Stephen Switzer (1682–1745) was a garden designer and writer on garden subjects, an early exponent of the English landscape garden who admired and emulated the formal grandeur of French broad prospects and woodland avenues, finding in the state of horticulture an index of cultural health, in Augustan Rome as in contemporary Britain, where "August Designs [his example is Blenheim Palace] denote that Greatness of Mind that reigns in the English Nobility and Gentry". His landscape design principles parallel those expressed in Alexander Pope's Epistle to Lord Burlington and the views on "natural" gardening expressed in essays by Joseph Addison.
Switzer received sufficient early training in Hampshire to be taken on as a garden boy working for George London and Henry Wise in their Brompton nursery, in Kensington, now part of London. Switzer helped execute London's designs at Castle Howard, Yorkshire (from 1706), notably the "wilderness", at Cirencester Park, Gloucestershire (from about 1713), and at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Switzer also designed the garden at Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire (about 1716).
In 1715 Stephen Switzer published a work on "Forest, or Rural Gardening", The Nobleman, Gentleman, and Gardener's Recreation, which he expanded to form his Ichnographia (1718; lightly revised and enlarged with two further essays as Ichnographia Rustica 1741-42). He also published The Practical Husbandman and Planter (1733) and An Introduction to a General System of Hydrostaticks and Hydraulicks (1729).
Stephen Switzer included the first lengthy historical sketch of the progress of gardening in England in The Nobleman, Gentleman, and Gardener's Recreation was vocal in the criticism of topiary and the formality of the "Dutch Garden" and introduced the term ferme ornée, the "ornamental farm" integrating the ‘useful’ and ‘profitable’ aspects of kitchen gardening and animal husbandry with apparently artless beautiful and charming views and details.
His main rival in the practical, though not the literary, aspects of early tentative exercises in "naturalistic" planting schemes was Charles Bridgeman.
- Switzer, The Nobleman, Gentleman, and Gardener's Recreation 1715:63, quoted by James Turner, "Stephen Switzer and the Political Fallacy in Landscape Gardening History", Eighteenth-Century Studies 11.4 (Summer 1978:489-496) p. 490.
- Today's Blenheim landscape is largely the product of Lancelot "Capability" Brown, who remade the earlier landscape features.
- Its full title is The Nobleman, Gentleman, and Gardener's Recreation, or, an Introduction to Gardening, Planting, Agriculture, and the other Business and Pleasure of a Country life
- One, A further Account of Rural or Extensive Gardening, appears from its text to have been written about 1730, according to David Jacques, "The Art and Sense of the Scribblerus Club in England, 1715-35", Garden History 4.1 (Spring 1976:30-53) p. p. 52 note 7.
- "His lengthy 'History of Gardening' in his Nobleman, Gentleman, and Gardener's Recreation (1715) was the first attempt at a comprehensive history of English garden-writing and -making", observed Jacques 1976:119.
- David Jacques, "Who Knows What a Dutch Garden Is?", Garden History 30.2, Dutch Influences (Winter 2002:114-130).