and Greeks||Cultivation in Britain from 15th century|
|Geranium sp.||Geranium/Cranesbill||Native and introduced European species||One flower that was recorded as being in the garden|
|Helleborus foetidus||Bearsfoot, Stinking Hellebore||Native|
|Helleborus niger||Christmas Rose||Alps||Brought to Britain by Romans and cultivated during Middle Ages|
|Ilex aquifolium||Silver Variegated Holly||Native, but variegated cultivated||Georgians were interested in the variety offered by variegated plants|
|Iris foetidissima||Stinking Iris||Native|
|Jasminum officinale||Jasmine||Uncertain Central Asia origin, cultivated via Sicily’s Arab-Norman culture||William Turner noted it as garden plant in London in 1548|
|Knautia arvensis||Field Scabious||Native|
|Laurus nobilis||Bay Laurel||Mediterannean||Cultivation in Britain dates back to 1592|
|Lychnis coronaria||Rose Campion||South and especially South-East Europe, and South-west Asia.||Known in Britain by mid-14th century.|
|Malus domestica||Apple||Kazakhstan||Cultivation brought by Romans|
|Narcissus poeticus||Poet’s Daffodil, Pheasant’s Eye Daffodil||Mountain’s of Southern Europe||Cultivated in Britain by 1538. Not in flower during visit, but sign denoted its springtime presence.|
|Nigella damascena||Love-in-a-mist||Mediterannean||Introduced and cultivated since 16th century|
|Paeonia officinalis||Peony||Southern Europe||Introduced before 1548|
|Primula vulgaris||Primrose||Native||Only vegetation seen during visit|
|Pyracantha sp.||Pyracantha or Firethorn||South Europe and South-west Asia||Cultivated in British gardens by 1629|
|Rosa sp.||Rose||Native||Now widely hybridised|
|Santolina chamaecyparissus||Cotton-lavender, Lavender-cotton||Mediterannean||Introduced to Britain by 1548|
|Symphytum orientale||White Comfrey||South Russia, North West Turkey and the Caucasus||Introduced to British gardens by 1752|
|Taxus baccata||Yew||Native||Topiarised Yew|
|Verbena bonariensis||Argentinian/Clusterflower Vervain||Argentina and Brazil||Introduced to UK in 1970s. CABI invasive. Notorious self-seeder out of place in Georgian garden?|
|Veronica spicata||Spiked Speedwell||Native, but now rare protected species in wild||Cultivated varieties|
|Viburnum tinus||Laurustinus||Mediterannean||Introduced before 1596|
|Vinca minor ‘Variegata’||Variegated Lesser Periwinkle||Believed native to S., W. & C. Europe, C. & S. Russia||Vinca minor was grown in British gardens from 995 AD. Georgians interested in variegated plants|
Table above: Bath Georgian Garden Plant List as seen on 17th June 2022
© Karen Andrews
References and Other Reading
- Bath & North East Somerset Council (2022): Georgian Garden.
- Bell, Robert D. (1990): The Discovery of a Buried Georgian Garden in Bath. Garden History. Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring 1990. pp. 1-21. The Gardens Trust. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1586977
- Biological Records Centre (): Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora
- Cuthbertson, Yvonne (2007): Number 4 Bath Circus: A Georgian Garden Reborn. 24 June 2007. TimeTravel.Britain.com
- Russiello, James (2007): 070624. Walcot, Georgian Garden of No. 4 King’s Circus. Bath Daily Photo Blog.
- Streeter, David et al. (2016): Collins Wild Flower Guide. 2nd Edition. William Collins.
- Taylor, Patrick (2003): The Gardens of Britain & Ireland. Dorling Kindersley. (The Georgian Garden p.38).
- Wyatt, Richard (2016): Bath Newseum No. 4. 29 September 2016.
Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.