Formal Gardens and the Influence of Addison, Pope, and Switzer
Inspired by trends on the Continent, the gardens of seventeenth-century England were formal, consisting of neatly trimmed and arranged plants and flowers, straight tree-lined avenues, and “canals” of water. Parterres, topiaries, and ornate fountains worked together to create the perfectly ordered and controlled environment epitomized by André Le Nôtre in the famous gardens of Versailles. Gardens were not only places of rest and reflection, but also a symbol of wealth, power, and culture.
By the start of the eighteenth century, design and interpretation of formal English gardens came into question as the elite experienced the Italian landscape and gardens through the Grand Tour. Literary figures such as Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, and William Shenstone wrote of the importance of literary structures and allusion in garden design. Pope demonstrated his genius loci through his Twickenham garden. Stephen Switzer was the first professional gardener and designer to employ the techniques described by Pope and Addison.