In the early 18th century many people rebelled against the formal gardens of the Renaissance and preferred a more ‘natural’ style. Two of the most famous gardeners of that time were William Kent (1685-1748) and Charles Bridgeman (1690-1738). In 1731 William Kent was employed to redesign a garden at Chiswick. He also created a garden at Rousham, which still exists much as he designed it.
The most famous gardener of the 18th century was Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Kent and Bridgeman mixed formal and informal elements in their gardens but Capability Brown adopted a completely informal style. He wanted to ‘improve’ nature not rework it. Brown sought to remove the ‘roughness’ of a landscape and perfect it but afterwards, it should be almost indistinguishable from a landscape created entirely by nature.
After Brown came the famous gardener Humphry Repton (1752-1818). He first became a gardener in 1788 and even within his lifetime a reaction began against the informal landscaping style towards more formal gardens.
Meanwhile in 1725 the Society of Gardeners was founded in England. In London, public gardens were created – although you had to pay to view them. In 1804 the Horticultural Society was formed. (It became a royal society in 1861).
In 1829 Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward accidentally discovered that if plants were kept sealed under glass they formed their own micro-climate. During the day the plants transpired water. At night it condensed on the glass and fell onto the soil where it was reabsorbed by the plants. Creating sealed micro-climates made it much easier to transport plants around the world.
Many new plants were introduced into Europe in the 19th century including the monkey puzzle or Chile pine. Then, in 1830 Edwin Beard Budding (1796-1846) invented the lawn mower.
In the 19th century gardeners began to build large greenhouses or conservatories to provide plants with both heat and light. The largest was Crystal Palace, built in 1851 by Joseph Paxton (1806-1865). (Paxton was one of the great gardeners of the 19th century although he was also an engineer and architect).
In the 19th century as well as well-trimmed lawns massed or carpet bedding of flowers became popular. There were other changes. In the 19th century, the middle class grew in numbers and in wealth. As well as great estates gardens attached to suburban villas became important. A new style of garden evolved called gardenesque, which displayed a wide variety of plants in a limited space.
Many 19th century gardens also had rock gardens. They were only invented at the end of the 18th century but they became popular in the 19th century.
In the early 19th century the most famous gardener was John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843). Loudon led a return to geometric gardens when he published his book Remarks on Laying out Public Gardens and Promenades in 1835. Loudon also wrote a book for middle class gardeners, The Suburban Gardener and Villa Companion in 1838. His wife Jane Loudon (1807-1858) also wrote books including The Ladies Companion to the Flower Garden and Instructions in Gardening for Ladies.
Slightly later the famous gardener Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) introduced the Italian style into England. It was a return to geometric gardens and it proved to be popular.
In the 19th century Chinese style gardens were also popular. In the late 19th century some gardeners tried to imitate Japanese gardens. Meanwhile, in the late 19th century a more natural style of gardening became fashionable led by the famous gardener William Robinson (1838-1935). He published his ideas in The Wild Garden in 1870. Robinson advocated planting a mixture of trees and shrubs, perennials and bulbs.
Furthermore in the 19th century towns and cities boomed in size. Workers were herded together in cramped and unsanitary houses but in the latter half of the 19th century local authorities began creating public parks for them.
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century some gardeners were influenced by the arts and crafts movement. Its followers fled the industrial revolution and mass production had led to a decline in taste. They yearned for a past age of individual craftsmen. Influenced by the movement some gardeners had an idealized view of old fashioned cottage gardens. They designed gardens with trellises of flowers, neat hedges and old fashioned English flowers.
In the early 20th century Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) became a famous gardener and she designed many gardens. Sir Edward Lutyens (1869-1944) sometimes worked with Jekyll. Other famous gardeners of the 20th century were Frederick Gibberd (1908-1984), Sylvia Crowe (1901-1997) and Russell Page (1906-1985) who wrote an influential book The Education of a Gardener. Other famous gardeners were Harold Peto (1854-1933) and Lawrence Johnston (1871-1958).
In the 20th century there was a new movement in architecture and gardening called modernism. The modernists rejected copying old styles of gardening and advocated starting afresh using modern materials. Modernists liked gardens to be ‘uncluttered’.
In 1926 a German engineer called Andreas Stihl developed the chain saw and in 1963 the first hover mower went on sale.
In the 20th century as incomes rose gardening became a popular hobby. A number of famous gardeners appeared including Percy Thrower (1913-1988) Alan Titchmarsh, Monty Don, and Charlie Dimmock.