John Claudius Loudon

The Picturesque Gardener

On April 8, 1783: the Scottish author, garden designer, and botanist John Claudius Loudon was born. (Books By This Author) A massively popular and breathtakingly prolific writer on horticulture, John focused on serving the needs of the expanding middle class who wanted to have smaller gardens. 1838, Loudon wrote in his book call The Suburban Gardener and Villa Companion,

“A suburban residence with a small portion of land attached will contain all that is essential to happiness."

Loudon created and published a magazine called The Gardener’s Magazine. It started out as quarterly. The first issue sold 4,000 copies. It soon became bi-monthly. Loudon used the platform to introduce a new landscape perspective which he called “gardenesque”.

Prior to Loudon, the prevailing landscape style was the “picturesque” view. In contrast with the big picture or natural perspective of the picturesque garden style, Loudon wanted to draw attention to individual specimens - isolating them by removing surrounding plants or by using geometrical beds. During Loudon’s time, exotic plants were the rage and a controlled garden was the best way to feature specimen plants.

Loudon's "Gardenesque style” or The Plant Collector’s Garden with formal features and botanical variety was very popular with Victorian gardens. Loudon favored circular beds, of the type which can still be seen in the flower garden at Greenwich Park, because they show plants so well and because they are instantly 'recognizable' as the work of man.

John Loudon said,

“Any creation to be recognized as a work of art, must be such as can never be mistaken for a work of nature.”


Loudon invented the term “arboretum” - a garden of trees designed for scientific and educational purposes. He also had some thoughts about the value of public green spaces or “breathing zones” in cities.

Loudon married writer Jane Webb. Jane was indispensable to him. After an attack of rheumatic fever in 1806, Loudon suffered from reduced mobility in his limbs. In 1825, his right arm had to be amputated at the shoulder without anesthesia. Around midnight on December 14, 1843, Loudon was dictating a book to his wife when he collapsed into her arms and died. The book was called, Self-instruction to Young Gardeners.


This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
John Claudius Loudon
John Claudius Loudon
John & Jane Loudon Blue Plate
John & Jane Loudon Blue Plate

Leave a Comment