Best of British lawns! Anyone for croquet in an English garden?
|Montacute in Somerset, which dates back to Elizabethan times|
Britain has one aspect of gardening that's famous throughout the world - its lawns! English gardens have always been celebrated, but where did we get this concept of huge green tracts of land synonymous with large country houses? It's origins are unclear, but there's little doubt that when you see this feature in a garden, it leaves a lasting impression, like Montacute House in Somerset (above). Nothing is more pleasing to the eye that an immaculately mown lawn, especially if you haven't had to mow it yourself!
|Lawn is a major feature at Mapperton in Dorset, a fine example of a Jacobean house|
The word "laune" dates back to the 16th century, but is thought to have its origins in the Celtic language, where it meant enclosure. And although it's unclear how this word became "lawn", the history of large areas of cut grass has been integral to British garden design since gardens were first created here in Tudor and Elizabethan times (see Montacute, top). They were used for social gatherings, and by the time Jacobean architecture had become fashionable, they became synonymous with aristocracy. Take Mapperton House in Dorset (above) as a fine example, where large areas of lawn are part of the garden design.
|Rousham House is one of the best examples of William Kent's "landscape gardening" style|
The garden at Rousham House in Oxfordshire is one of the finest examples of William Kent's work, and clearly demonstrates the style of gardening introduced in the 18th century - landscape gardening - where the lawn flows into the open landscape. Both he and Lancelot "Capability" Brown, brought British gardens to a new height when they started designing huge gardens, where emphasis is entirely on the overall aspect of the garden and blending it into the country beyond, using statuary and landscape features to draw your eye into the distance.
|There's nothing more appealing than clean-mown lawn lines, seen here at Hever Castle|
|The croquet lawn at Lytes Cary in Somerset|
And then of course there's our croquet and tennis lawns, dating back to the 19th century. The All England Croquet Club was formed in 1868 and there's nothing better than seeing a game in progress on a hot summer's day here in the UK. The All England Tennis Club was formed just a decade later in 1877 - both started new worldwide trends in ball games, and there can be few of us left who don't sometimes sneak in and watch play at Wimbledon on our televisions during the annual tournament! Notable National Trust gardens with croquet lawns include Lytes Cary Manor (above) and Hidcote (below).
|If you can bear to leave the garden, find time to watch the croquet at Hidcote Manor|
I'm sure that I, like most of us, prefer to look at a lawn rather than mow it and there's plenty of gardens here in the UK where you can do just that. And James Dent echoes my sentiments exactly, when he says: "A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing and the lawn mower is broken".