Parent Category: 18th Century History Articles
Category: Society and Culture
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There are some really interesting differences between home landscaping and yard design in the 1700s and today. There was an entirely different system of etiquette between people and classes in the past — many people were only just beginning to create and inhabit what are now major towns around the world.

Home landscaping was largely a detail for those in more rural areas, as many of the individuals living in the major cities by the ports simply kept flowerbeds. However, those who were rich or well off, and who maintained large properties a little further off from the major cities, often had huge and elaborate home landscaping that served as a mark of their high class, matched the elegance inside their homes as well.

City Planning in the 1700s

Historically, manors were considered units of land that were originally a feudal lordship, consisting of a lord's demesne with lands that were rented to tenants for their service. Throughout the 1600s, manor-houses and small castles began to acquire the character and amenities of the residences of country gentlemen. By the 1700s, manors were large country houses that behaved as the principal house of a landed estate. Therefore, these estates and their houses had already been placed deliberately in the best location of any given area — typically spots near water or trees, with a good climate.


Homes that were built in the 1700s and planned outside of a manor estate were often also thoughtfully constructed and well placed. Depending on their value and contents, popular designs could become influential in city planning as well. In the U.S., early settlers had a large influence over new cities.


In what is now the capital of North Carolina, an early settler named Joel Lane, who had taken the area in 1741 with his two brothers, had a massive social impact over the area. As an early settler, Joel Lane was able to pick the best location with the best natural surroundings in the area for his property. The property was visited so often by travelers that Lane built a tavern and meetinghouse near the property, which eventually became the first few properties of the capital city, Raleigh.


Only 30 years after their arrival, Wake County was established with the construction of a courthouse and jail on the hillside in front of Lane's residence. After a state convention that sought a location for an “unalterable seat of government,” 100 acres of land were purchased from Lane, which would become the city. As you can see from this example, early city planning often centered around key social influencers.

Landscaping and Yard Design

Knowing the importance of water as a resource and trees as shelter from the sun, cities were often based in areas with great natural landscapes. Early settlers often set themselves up with all the resources they could need to be comfortable and successful in these areas. As the first people in any given area, they often maintained gardens to grow their own crops. With their many resources, there were often not many limitations to what they could do. Therefore, the old-time flower gardens and surrounding areas could be as vast and decorative as they wanted.


At times, this led to the development of Stuart gardens, which were originally influenced by the vast formal gardens of France. These gardens took up quite a bit of space and were often designed to be symmetrical, with long pathways that stretched into the nearby parks or wooded areas nearby that determined the boundaries of the property. If sufficiently established, the property would contain areas of water and fountains for decor that were surrounded by flowers and neatly manicured evergreen shrubs. If big enough, the bodies of water would be filled with fish that could be used for sport and eating.

Safety and Health Concerns: 1700s vs. Today

The lavish gardens and deliberate placement of homes and gardens is much rarer today. In this day and age, the majority of people simply look to purchase homes in good locations that they can make their own. However, even today, people enjoy landscaping and thoughtfully planning out their yards to include all the amenities they could wish for. This can include planning to develop pools, patio areas, trees, and gardens that, as an added bonus, help add value to the home.


However, there are some modern health and safety concerns that we have to contend with.


Because yards and properties are as condensed as they are today, one of the major concerns that hobby landscapers must have is to be careful not to disrupt infrastructure underneath the property ground. When planting trees, it’s important for people to read the blueprints of their sewer lines in order to avoid planting tree where the roots might interrupt the sewer line, which could result in a large variety of problems that would need to be dealt with later on.


Although homes surrounded by trees can often look and feel lovely, homeowners must be sure to maintain their landscaping to avoid potential accidents with trees in close proximity to the home. Even today, it’s not uncommon for trees to fall into homes and destroy entire areas of the roof and home. This is not only detrimental to the home, as it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair, it’s also dangerous, potentially resulting in death for the people inside the home if they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.


There are many differences in home landscaping and yard design between today and the 1700s. Although what you’re able to accomplish largely depends on the amount of time and space you have, some design aspects never go out of style. Fruit and vegetable gardens remain a practical luxury. Rose gardens and neatly trimmed shrubs will always add a nice and elegant element to any home. Symmetry continues to add a very stylish touch to gardens and pathways. In the smaller arrangements people tend to have today, the creativity expressed through gardens and landscaping shines through more than ever.


About the Author:

Frankie Wallace contributes to a wide variety of blogs and writes about many different topics, including politics and the environment. 
Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho and is a recent graduate of the University of Montana.