Mobile menu

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)

People walking in the gardens at South Kensington

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.

William Leighton Leitch (1804-83)

The Horticultural Gardens, South Kensington

Attributed to Josef and Ludwig Lobmeyr


Caleb Robert Stanley (1795-1868)

Adelaide Cottage, Windsor Home Park

James Digman Wingfield (1800-72)

A Summer Afternoon at Hampton Court

Attributed to Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom (1844-1925)

The garden at Birkhall

Beatrice Parsons (1870-1955)

July Border, Ashfold, Handcross

William Leighton Leitch (1804-83)

The Swiss Cottage, Osborne House

William Leighton Leitch (1804-83)

Osborne House from below the terrace

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73)

Queen Victoria with Prince Arthur


Azelea and Pansies

Empress Friedrich, consort of Friedrich III, Emperor of Germany & King of Prussia, 1st daughter of Queen Victoria (1840-1901)

The Princess Royal's fan

Francis Bacon, 1st Baron Verulam & Viscount St Albans (1561-1626)

Of gardens : an essay / by Francis Bacon.