Philip Miller was never afraid to make his opinions known and his books carried advice and his often strident views on C.18th Topiary, Taste & Hedges.
Topiary, Taste & Hedges
The taste in gardening having been greatly altered of late years for the better, these clipped Hedges have been almost excluded; and it is to be hoped, that a little time will entirely banish them out of the English gardens, as it has already been done by the shorn Evergreens, which, a few years since, were esteemed the greatest beauties of gardens.
The latter was introduced by the Dutch gardeners, and that of tall Hedges with trellis-work, was in imitation of the French gardens; in home of which, the expense of the iron trellis, to support the trees which compose their cabinets, pavilions, bowers, porticoes, and other pieces of rural architecture, amounted to a very great sum. I have been informed this work, in one garden, has cost above twenty thousand crowns*; and this only to train up trees in the distorted shape of pillasters, niches, cornices, pediments, &c, when at the same time, these can no longer retain the forms intended, than they are kept closely shorn into them for no sooner do the trees begin to make fresh shoots, but the whole frame is altered and instead of carrying the fine finished appearance of a regular piece of architecture, it is grown into a rude unpolished form.
This expensive sort of work never has made much progress in England, but that part of the French taste, in surrounding all the several divisions of gardens with tall clipped Hedges, making great alleys, forming the walks into stars, have too much obtained for some years past in England and the taller these clipped Hedges were, the more they were admired, though many times they shut out from the view the sight of some of the noblest Oaks, and other timber trees, growing in the quarters, which are infinitely more pleasing to a person of true taste, than all the ridiculous forms it is possible for trees to be framed in by art. Besides, when the expense of keeping these Hedges, together with the great litter they occasion when clipped, is considered, these, added to many other reasons which might be given, are sufficient to exclude them out of gardens, where they can never be esteemed necessary, but to shut out from the view the fight of worse objects.
* A staggering £900,000 in today’s money
In the next post we’ll discover what Mr Miller has to say about one of our favourites – the Hornbeam