This section is from the book "A History Of Gardening In England", by Alicia Amherst. Also available from Amazon: A History Of Gardening In England.
Yews were much employed for hedges, but more for walks and shelter within the gardens, than to form the outer enclosure. In the larger gardens there were two or three gates in the walls, well designed, with handsome stone piers surmounted with balls or the owner's crest, and wrought-iron gates of elaborate pattern; or else there was one fine gate at the principal entrance, the rest being smaller and less pretentious, merely " a planched gate," † or " little door." The main principle of a garden was still that it should be a " garth," a yard, or enclosure ; the idea of such a thing as a practically unenclosed garden had not, as yet, entered men's minds. But because the garden was surrounded with a high wall, and those inside wished to look beyond, a terrace was contrived. As in the Middle Ages, we find an eminence within the walls, as a point from which to look over them ; so at the period we have now reached, the restricted view from the mount did not satisfy, and to get a more extended range over the park beyond and the garden within, a terrace was raised along one side of the square of the wall. " I have seen a garden," says Sir Henry Wotton, "into which the first access was a high walk like a terrace, from whence might be taken a general view of the whole plot below." De Caux, the designer of the Earl of Pembroke's garden at Wilton, made such a terrace there " for the more advantage of beholding those platts." * Another is described at Kenilworth in 1575, "hard all along by the castle wall is reared a pleasant terrace, ten feet high and twelve feet broad, even under foot, and fresh of fine grass." † The terraces, as a rule, were wide and of handsome proportions, with stone steps either at the ends or in the centre, and were raised above the garden either by a sloping grass bank, or brick or stone wall. At Kirby, in Northamptonshire, a magnificent Elizabethan house, now rapidly falling into decay, all that remains of a once beautiful garden, " enrich'd with a great variety of plants," ‡ is a terrace running the whole length of the western wall of the garden. It is now planted with potatoes, and the garden it overlooked is merely a meadow. The lines in Spenser's Ruins of Time might have been written on this garden had he but seen it in its present state.
* Gardener"s Labyrinth, 1608.
† Measure for Measure, act iv. scene 1.
" Then did I see a pleasant paradize Full of sweete flowers and daintiest delights, Such as on earth man could not more devize;
With pleasure's choyce to feed his cheerful sprights. Since that I sawe this gardine wasted quite, That where it was scarce seemed anie sight; That I, which once that beautie did beholde, Could not from teares my melting eyes with-holde".
* Le fardin de Wilton. De Caux, 1615.
† Robert Laneham, Letter describing the Pageants at Kenilworth Castle, 1575. Extract in Praise of Gardens. Sieveking, 1885.
‡ Morton, Natural History of Northamptonshire. 1712.
At Drayton, an Elizabethan house in the same county as Kirby, there is a wide terrace against the outer wall of the garden with a summer-house at each end, as well as a terrace in front of the house, and other examples exist.
The "forthrights," or walks which formed the main lines of the garden design, were " spacious and fair." Bacon describes the width of the path by which the mount is to be ascended as wide "enough for four to walk abreast," and the main walks were wider still, broad and long, and covered with "gravel, sand or turf."* There were two kinds of walks, those in the open part of the garden, with beds geometrically arranged on either side, while sheltered walks were laid out between high clipped hedges, or between the main enclosure wall and a hedge ; there were also the "covert walks," or "shade alleys," in which the trees met in an arch over the path. Some of the walks were turfed, and some were planted with sweet-smelling herbs. "Those which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but being trodden upon and crushed, are three—that is, burnet, wild thyme and water-mints ; therefore you are to set whole alleys of them to have the pleasure when you walk or tread." † It appears from a passage in Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV., act ii. scene 4, that camomile was used in the same way. Falstaff says, " For though camomile, the more it is trodden on the faster it grows; yet youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears".
In contrast to this the " closer alleys must be ever finely gravelled and no grass, because of going wet." ‡ Thomas Hill § writes, the " walkes of the garden ground, the allies even trodden out, and leuelled by a line, as either three or four foote abroad, may cleanely be sifted ouer with riuer or sea sand, to the end that showers of raine falling, may not offend the walkers (at that instant) in them, by the earth cleauing or clagging to their feete." Parkinson also has something to say about walks : " The fairer and larger your allies and walks be, the more grace your garden shall have, the lesse harm the herbs and flowers shall receive, by passing by them that grow next unto the allies sides, and the better shall your weeders cleanse both the bed and the allies".
* Lawson, A New Orchard. 1597. † Bacon, Essay.
‡ Bacon, Essay.
§ Gardener's Labyrinth.
The hedges on either side the walks were made of various plants—box, yew, cypress, privet, thorne, fruit trees, roses, briars, juniper, rosemary, hornbeam, cornel, " misereon," and pyracantha. " Every man taketh what liketh him best, as either privet alone or sweet Bryar, and whitethorn interlaced together, and Roses of one, two, or more sorts placed here and there amongst them. . . . Some plant cornel trees and plash them or keep them low to form them into a hedge ; and some again take a low prickly shrub that abideth always green, called in Latin Pyracantha." Of the cypress, Parkinson writes : " For the goodly proportion this tree beareth, as also for his ever grene head, it is and hath beene of great account with all princes, both beyond and on this side of the sea, to plant them in rowes on both sides of some spatious walke, which, by reason of their highe growing, and little spreading, must be planted the thicker together, and so they give a pleasant and sweet shadow." Gerard, writing of the same plant, says : " It groweth likewise in diuers places in Englande, where it hath beene planted, as at Sion, a place neere London, sometime a house of nunnes; it groweth also at Greenwich and at other places ; and likewise at Hampstead in the garden of Master Waide, one of the Clarkes of hir Maiesties Priuy Counsell."*