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Maria Elizabeth Jacson, The florists manual, or hints for the construction of a gay flower garden. London: Printed for Henry Colburn, 1816.DeBeer Eb/1816/J
Maria Elizabeth Jacson, The florist's manual, or hints for the construction of a gay flower garden. London: Printed for Henry Colburn, 1816.
DeBeer Eb/1816/J

Garden design

The Royal Pavilion at Brighton was built for the Prince Regent from 1787. Repton carried out some alterations to its garden between 1797-1802 and recommended that his then colleague, the ambitious architect John Nash, design the new conservatory. When the Prince of Wales decided to ‘orientalize' the whole building in 1806, Repton drew up elaborate plans, but they were rejected in favour of Nash's. Repton published his designs nevertheless, and they show the Regency taste for island flower beds and shrubs. With the flap detached on this copy, one can visualise Repton's famous ‘before' and ‘after' concept.

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Humphry Repton (1752-1818) became a landscape gardener at the age of 36 after a decade learning and management on his own small country estate, and reading widely in botany and landscape design. He used his talent as an artist to sell his designs to wealthy clients, presenting them in the form of red leather-bound books with enticing before and after views. About 200 Red Books survive. Repton also wrote and illustrated four books on landscape gardening. In his second, displayed here, Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening (1803) he insisted that in garden design good taste (acquired only through education) had to go hand and hand with practical utility, harmony of the parts and proper proportions. Though initially supporting ‘Capability' Brown's smooth, neat landscapes of grass, trees and water, Repton responded to growing public demand for flower gardens, conservatories, and flower-covered trellises.

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While Repton designed for wealthy clients, Maria Jacson (mis-spelled Jackson) (1755-1829) wrote her book The Florist's Manual (1816) for middle-class women, so that their choice and arrangement of plants would ‘procure a succession of enamelled borders' (p.4) through spring and summer. She criticized the taste for ‘American gardens' created at great cost for acid-loving plants, and the pre-occupation with rarities. Instead she promoted the ‘mingled flower garden', one of the first which achieved its effect by grouping hardy perennials and annuals, such as hollyhocks, dahlias, sunflowers, poppies and carnations. Her book - written anonymously - is one of the earliest gardening manuals written by a woman, for women.

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