Professor W, a bulwark of good sense, whose works stand above East Anglia like the ribs of a mighty vessel disdainful of the surrounding swamp, has noted that the old orchard at Chatsworth was brought into the garden there in 1697.
Now Mr P of Bakewell asks me what this means, why the orchard should have lain outside the garden in the first place, and what, in a later age, Chatsworth’s chap, the creative Capability Brown would have made of it.
Fair questions, and I put them to my good old friend and master, Mr M of Cambo, who took the view that little is more pleasing to the eye than a border of shrubs against a wall tumbled over with fruit trees. His seems to have been a 17th century eye for beauty, but it is one that you can trace through the centuries – the ‘house orchard’ at Aberdour became a ‘wilderness’ in the middle of the 18th, and the wilderness at Kensington was planted from 1701 in ‘that part of Kensington garden that formerly was an old Orchard’. The wilderness at Hampton Court was planted in the orchard in the second half of the 17th century, while Pepys described the metamorphosis of the Mulberry Gardens at St James’ into a wilderness in 1654, and the orchard at Petworth had become a ‘wilderness’ by 1635. Traffic was not all one way, mind you, and the wilderness at Bramshill by contrast became a Deer Orchard in the the early 18th century.
So Mr P there was a long tradition of planting orchards as gardens, and mixing the fruit with the flower, and Hirschfeld, for one, in his ruminations on English gardens, seems to have been regretful: ‘Wild, unpruned trees are too ardently preferred to lovely fruit trees, exotic varieties to native ones. There is an undue desire to turn everything into a wilderness, and gardens themselves often become hard to distinguish from common fields’.
But I leave you with a verse from his Ecclesiastes, paraphras’d written by Francis Quarles, as he searched for peace after the Civil War:
‘I made me fruitful Orchards for my Pleasure,
And curious Gardens to refresh my Leisure,
I stored them with Trees, and these with Bowers,
And made a Paradise of Fruits and Flowers.
I made me standing Pools, to entertain
My breathless Guests and all their num’rous Train
I cut me Aqueducts, whose Current flees
And waters all my Wilderness of trees’.