Melbourne Cottage Gardens owe much to the English cottage gardens of the 1800s. If you have a Cottage Style Home or a heritage style home, there is a lot you can do in the garden to give your home garden that authentic look. Many of the garden design ideas can also be applied to you small Melbourne garden.
The history of Cottage Gardens.
Melbourne cottage gardens designs can trace their heritage back to the English cottage gardens of the 19th century. These, in turn have origins going back centuries earlier in 87 AD. When the Romans invaded Britain, they brought with them many plants with both medicinal and food supply purposes. Later, Emperor Charlemagne even went so far as to recommend what plants should be grown. In Capitulare de villis, which guided the governance of royal estates, Charlemagne recommended many plants from southern Europe. These plants included gladiolus, cucumbers, melons, cumin, rosemary, artichokes and fennel. Many of these plants would have looked and tasted much different to the plants we harvest today. The result of Charlemagne’s decree in around 780 AD, was to greatly increase the variety of plants grown in the royal estates.
The Monastery Garden
The monks in monasteries created gardens to not only feed themselves, but also to produce medicines and essential oils. Within the walls of the monasteries, the monks developed sophisticated garden designs which formed the basis of the cottage gardens we know today. As well as food crops, monks also developed cheeses, beers and alcoholic spirits. Some the products developed by monks are still famous today. Monks also made money through the production of honey and lavender. Lavender water was manufactured my monks by diluting essential oils produced through the distillation of lavender flowers. This was an early example of a cottage industry.
The age of discovery lead to a boom in garden diversity. Many new garden plants were brought back from the new world and the Far East to add to the European plants already in cultivation. Botanical Gardens were established in most major cities to further horticultural research and the use of plants for medicinal purposes. Exotic plants were also propagated for their beauty as garden plants.
On a swampy site near the Yarra River, the Melbourne Botanical Gardens were established in 1846 by Lieutenant Governor Charles La Trobe. The first director of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens was famous Botanist Ferdinand Von Mueller. Von Mueller’s garden design included a formal garden with a specific educational purpose. This garden was designed to show the relationships between families of plants. Horticultural shows also took place in the gardens during Von Mueller’s time, bring the beauty of flowering plants to masses of people in inner city Melbourne.
Melbourne Botanical Gardens – The “Master of Landscaping”.
The next director after Von Mueller was the “master of landscaping” William Guilfoyle. During Guilfoyle’s time in charge, many of the landscaping features in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens were established. This included the sweeping lawns and the use of foliage plants that we see in many Melbourne Gardens today.
The evolution of English Cottage Gardens
Industrialisation and urbanisation lead to changes to the English Cottage gardens. During the industrial revolution, the philanthropic movements assisted Britain’s poor to establish their own garden allotments. These enabled families to grow fruit and vegetables either next to their house or together in green belts in the towns and villages. This no doubt improved the quality of life amongst English families.
With greater middle-class wealth, many humble cottage gardens began to emulate the plantings seen in the wealthy estates. Cottage gardens were no longer just to sustain a family but became a source of beauty as well.
Cottage Gardens and the Arts and Crafts Movement
The excesses of industrialisation during the Victorian era lead to the establishment of the Arts and Crafts movement. This was born of a desire to restore simplicity to buildings and furnishings and revive traditional craftsmanship. The effect of this movement on garden design and in particular cottage garden design, was enormous.
These gardens used natural materials and traditional craftsmanship and echoed the architectural elements of the garden design.