Mr J, the braggart, writes from the Cotswolds to tell me he has twelve garden rooms and boasts that that is twice as many as Capability Brown ever managed in the 18th century.
I take it that he means that his garden is broken up into twelve separate areas, which is what they call gardening in the Cotswolds. His boast is a good one, Brown did propose a series of garden rooms in his first plan for Petworth, but as a rule he did not favour them – secret gardens, such as the flower gardens at Nuneham, Blenheim and Wardour, were an interest, but a string of distinct gardens separated by hedges? – no, not for him. It was Humphry Repton, Brown’s successor in the landscape trade, who brought them back. Of course there is Mount Edgcombe with which HR may or may not have been involved, but the idea was greatly developed by him: ‘The gardens, or pleasure-grounds, near a house, may be considered as so many different apartments belonging to its state, its comfort, and its pleasure. The magnificence of the house depends on the number, as well as the size of its rooms; and the similitude between the house and the garden may be justly extended to the mode of decoration’.
These rooms he designed to appeal to the different causes of beauty, of association and so on, but he also intended that each enclosure should develop different micro-climates and hence grow different types of plant (most obviously the green-house garden was designed to grow plants that were not hardy). As he wrote of Montreal in 1812: ‘The separate and detached gardens and inclosures scattered over the place, are beautiful in themselves but do not blend sufficiently with the general scenery. These detached gardens as episodes to the great Lawn, might each be varied in its character as The Arboretum – the American Garden – The Thornery – the Evergreen – the Aquatic – the Wild flower garden etc. etc.’
So it was that Repton could advertise the kitchen garden as another set of garden rooms, ‘We show our friends and visitors the neat mown walk and shrubberies as they would be introduced into a drawing room, but the Kitchen Garden like the common living apartments is for the Constant use and amusement of the family.’ For Brown too the kitchen garden was all important, but I don’t imagine that he understood it as a room. I’m not sure he’d have given an XXXX for the idea.