John Claudius Loudon

The Picturesque Gardener

#OTD In 1783: The birthday of Scottish author, garden designer, and botanist John Claudius Loudon (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 called 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 as a quarterly. The first issue sold 4,000 copies. It soon became bi-monthly. Loudon used the platform to introduce a new landscape perspective called "gardenesque."

Before 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 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 considered the value of public green spaces or "breathing zones" in cities.

Loudon married writer Jane Webb. Jane was indispensable to him. Loudon suffered from reduced limb mobility after an attack of rheumatic fever in 1806. 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.


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John Claudius Loudon
John Claudius Loudon
John & Jane Loudon Blue Plate
John & Jane Loudon Blue Plate

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