Welcome to Tuck’s Famous Old Gardens
Quaint. I have never visited or been guided through an English garden without hearing the word, “quaint.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word as, “something unusual in appearance, pleasingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar.”
The sets of “garden” postcards published by Raphael Tuck & Sons include two series of “Famous Old Gardens.” Several of the images appear as early as 1905 and were available in the USA and home catalogs until 1932. The individual responsible for the titles on Tuck cards must have liked the word, Picturesque. Throughout the early catalogs at least four sets appeared as Picturesque. There were picturesque gardens, counties, countries, nooks and even some picturesque people. Most of the picturesque places were in the United Kingdom, but a few of the sets included locations elsewhere in Europe and in North Africa and Asia.
The two series of cards published by Tuck & Sons that were devoted to Famous Old Gardens in the United Kingdom are the focus of today’s adventure in the flowers.
Series I, Set No. 9467*
Series one was sold as a set of six, primarily in Great Britain, under the title Picturesque Gardens, however a customer in the USA could order the set through the catalog as early as 1908/1909.
Series II, Set No. 9484*
Those who cherish and keep a typical 18th century English garden, see their work as a revolt against those of antiquity. By the 1730s the preference for the industrial or architectural garden that used formal or patterned arrangements and relied on geometric design, patterns, sculpture, and the unnatural shaping of trees and shrubs had passed.
The revolutionary character of the English garden lay in the fact that, whereas gardens had formerly asserted man’s control over nature, in the new style, man’s work was regarded as most successful when it was indistinguishable from nature’s. In the architectural garden the eye had been directed along artificial, linear vistas that implied man’s continued control of the surrounding countryside. The English garden, however, had a more natural atmosphere and irregular formality was achieved in landscapes consisting of expanses of grass, clumps of trees, and irregularly shaped bodies of water.
Much of the philosophy of gardening is laid at the feet of the English landscape gardener William Kent. Little of what you see on these postcard can be attributed to Kent, but his influence of others is profound.
By the 1730s Kent had become a fashionable architect, yet many thought his buildings were too severe. To mollify the public, it was in his gardens that Kent displayed his most creative spirit. In places like Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire he designed gardens with winding paths and open vistas. Some paths being capped with classical temples in deep woodlands. By the second half of the 18th century Kent had been dead for nearly a century but his gardening concepts were more popular than ever – especially in France and America.
* Special Thanks to Lora Moore who donated the cards for this article.