Romantic Gardens

The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.

 Blaise Pascal

Give all to love,

Obey thy heart,

Friends, kindred, days,

Estate, good-fame,

Plans, credit and the Muse,—

Nothing refuse.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


 Romantic Gardens

 The Romantic Period was an intellectual and artistic movement that originated in the late 18th century and stressed strong emotion, irrationalism, feeling, imagination, freedom from classical correctness in art forms and rebellion against social convention.  Led by French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, others such as Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe, William Blake, Ludwig Beethoven, William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jane Austin, Daniel Webster, and the three Romantic poets, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelly, and John Keats embraced its concepts.  It was a belief in the divinity of nature; indeed garden making or “place making”, as it was called, was in the vanguard of changing tastes.  The formal, straight lined parterre where nature was subjugated to man gave away to idealized informal, natural gardens with curved paths and beds.  “Capability” Brown led the way in England, designing great estates of lawns, ponds, and woods.  By the end of the 18th century, almost every trace of formal English gardens had disappeared.    !!!!!!!

WOW!  Let’s hope we will be successful in making vast lawns and non-native plants disappear within a few years.


In the early 19th century, the English cottage garden, which had been thriving for many years in relative obscurity, was re-discovered.  Consisting of a small house enclosed by a fence or wall, with a winding path leading to the front door, the ground inside was filled with a tumble of flowers, fruits, vines, vegetables, and herbs.  Its overall perception was that of bountiful exuberance and unpretentiousness.  There were no focal points or vistas, everything was to be experienced close up, appealing to all the senses—the colors, the scents, the tastes, the sounds of birds and insects and the wind, the touch of textured plants, the caressing of a summer breeze  (Stephen Lacey, The Startling Jungle, 1990).

What does this sound like?  A Prairie Garden, of course.  Bountiful exuberance and unpretentiousness–yes, that’s a prairie garden.

Enclose your sunny front yard and fill it with prairie flowers, grasses, vines, fruit trees, and small shrubs.

Some examples:


Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Prairie Coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata) bloom in this sunny front garden  on the Summer Solstice.


Front yard and parkway filled with Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepsis) with Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida), Butterfly Weed, and Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) in bloom in June and July.

Lavender-blue Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis) spills over the front walk, while Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia speciosa var. Sullivantii)  fills the garden with sunshine in July and August.









Front entry garden with a Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium), and Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea) in bloom in July.












You can have a cottage garden even if your house isn’t a cottage.  Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum), Purple Coneflower,  Prairie Babies’ Breath (Euphorbia corollata),  and Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepsis) fill in this romantic garden.




Enclosed garden in L of house and garage.

Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), Wild Quinine, Blazing Star (Liatris pychnostachya), and Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in bloom in the garden directs ones attention away from the large front-facing garage.



Low-growing Aromatic and Heath Aster (Aster oblongifolius and A. ericoides) are compatible companions in a prairie cottage garden, both blooming in September.











A tangle of Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis) and Prairie Baby’s Breath, glowing like a sunset,  lend color to my garden in September.

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