[No: XCVI |April 11, 2018 | By Viveka Hansen]
The history of gardens has quite often crossed my path during textile research. It may have been via etchings of wealthy visitors dressed in the latest fashion or gardeners in working dress, positioned in close surroundings of a manor house. Other evidence of pure economic or domestic use have been traced from contemporary written sources, for example in travel journals describing dye plants and mulberry trees in experimental plantations or botanical gardens. This essay will give a few examples of such observations, including various portrayed individuals as well as the exotic garden as an obvious status symbol – and how utilitarian gardens were put to the best possible use in a perspective of textile raw materials and dyes.
Leisure activities, luxury statements, walking or riding wealthy individuals in large gardens, greenhouses and orangeries with plants from far-flung parts of the world, were often present in these prints and etchings. An increasing trade via both East and West India Companies in Europe, scientific exploration, Grand Tours, curiosity of everything “exotic” as well as imperial expansion were important factors in making it possible for the prosperous in their everyday life to enjoy mulberry trees, carnations, figs, lemons etc all year around. At different levels this influenced the lives of royals, the landed aristocracy, gentry, bourgeois, merchants and farmers. ‘An idealised view of a gentleman’s garden’, was also a popular feature on etchings, with the fashionably dressed owner of the manor house gardening side by side with the gardeners in working dress.
It was not only the Dutch, English, French and present-day Germany gardens that presented a multitude of exotic plants; manor houses in the Nordic countries also featured greenhouse and orangery plants of importance. An informative example can, for instance, be found in an inventory of 1738 from the Hesselbyholm garden near Stockholm in Sweden, showing cultivation of such plants as ‘fig trees, mulberry trees, peach trees, orange trees, lemon trees, bitter (Seville) orange trees, small bay trees’. From a textile perspective, the cultivation of mulberry trees is interesting as the dream of a domestic sericulture was reinforced from around the 1730s through decrees against extravagance in an attempt to limit the import of silk and velvet. Whether these trees were intended for sericulture, the sweet berries or merely a decorative feature in the garden is difficult to say for certain as they are described as ‘15 large mulberry trees in large basins’. That the trees were already large by the year 1738, and moreover placed in basins, may indicate that what was described was the black mulberry tree, Morus nigra, on which the silk worms do not thrive as well as on Morus alba.
No life-size picture board dummies were mentioned in the Hesselbyholm inventory from 1738, but other decorative features were included, maybe some of them were depicting individuals. For example on page 4 of the inventory, in the Winter Quarter ’38 Images thereof 4 large which have 4 pedestals and 16 smaller with fine pedestals’ were listed. Additional adornment in the same quarter included ’45 painted flower canes with gilded tops’. Despite such detailed notes of expensive decorative plants and accessories, in this garden as well as in most gardens, the useful and economical realities were just as important as in the previous century. Including all areas of horticulture – medicinal plants, vegetable and fruit plantations, herbs as well as possible raw materials as flax and dye plants. Natural dyes and the economical advantages of domestic plantations for south-after dyestuffs were also studied by Carl Linnaeus and his seventeen “Apostles” in the period 1730s to 1790s.Sources:
– Christinehof Manor House, The Piper Family Archive (Christinehofs slottsarkiv, Piperska arkivet), Sweden. ‘Inventory of the garden of Hesselbyholm 1738’, (D/IIa). All quotes from the manuscript in translation from the Swedish.
– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Hesselbyholms trädgård år 1738 – En återblick på barockträdgårdens blomstrande prakt’, Lustgården 1990-1991, pp. 71-88.
– Hansen, Viveka, Katalog över Högestads & Christinehofs Fideikommiss, Historiska Arkiv (Piperska Handlingar No. 3), London & Christinehof 2016.
– Hansen, Viveka, Textilia Linnaeana – Global 18th Century Textile Traditions & Trade, London 2017 (p. 21).
– Nordic Museum, Stockholm (Digitalt museum, information on catalogue card).
– Quest-Ritson, Charles, The English Garden – A Social History, London 2001 (pp. 62-165).
– Wellcome Library (Information on catalogue cards).
PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:
– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Working Dress, Fashion and Textile Raw Materials in 18th century Gardens’, TEXTILIS (April 11, 2018); https://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)