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The Horticultural Garden

Sat out under the trees, where it was really heavenly, and sketched. Every day, every year, this dear sweet spot seems more lovely and with its brilliant sunshine, deep blue sea and dazzling flowers, is a perfect paradise...

Queen Victoria on the gardens at Osborne House (Journal, 16 August 1855)

The Horticultural Gardens, South Kensington, 1861 by William Leighton Leitch©

Plants had become increasingly superfluous in the eighteenth-century garden. In the nineteenth century, nurture rather than nature became the dominant impetus once more. The true product on display in the garden was the horticultural expertise that allowed the increasingly global selection of plants to thrive. The Victorian period was the age of flowers: in parks, gardens, conservatories and potting sheds, flowers were tended and admired. Plants moved indoors as the language of flowers, a formalised scheme that gave meaning to specific flowers, became an increasingly popular diversion. It was commonly applied to luxury objects and gifts, particularly jewellery.

Although the potent symbolism of the royal garden party was first developed during Queen Victoria’s reign, royal gardens no longer dominated garden imagery in the Victorian age. With the development of mass-market garden journals for the middle classes and the invention of the lawnmower by Edward Budding in 1830, gardening became a pastime for all and England became a nation of gardeners. For the first time, gardens of all kinds began to appear in art, including the rural cottage garden. A number of artists working exclusively in watercolour in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were inspired to create an enduring vision of the English garden based on the cottage-garden style.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.