This detailed aerial view of Denham Place, the country seat of Sir Roger Hall (1642–1729) MP and Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, displays the elaborate formal gardens popular in the late 17th century.

Interest in landscape gardening had grown out of the boom in country house building during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558–1603). Over the next century trends in horticultural design developed to include precisely manicured geometrical arrangements offset by classical statues and artificial waterways adjoining miniature palaces. The English garden of this period owed much to the grandiose perfectionism of King Louis XIV’s (1638–1715) gardens at Versailles, as well as the regimented Dutch styles brought over by William (1650–1702) and Mary (1662–1694) following the Glorious Revolution (1688/89).

Poetry, the country house and its gardens

The country house poem became an established sub-genre at the opening of the 17th century, with eminent poets such as Emilia Lanier (c. 1569–1645) and Ben Jonson (1572–1637) contributing works that praised their patrons via their magnificent country seats and the idyllic gardens that surrounded them.

Andrew Marvell (1621–1678), writing in the middle years of the same century, added a new element to the sub-genre: namely, an examination of the role that humans played in shaping and structuring nature, especially within a garden context. He explores the paradox of artifice in nature in his country house poem ‘Upon Appleton House’, and in a string of lyric poems, including the Mower Series (‘The Mower against Gardens’, ‘Damon the Mower’, ‘The Mower to the Glo-Worms’ and ‘The Mower’s Song’) and ‘The Garden’.