Brookes studied agriculture in Durham and landscape design at University College London. After working in the office of Brenda Colvin and Sylvia Crowe , John Brookes worked as a garden designer. He has written many books, including Room Outside (1969) and The Small Garden. Michael Lancaster wrote that John Brookes 'reveals an assurance in the handling of both the geometric and organic elements which is rare in British designers'. In 2004 John Brookes received an MBE for Garden Design and services to horticulture, and the 2004 Award of Distinction by the American Association of Professional Landscape Designers.