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.
Flowers were planted in borders along the walks and hedges, " thin and sparingly, lest they deceive the trees " (i.e. rob the trees of nourishment), but the principal receptacles for flowers were " open beds," called " open knots," in contradistinction to the complicated knots. The most practical gardeners did not look with favour on the " curiously knotted garden," although all books of this period give designs for knots. Parkinson has a page of designs merely to " satisfy the desires " of his readers ; he himself considered " open knots " more suitable for the display of flowers. There was not any room left for planting other things between the lines of thyme, thrift, hysop, or whatever the intricate pattern was carried out in. Sometimes the design was simply drawn out in coloured earths, a practice of which Bacon disapproved;"As for the making of knots or figures with divers-coloured earths .... they be but toys, you may see as good sights many times in tarts." The more simple knots were usually bordered with box, a practice which seems to have been introduced by French gardeners. Parkinson calls it " French or Dutch Box," and recommends it " chiefly and above all other herbs," as it was not so liable to overgrow the beds and distort the pattern, as " Thrift, Germander, Marjerome, Savorie," etc, and did not suffer so much from "the frosts and snows in winter," or the "drought in summer." Lavender cotton (Santolina chamcecyparissus), a new importation, was also used, and "the rarity and novelty of this herb being for the most part but in the gardens of great persons, doth cause it to be of greater regard." §
If herbs or box were not used for bordering, " dead material" was the alternative, such as lead, either plain or " cut out like unto the battlements of a church," or oak boards, or tiles, or the shank-bones of sheep, "stuck in the ground, the small end downwards, which will become white, and prettily grace out the ground." Another plan was to use " round whitish or blewish pebble stones"this method Parkinson puts last in his list, " for it is the latest invention .... and maketh a pretty handsome shew." It seems strange that such a simple thing as stones for edging should not have been thought of before. Within these edgings, the "open knots" were filled with flowers, " all planted in some proportion as neare one unto another as is fit for them," which "will give such grace to the garden that the place will seem like a piece of tapestry of many glorious colours." Parkinson divides the flowers to be planted in gardens roughly into two sections, " English Flowers," and "Outlandish Flowers." Among English flowers he names all those we have already noticed as being grown in earlier times, such as primroses, daisies, marigolds, gilloflowers, violets, roses, and columbines, and among outlandish flowers, or "flowers that being strangers unto us, and giving the beauty and bravery of their colours so early, before many of our own-bred flowers, the more to entice us to their delight .... are almost in all places, with all persons, especially with the better sort of the gentry of the Land," "namely Daffodils. Fritillarias, Jacinths, Saffron-flowers, Lillies, Flowerdeluces, Tulipas, Anemones, French cowslips or Bears' Ears, and a number of suchlike flowers, very beautiful, delightful, and pleasant".
* Barnaby Googe's Husbandry, 1578. Translation of Conrad of Heresbach. Bacon. Love's Labour's Lost, act i. scene 1. § Parkinson.
The number of " outlandish " flowers grown in our gardens was rapidly increasing. All through this period, flowers were coming in, both from the Old and the New World. The following are a few among the best known of these importations :" The Crown Imperial," both orange and yellow, and varieties of the small Fritillary, then called the " Turkie, or Guiniehen flower, or chequered daffodil." The hardy cyclamen (europoeum) ; the Lobelia cardinalis, the Passion flower (Passi-flora incarnata), or " Virgin climer." The Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, niger angustifolius and vernalis. The common white lilac, or " pipe tree," and syringa (Philadclphus coronarius); also the common cotoneaster and laburnum ; several species of martagon lilies ; the common yellow jasmine ; the sweet-scented marvel of Peru and evening primrose, and the hardy spiderworts ; the African marigold, and sunflowers and larkspurs, both annual and perennial: the snowflakes. which were classed with snowdrops as "bulbous violets"! and Ranunculus, "the crowfoot of Illyria" (R. illyrius) and asiaticus, also Bachelor's buttons. (R. plantanifolius flore-pleno and aconitifolius), from the " Alpish Mountains " ; sweet Sultan, the Centaurea moschata, Dictamus Fraxinella; Balsam impatiens; some species of campanula, and the bright Convolvulus minor (C. bicclor).
Several new plants were introduced by the exertions of some of the leading patrons of gardening. Lord Burghley and Lord Carew were the first to try growing oranges in England. Lord Salisbury employed Tradescant to procure new varieties of fruit trees and other plants from abroad. Lord Zouche, also, deserves a foremost place among the encouragers of horticulture. He was the patron of Lobel, and had a fine Physic Garden at Hackney, of which Lobel had the charge. Lord Zouche himself, also brought back plants from abroad. Gerard mentions two in particular. "The small Candy mustard," which grows in " Austria, Candy, Spain and Italy," was brought by him on his return " from those parts." Also the " Thorne apple," the seeds of which he presented to Gerard.
New plants, and new ideas about gardening, were also coming in from France and the Low Countries, with the influx of Protestant refugees. The Huguenots who came to this country were representatives of almost every trade and craft, and especially that of gardening, which greatly improved under the influence of these new-comers, and members of that craft were among those who took out Letters of Denization in 1544. Many of these foreign gardeners settled about Sandwich, Colchester, and Norwich, and greatly improved gardening in those districts. Foreign gardeners were employed by several landowners in the neighbourhood, to alter and lay out their gardens. In 1575, a Dutch gardener was paid 3s. 4d. for " his travayle from Norwich to Hengrave to viewe ye orchards, gardyns and walks," and 40s. was also "paid to the Dutchman for clypping the knotts, altering the alleys, setting the grounde, finding herbs and bordering the same." * It was these foreigners, also, who first set on foot the "Florist Feasts," for which Norwich was famed.
* Hug-uenot Society. Walloons and their Church at Norwich, W. T. C. Moens, 1887.