A Georgian Garden Recreated

The recreated Georgian Garden in Bath as seen from the bottom of the garden. Georgian homes were not designed to be seen from the rear. There is a marked contrast between the magnificence of the frontage in The Circus and the rear view. © Karen Andrews
The unremarkable entrance into the walled Georgian Garden from Gravel Walk at the rear of No. 4 The Circus, Bath. © Karen Andrews

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.

Perspective

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.

The Georgian Garden seen from above to appreciate its best aspect. Unfortunately, it is not possible to photograph with the full, central Georgian viewpoint, as the house is not open to the public. Instead, I climbed the steps at the rear entrance to take the above, rather more diagonal shot. © Karen Andrews

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 surrounding by gravel and some paving. Topiary is use to clip Yew and Box into neat shapes.

Before the Plant Hunting Craze

My main interest in the visit was discover 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.

Fan-trained Apple Tree, Malus domestica ‘Old Pearmain’. © Karen Andrews
Botanical NameVernacular Name OriginComments
Arbutus unedoStrawberry TreeNative
Artemisia arbrotanumSouthernwoodOrigin uncertain but perhaps E. AnatoliaGrown in British gardens from 995 AD
Buxus sempervirensBoxVery local as native, widely planted throughout BritainClipped and used to mark boundaries to borders
Campanula persicifoliaPeach-leaved BellflowerEurope, now absent as a native from much of Western Europe.Introduced into cultivation before 1596
Carex pendulaPendulous SedgeNative
Catananche caeruleaCupid’s DartWestern North Africa and South-Western EuropeSupposedly used by the ancient Greeks in love potions
Centranthus ruberRed and White ValerianMediteranneanGrown in Britain from 1597
Cornus albaWhite DogwoodEurasiaIntroduced to cultivation in 1751
Dianthus barbatusSweet WilliamMediterranean, southern and central Europe.Cultivation in monastic gardens from 16th century
Eryngium maritimumSea HollyNative
Ficus caricaFigNorthern Asian Minor, spread by Romans and GreeksCultivation in Britain from 15th century
Geranium sp.Geranium/CranesbillNative and introduced European speciesOne flower that was recorded as being in the garden
Hedera helixIvyNative
Helleborus foetidusBearsfoot, Stinking HelleboreNative
Helleborus nigerChristmas RoseAlpsBrought to Britain by Romans and cultivated during Middle Ages
Ilex aquifoliumSilver Variegated HollyNative, but variegated cultivatedGeorgians were interested in the variety offered by variegated plants
Iris foetidissimaStinking IrisNative
Jasminum officinaleJasmineUncertain Central Asia origin, cultivated via Sicily’s Arab-Norman cultureWilliam Turner noted it as garden plant in London in 1548
Knautia arvensisField ScabiousNative
Laurus nobilisBay LaurelMediteranneanCultivation in Britain dates back to 1592
Lychnis coronariaRose CampionSouth and especially South-East Europe, and South-west Asia.Known in Britain by mid-14th century.
Malus domesticaApple KazakhstanCultivation brought by Romans
Narcissus poeticusPoet’s Daffodil, Pheasant’s Eye DaffodilMountain’s of Southern EuropeCultivated in Britain by 1538. Not in flower during visit, but sign denoted its springtime presence.
Nigella damascenaLove-in-a-mistMediteranneanIntroduced and cultivated since 16th century
Paeonia officinalisPeonySouthern EuropeIntroduced before 1548
Primula vulgarisPrimroseNativeOnly vegetation seen during visit
Pyracantha sp.Pyracantha or FirethornSouth Europe and South-west AsiaCultivated in British gardens by 1629
Rosa sp.RoseNativeNow widely hybridised
Santolina chamaecyparissusCotton-lavender, Lavender-cottonMediteranneanIntroduced to Britain by 1548
Symphytum orientaleWhite ComfreySouth Russia, North West Turkey and the CaucasusIntroduced to British gardens by 1752
Taxus baccataYewNativeTopiarised Yew
Thalictrum sp.Meadow-rueNative
Verbena bonariensisArgentinian/Clusterflower VervainArgentina and BrazilIntroduced to UK in 1970s. CABI invasive. Notorious self-seeder out of place in Georgian garden?
Veronica spicataSpiked SpeedwellNative, but now rare protected species in wildCultivated varieties
Viburnum tinusLaurustinusMediteranneanIntroduced before 1596
Vinca minor ‘Variegata’Variegated Lesser PeriwinkleBelieved 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

Note

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.

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