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History of Early American Landscape Design

G. (George) Gregory

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The Rev. G. (George) Gregory (April 14, 1754–March 12, 1808) was an Irish writer, scholar, and clergyman best known for his literary compilations and writings. His New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, first published in America in 1816, contained detailed information about English gardening practices.

History

After a brief career in business, Gregory studied at the University of Edinburgh, with a particular interest in mathematics and the physical sciences.[1] In 1776 he entered into holy orders. He wrote for periodicals and magazines while serving as a curate in Liverpool. Following his move to London in 1782, he continued to advance his ecclesiastical career while publishing essays, poetry, and sermons.[2] He also contributed to Biographia Britannica and served as editor from 1795.[3] Voracious study allowed Gregory to develop detailed knowledge of a wide range of topics, including the arts and sciences, commerce, manufactures, and political institutions.[4] Among his numerous scholarly and scientific works, one of the most popular was the two-volume A Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1807), which he intended as “an introductory or elementary work for students,” as well as “a book of reference, to lie on the table of a man of letters.”[5] Gregory’s Dictionary was reissued in several subsequent editions following his death in 1808, including an expanded and revised three-volume version titled A New & Complete Dictionary of Arts & Sciences, Including the Latest Improvement & Discovery and the Present State of Every Branch of Human Knowledge, published in Philadelphia in 1816.

The Dictionary became a standard reference work in America and a source of practical information for gardeners. For example, the entry for “Edging” included advice on suitable plant materials, the best seasons for planting, and design considerations (view text). Instructions on how to build an artificial grotto appeared in the entry on “Grotto” (view text). The entry for “Gardening” took the form of an extended essay on practical and theoretical concerns involved in “picturesque or landscape gardening (view text). Gregory also directed readers to additional information on the design of hothouses in the magazine series published by the Scottish agriculturist and economist James Anderson (1739–1808), Recreations in Agriculture, Natural-history, Arts, and Miscellaneous Literature (6 vols., 1799–1802) (view text). The text indicates familiarity with the theories and practices of the day, citing the work of Joseph Addison (1672–1719) (view text) and Philip Miller (1691–1771) (view text), as well as the landscape gardens of Capability Brown (1716–1783) (view text).

Robyn Asleson


Texts

  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 1:n.p.)[6]
ALLEY, in perspective, that which, in order to have a greater appearance of length, is made wider at the entrance than at the termination.”


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 1:n.p.)[6]
COMMON, is a right or privilege which one or more persons claim to take or use, in some part or portion of that, which another man’s lands, waters, woods, &c. naturally produce; without having an absolute property in such lands, wood, waters, &c. 2 Inst. 65.
“The general divisions of common are, into common of pasture, which is a right of liberty that one or more have to feed or fodder their beasts or cattle in another man’s land. . . . 1 Bac. Abr. 385.
“But the word common is usually understood of common of pasture.”


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 1:n.p.)[6]
EDGINGS, among gardeners, a series of small but durable plants, set round the edges or borders of flower-beds, &c.
“The best and most durable plant for this use is box, which, if well planted, and rightly managed, will continue in strength and beauty for many years. The seasons for planting these are the autumn and very early in the spring; and the best species for this purpose is the dwarf Dutch box. The edgings of box are now only planted on the sides of borders next walls, and not, as was some time since the fashion, all round borders, or fruit-beds, in the middle of gardens, unless they have a gravel-walk between them, in which case it serves to keep the earth of the borders from washing down on the walks in hard rains, and fouling the gravel. Daisies, thrift, or sea-july-flowers, and chamomile, are also used by some for this purpose; but they grow out of form, and require yearly transplanting.” back up to History


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 2:n.p.)[7]
FENCE, in country affairs, a hedge, wall, ditch, bank, or other inclosure, made around gardens, woods, cornfields, &c. See HUSBANDRY.”


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 2:n.p.)[7] back up to History
“GARDENING. "This art, so natural to man, so improving to health, so conducive to the comforts and the best luxuries of life, may properly be divided into two branches; practical, and picturesque or landscape gardening. back up to History
“The former is what every person, except the inhabitants of populous cities, has more or less occassion to practise; the latter is a privilege which only the very opulent can enjoy, and which must consequently be the elegant amusement of a chosen few.
Picturesque or landscape gardening should certainly never be attempted on a small scale. Indeed we are not certain that we may not be incurring a solecism in applying the term gardening to this department of agriculture. It is properly the art of laying out grounds; and the park or the farm, not the garden, is its object. It never can be attempted with success on a smaller scale than 20 acres; but 50 or 100, or even more, are better adapted to the design.
“That style of gardening which would unite both objects, and which would give a picturesque effect to an acre or two of ground, is truly absurd. Many an improvident citizen wastes unprofitably the morsel of earth which should grow cabbages for his family, on an unprofitable grass-plat or shrubbery, on serpentines and mazes, and fishponds; or even on cascades, to the infinite annoyance of his visitors, the prejudice of his own health, and the merriment of all persons of true taste. This mania for the picturesque would have been not less deserving the ridicule of an Addison, than the perverse taste which displayed our first parents in yew, and the Graces and Muses in Portugal laurel. . . back up to History
“It is also fashionable to make a separation between the pleasure and the kitchen garden. This may indeed preserve the few shrivelled fruit which the latter, on a diminutive scale, is capable of affording, from the hands of rapacious visitors; but the range of the proprietor becomes by this appointment most deplorably limited and diminished; and the vegetables will want what alone can render them fine and flourishing, the free circulation of air. . .
“The situation of a garden should be dry, but rather low than high, and as sheltered as can be from the north and east winds. These points of the compass should be guarded against by high and good fences; by a wall of at least ten feet high; lower walls do not answer so well for fruit-trees, though one of eight may do. A garden should be so situated, to be as much warmer as possible than the general temper of the air is without, or ought to be made warmer by the ring and subdivision fences. This advantage is essential to the expectation we have from a garden locally considered.
“As to trees planted without the wall, to break the wind, we cannot expect to reap much good this way, except from something more than a single row, i.e. a plantation.
“Yet the fall of the leaves by autumnal winds is troublesome, and a high wall is therefore advisable. Spruce firs have been used in close-shorn hedges; which, as evergreens, are proper enough to plant for a screen in a single row, though not very near to the wall; but the best evergreens for this purpose are the evergreen oak and the cork-tree. . .
“Here it may be observed, that if any evergreen hedges are desired in or about the garden, yew, box, alaternus, celastrus, phillyrea, and pryacantha, may be kept low, and clipped in form, if so desired; in addition to which, if a few roses were intermixed, it would have a very pretty effect. A deciduous hedge for subdivision, or screen, &c. may be made of elms or limes, setting the larger plants at five feet asunder, and a smaller one between. Or an ordinary fence, or subdivision, may be quickly formed of elder cuttings, stuck in at two feet asunder, which may be kept cut within bounds.
“A wide border next the south wall [in a garden], as was said, is best for the trees; and moreover for the many uses that may be made of it for the smaller early, or late tender esculents, and a few early cauliflowers. For the sake of a pleasant warm walk in spring, to have the south border narrow may be desirable; but on no account let it be less than six feet. . .
“If edgings are to be made, in order to separate between the earth and gravel, especially if of stone, or wood, or box, they should be done first, and they will be a good rule to lay the box by. . .
“The beds for tulips, hyacinths, anemonies, ranunculuses, &c. may be three and a half or four feet wide, and those for single flowers the same, or only two and a half feet wide in the borders, which was the most usual breadth in the old flower gardens. . .
“Figured parterres have got out of fashion, as a taste for open and extensive gardening has prevailed; but when the beds are not too fanciful, but regular in their shapes, and chiefly at right angles, after the Chinese manner, an assemblage of all sorts of flowers, in a fancy spot of about 60 feet square, is a delightful home scource [sic] of pleasure, worthy of pursuit. There should be neat edgings of box to these beds, or rather of neat inch-boards, painted lead colour, to keep up the mould. . .
"Landscape or picturesque gardening, is so much the work of fancy, and so much depends upon the situation, or what the celebrated Mr. Brown used to call the capability of the place, that no precise rules can be laid down concerning it. All, therefore, that can be expected, is a few lose [sic] hints, on which the man of taste may improve according to circumstances. . . back up to History
“Gardens were formerly loaded with statues, and great improprieties were committed in placing them, as Neptune in a grove, and Vulcan at a fountain, large figures in small gardens, and small in large, &c. but perhaps the works of the statuary might still be introduced if well executed, and in proper places. . .
“If there is good room, single trees of the fir kind, at due distances, are admirable ornaments about a house, and clumps of shrubs all of the same kind have a good effect.
“Near some pieces of water, as a cool retreat, it is desirable that there should be something of the summer-house kind; and why not the simple rustic arbour, embowered with the woodbine, the sweetbriar, the jessamine, and the rose? Pole arbours are tied well together with burk or ozier twigs. . .
“Too much plane is to be guarded against; and when it abounds, the eye should be relieved by clumps, or some other agreeable object. . .
Picturesque gardening is effected by a number of means which a true rural genius, and the study of examples, only can produce. These examples may be pictures, but the better instructors will be scenes in nature; and the proper grouping of trees, according to their mode of growth, shades of green, and appearance in autumn, will effect a great deal.
“To plant picturesquely, a knowledge of the characteristic differences of trees and shrubs, is evidently a principle qualification. Some trees spread their branches wide, others grow spiral, and some conical; some have a close foliage, others an open one; and some form regular, others irregular heads, the branches and leaves of which may grow erect, level, or pendant.”


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 2:n.p.)[7]
GROTTO is also used for a little artificial edifice made in a garden, in imitation of a natural grotto. The outside of these grottos are usually adorned with rustic architecture, and their inside with shell-work, fossils, &c. finished likewise with jets-d’eau or fountains, &c. A cement for artificial grottos may be made thus: Take two parts of white rosin, melt it clear, and add to it four parts of bees’-wax; when melted together, add two or three parts of the powder of the stone you design to cement, or so much as will give the cement the colour of the stone. With this cement, the stone, shells, &c. after being well dried before the fire, may be cemented. Artificial red coral branches, for the embellishment of grottos, may be made in the following manner: Take clear rosin, dissolve it in a brass-pan, to every ounce of which add two drams of the finest vermilion; when you have stirred them well together, and have chosen your twigs and branches, peeled and dried, take a pencil and paint the branches all over whilst the composition is warm; afterwards shape them in imitation of natural coral. This done, hold the branches over a gentle coal-fire, till all is smooth and even as if polished. In the same manner white coral may be prepared with white lead, and black coral with lamp-black. A grotto may be built with little expense, of glass, cinders, pebbles, pieces of large flint, shells, moss, stones, counterfeit coral, pieces of chalk, &c. all bound or cemented together with the above-described cement.” back up to History


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 2:n.p.)[7]
HOT-HOUSE, in gardening, an erection intended for the culture of the tender exotics of tropical climates. It is usually built lower than a greenhouse, with double flues, and a pit in the middle for tanner’s bark, in which, as in a kind of hot-bed, the pots containing the plants are to be plunged. A hot-house should be kept at a regular heat, seldom less than 70°; and when the weather becomes about 10° below that extremity, the fires may be left off. The tan should be renewed twice a year, in spring and autumn; and care must be taken not to plunge the plants in it till the heat is risen to a proper degree.
“The ingenious Dr. Anderson, so well known for his labours in agriculture, has lately constructed a hot-house to be kept warm by air chiefly warmed by the heat of the sun. It is entirely of glass, and the upper part is a close chamber to contain the heated air, which is let into the house by a valve. In the winter the chamber is heated by a lamp, and the warm air is admitted in the same manner as that which is warmed by the sun. The house is also moveable; but for further details we must refer to the doctor’s Agricultural Recreations.” back up to History


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 2:n.p.)[7]
ICE-HOUSE, a building contrived to preserve ice for the use of a family in the summer season. It is generally sunk some feet in the ground in a very shady situation, and covered with thatch.”


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 2:n.p.)[7]
LABYRINTH, in gardening, a winding mazy walk between hedges, through a wood or wilderness. The chief aim is to make the walks so perplexed and intricate, that a person may lose himself in them, and meet with as great a number of disappointments as possible. They are rarely to be meet with, except in great gardens; as Versailles, Hampton-court, &c.”


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 2:n.p.)[7]
OBELISK, a truncated, quadrangular, and slender pyramid raised as an ornament, and frequently charged either with inscriptions or hieroglyphics.
Obelisks appear to be of very great antiquity, and to be first raised to transmit to posterity precepts of philosophy, which were cut in hieroglyphical characters: afterwards they were used to immortalize the great actions of heroes, and the memory of persons beloved. . .
“The proportions in the height and thickness are nearly the same in all obelisks; their height being nine or nine and a half, and sometimes ten times, their thickness; and their diameter at the top never less than half; and never greater than three-fourths of that at the bottom.”


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 2:n.p.)[7]
ORCHARD, a plantation of fruit-trees. In planting an orchard great care should be taken that the soil is suitable to the trees planted in it; and that they are procured from a soil nearly of the same kind, or rather poorer than that laid out for an orchard. As to the situation, an easy rising ground, open to the south-east, is to be preferred. Mr. Miller recommends planting the trees fourscore feet asunder, but not in regular rows and would have the ground between the trees plowed and sown with wheat and other crops, in the same manner as if it was clear from trees; by which means the trees will be more vigorous and healthy, will abide much longer, and produce better fruit.” back up to History


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 3:n.p.)[8]
WALL, in gardening. Of all materials for building walls for fruit-trees, brick is the best, it being not only the handsomest, but the warmest and kindest for the ripening of fruit; and affording the best conveniency for nailing, as smaller nails will serve in brick than will in stone walls, where the joints are larger; and if the walls are caped with free-stone, and stone pilasters or columns at proper distances to separate the trees, and break off the force of the winds; they are very beautiful, and the most profitable walls of any others. In some parts of England there are walls built both of brick and stone, which are found very commodious. The bricks of some places are not of themselves substantial enough for walls; and therefore some persons, that they might have walls both substantial and wholesome, have built these double, the outside being of stone, and the inside of brick; but there must be great care taken to bond the bricks well into the stone, otherwise they are very apt to separate one from the other, especially when frost comes after much wet.
“There have been several trials made of walls built in different forms; some of them having been built semicircular; others in angles of various sizes; and projecting more towards the north, to screen off the cold winds; but there has not as yet been any method which has succeeded near so well as that of making the walls straight, and building them upright. Where persons are willing to be at the expense in the building of their walls substantial, they will find it answer much better than those which are slightly built, not only in duration, but in warmth; therefore a wall two bricks thick will be found to answer better than that of one brick and a half. The best aspect for ripening fruit is south, with a point to the east; and the next best due south. It is a great improvement to have a trellis of wood against the wall, to train the trees to, as it prevents the wall being spoiled by nails, &c.”


  • Gregory, G. (George), 1816, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1816: 3:n.p.)[8]
WILDERNESS. . .
“As to the walks, those that have the appearance of meanders, where the eye cannot discover more than twenty or thirty yards in length, are generally preferable to all others, and these should now and then lead into an open circular piece of grass; in the centre of which may be placed either an obelisk, statue, or fountain; and, if in the middle of the wilderness there is contrived a large opening, in the centre of which may be erected a dome or banqueting-house, surrounded with a green plot of grass, it will be of a considerable addition to the beauty of the whole. From the sides of the walks and openings, the trees should rise gradually one above another to the middle of the quarters, where should always be planted the largest-growing trees, so that the heads of all the trees may appear to view, while their stems will be hid from the sight. . .
“But beside the grand walks and openings, there should be some smaller walks through the middle of the quarters, where persons may retire for privacy; and by the sides of those private walks may also be scattered some wood flowers and plants, which, if artfully planted, will have a very good effect.”

Other Resources

Library of Congress Authority File

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Notes

  1. Richard Ryan, Biographica Hibernica: A Biographical Dictionary of the Worthies of Ireland, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, 2 vols. (London: Sherwood, Neely and Jones, 1822), 2:282–83, view on Zotero.
  2. Ryan 1822, 283–84, view on Zotero; John Nichols, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, 9 vols. (London: Printed for the author, 1815), 9:195–96, view on Zotero.
  3. “Obituary, with Anecdotes, of Remarkable Persons,” Gentleman’s Magazine (March 1808): 277.
  4. Ryan 1822, 283–84, view on Zotero.
  5. George Gregory, A Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences, 2 vols. (London: R. Phillips, 1807), 1:v, view on Zotero.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 George Gregory, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, 1st American ed., 3 vols. (Philadelphia: Isaac Peirce, 1816), view on Zotero.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 George Gregory, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, 1st American ed., 3 vols. (Philadelphia: Isaac Peirce, 1816), view on Zotero.
  8. 8.0 8.1 George Gregory, A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, 1st American ed., 3 vols. (Philadelphia: Isaac Peirce, 1816), view on Zotero.

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