Capability Brown: Lenses on a Landscape Genius Exhibition 22 June – 29 July 2016

Capability Brown designed the landscape park at Blenheim Palace

Capability Brown designed the landscape park at Blenheim Palace


The Landscape Foundation has organised an exhibition of photographs of Capability Brown’s work. It will be on show at the Building Centre, Store Street, London WC1E 7BT, from 22 June to 29 July.
Brown’s reputation has been in flux. Sky-high at the time of his death and at the time of his 300th centenary, in 2016, it had a profound slump from late 18th century to the early 20th century. For artists and novelists, this is not uncommon and re-examinations can be done by examining their original works. For works of landscape architecture, this is scarcely possible, because they are in constant change. So a photographic exhibition is an excellent idea. We can examine Brown’s work at one point in time.
See also
Capability Brown in Kent – book review by Tom Turner
Was Lancelot Capability Brown a landscape designer of genius?

Capability Brown in Kent – book review by Tom Turner

Capability Brown in Kent, published by the Kent Gardens Trust, is available from Amazon

Capability Brown in Kent, published by the Kent Gardens Trust, is available from Amazon

Congratulations to Kent Gardens Trust for producing a book on Lancelot Capability Brown’s work in Kent. Despite there being little of his work in Kent, the content is interesting and the book is very nicely produced. I particularly commend the editors for their use of plans. Far too many ‘garden history’ books make no use of plans. Instead, they use long descriptions of garden designs that are hard to read and must have been difficult to write. Using plans is so much better. They can be understood at a glance and they let the reader make comparisons between what the designer intended, shown on historical plans, and the present condition of the gardens. The present day plans in this book (by Liz Logan and Rowan Blaik) were done using OpenData from the Ordnance  Survey. It is great that the OS allows their data to be used in this way – I wish Google and Bing allowed satellite maps to be used in a similar fashion. There is much to be learned from air photography.

The gardens analysed in the book are:

  • Ingress
  • Leeds Abbey
  • Valence
  • Chilham Castle
  • North Cray Place

As the editors state, they were relatively small-scale projects. Yet ‘though they may not be amongst the most significant, but they do provide some highly valuable insights which help broaden our understanding of his work’. As a contribution to Brown scholarship, this book makes a most-welcome advance with its use of contours on plans. Brown had no effective way of representing landform on his own plans despite it being one of his main design considerations. This is one of the factors which make his own drawings both puzzling and disappointing.

It would be good if the detailed research in this book could be used to restore some of Brown’s Kentish planting.

The 1857 estate map shows a recognisably Brownian design, with the design concept much more intelligible when seen with the contours on the Kent Gardens Trust Map (right)

The 1857 estate map shows a recognisably Brownian design, with the design concept much more intelligible when seen with the contours on the Kent Gardens Trust Map (right)

Steven Desmond Gardens of the Italian Lakes – book review by Tom Turner

gardens Italian lakes

Marianne Majerus’ photographs of the gardens of the Italian lakes are delightful

The Italian Lakes are a fantastic place for gardens, comparable with Kashmir. They have great scenery, wonderful light, a terrific climate and extremely wealthy residents who have been building luxurious villas and gardens since Roman times. Though only a small proportion of the total, many villas and gardens are open for visits. Even better, you can travel to them by public ferries, which is so much better than driving long distances on exhausting roads. The book describes 17 gardens.
Of its type, this is a very good book. Readable, well-illustrated and and informative. If you are wondering about a visit to the gardens of the Italian lakes, this is the book to buy. The last chapter has maps and details of garden opening times ‘at the time of writing’. Garden owners do tend to be conservative about opening times but, in case they change, you can find links to the the garden websites below.
But what type of book is this? More than anything, it puts me in mind of a set of articles which might have been written for a glossy magazine. Steven Desmond, the author, ‘is a gardener’ who leads garden tours and ‘advises on the conservation of historic gardens and writes for Country Life.’
He is good on general chit-chat and sets the gardens in the context of the personalities and historical contexts in which the gardens were formed. The plants and planting are very well handled, picking out notable examples but keeping horticulture in balance with other considerations.
The things I miss in the book are garden plans and an art-historical account of the styles represented in the gardens. The terms Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque, Romantic etc are used but without any information either about their characteristics or about how they apply to gardens (see our Style Guide for further information on design styles and please contact us if you offer tours of the gardens of the Italian lakes to add to our Garden Tours section on Italy.

Gardens of the Italian Lakes by Steven Desmond was published by Frances Lincoln in May 2016

 

GARDEN TOUR AROUND LAKE MAGGIORE

1 . ISOLA BELLA Open from late March to late October, daily 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. www.isoleborromee.it/en/home/isola_bella
2. ISOLA MADRE The garden is open from late March to late October, daily 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. www.isoleborromee.it/en/home/isole_madre
3. VILLA TARANTO The garden is open from late March to the end of October, daily 8.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.; during October, the garden closes at 4 p.m. www.villataranto.it/en
4. VILLA SAN REMIGIO See http://www.visitstresa.com/Villa_San_Remigio.htm and http://en.villasanremigio.it/
5. VILLA DELLA PORTA Bozzolo The garden is open from March to November, from Wednesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm http://eng.fondoambiente.it/beni/villa-della-porta-bozzolo-fai-properties.asp
6. VILLA CICOGNA MAZZONI The garden is open for guided visits on Sundays and public holidays from April to October, 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon, and 2.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. www.villacicognamozzoni.it
7. VILLA PALLAVICINO The garden is open from mid-March to the end of October, daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the last entry at 5 p.m. http://www.parcozoopallavicino.it/index-en.html
8. ALPINIA The garden is open from mid-April to mid-October, daily 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. http://en.lagomaggiore.net/24/giardino-alpinia.htm
9. BOTANIC GARDEN OF THE BRISSAGO ISLANDS The garden is open from late March to late October, daily 9am to 6pm. http://www.isolebrissago.ch/en

GARDEN TOUR AROUND LAKE COMO

10. VILLA MELZI The garden is open from late March to the end of October, daily 9.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. www.giardinidivillamelzi.it
11. VILLA CARLOTTA The garden is open from early April to mid-October, daily 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. (the ticket office closes at 6 p.m) http://www.villacarlotta.it/
12. VILLA DEL BALBIANELLO The garden is open from mid-March to mid-November, daily except Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with last entry at 5.15 p.m. http://eng.fondoambiente.it/beni/villa-del-balbianello-fai-properties.asp?
13. VILLA SOMMI PICENARDI The garden is open by prior arrangement www.villasommipicenardi.it/english
14. VILLA SERBELLONI Tours are available from mid-March to the end of October, daily except Mondays, at 11 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. www.bellagiolakecomo.com/bellagio-lake-como-italy I POI-points-ofinterest/villa-serbelloni-garden
15. VILLA CIPRESSI Access to the hotel garden by ticket from reception: http://www.hotelvillacipressi.it/en/
16. VILLA MONASTERO The garden is open from March to the end of October, daily 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. www.villamonastero.eu/index.php
17. VILLA D’ESTE The garden can be visited by arrangement with the hotel: www.villadeste.com/en/13/home.aspx

Most of the gardens are beside the lakes and easily accessible by ferry

Most of the gardens are beside the lakes and easily accessible by ferry

Fernando Gonzalez’ Buddhist approaches to the design of gardens and landscapes

The photograph of Brighton beach, below, reminds me of Fernando Gonzalez’s Pure Land Garden:

Flint meeting chalk on a beach is a symbol of impermanence - anicca" width="900" height="531" /> Flint meeting chalk on a beach is a symbol of impermanence - anicca

Flint meeting chalk on a beach (in Sussex) is a symbol of impermanence – anicca”

Fernando  is  exploring the future role of Buddhism in garden design. The videos, below, have a comment on his 2015 Pure Land Garden and a 2013 interview with the designer.

Fernando wrote of the Pure Land Garden that: A curvilinear white shimmering structure captures the organic shapes of the landscapes and is inspired by nature’s natural rhythms. A planting colour palette influenced by the principal colours used in Buddhist art and ritual, warm yellows, oranges, blues and reds, emerge through a matrix of tussocky grasses. Three multi-stemmed Koelreuteria paniculata , golden rain trees, complete the well-being garden, exploring the potential of harmoniously combining the artificial and natural in a new artistic.

This video shows two contemporary Buddhist-inspired garden designs, at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show: The Sound of Silence Garden Fernando Gonzalez (interviewed by Tom Turner) and the Mindfulness garden by Martin Cook (a stone-carver and calligrapher).

Was Lancelot Capability Brown a landscape designer of genius?


2016 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Britain’s most famous landscape architect and garden designer. Lancelot Capability Brown was baptised on 30 August 1716 and when he died at the age of 67, on 6th February 1783, his reputation was sky high. By 1800 his reputation was mud-low. In 2016 Brown’s reputation is, once again, sky high.

In 1987, I had a go at explaining why this happened and, rightly or wrongly, have not changed my mind. You can read the explanation here or listen to an illustrated version on the above video. The short summary is that Brown’s popularity crashed because a change in the predominant understanding of ‘nature’. Even Gertrude Jeykll dissed Brown. His reputation only recovered when Marie-Luise Gothein, Christopher Hussey, Nicholas Pevsner and others appreciated that Brown worked in a classical style. He was not confused about the appearance of ‘wild nature’ or how it should be ‘imitated’.

Tim Richardson Oxford College Gardens – book review by Tom Turner

Oxford College Gardens

Oxford Colleges have plumped for the National Trust Style of Planting design (right) and are lucky to have excellent gardeners (left)

Tim Richardson  (Author), Andrew Lawson (Photographer) Oxford College Gardens  Frances Lincoln 2015 ISBN-13: 978-0711232181

Tim Richardson’s text is excellent.  Andrew Lawson’s photographs are excellent. Tim is the best informed and most readable of contemporary British garden historians. Andrew is a technically skilled photographer with artistic talent. Working together, they have given us a biography and portrait of Oxford’s colleges and their gardens.

Oxford College gardeners have done a great job too, century after century, and Tim does them justice. But from my standpoint they are too fashion conscious and too determined to make the college gardens look as though they belonged to the National Trust. Modern additions would be welcome but more historical traditions could have been conserved.

Plans of All Souls College Garden, Oxford

Plans of All Souls College Gardens. The new plan (left) has no information on planting design. But the 1598 plan (right) is rich in information.

I have three criticisms of the book. First, there is a lack of integration between the text and the illustrations.  Too many of the photographs were taken ‘in the garden’ rather than ‘of the garden’. They therefore fail to illustrate interesting points which the author has made.

A second criticism concerns the specially drawn plans. Plans are very welcome and I wish garden writers made more use of them. But this set of plans does not show the planting which everyone agrees to be a key feature of gardens – and many see as their defining feature. No trees, no shrubs, no hedges, no herbaceous plants. The plans only show buildings, water, paving and a green tone which might be grass. Future historians could have been very grateful for information about the planting design.

A third criticism is the lack of historical illustrations. There are a few – but there are far too few. Oxford is particularly rich in drawings, paintings, engravings and photographs. It would be great to see more of them. For example: p.35 refers to David Loggan’s engraving of Balliol. It is freely available on the web but it is not in the book; p.51 refers to Loggans drawing of Christ Church showing parterres.

One of its most enjoyable aspects is the balance between comment on the colleges and on their gardens. I knew little of the separate histories of the colleges and found that, as well as being of great interest, they helped me make sense of the gardens. Perhaps the title should have been Oxford Colleges and their gardens. A good map shows the locations of the colleges but there are no details of opening times.

Let me conclude by saying again: I really enjoyed reading the text and looking at the pictures.

Alan Titchmarsh on creating a “Stylish Garden”

Hard to know what I would write if the Sunday Express asked me to do a few hundred words on garden design but I can put some helpful advice in one sentence: ‘don’t take advice from Alan Titchmarsh‘. The concept of ‘style’ on which his article rests is of use in understanding garden history and restoring historic gardens but it often leads amateur designers astray. Or maybe the problem is more basic: to do a design you have to be a designer. Many owner-designers have proved that a design training is not essential – and some professional designers have proved that it is not sufficient. But, somewhat tautologically, you do have to be a good designer to produce a good design – and a fixation on styles or ‘stylish gardens’ is unhelpful.

Tivoli Companion,Tim Cawkwell – book review by Tom Turner

A Tivoli Companion Tim Cawkwell

A Tivoli Companion Tim Cawkwell

Tim Cawkwell’s 78-page book Tivoli Companion is, scholarly, enjoyable and puzzling in equal measure. The puzzle, for a reviewer, is the intended audience. I guess I know more about Tivoli than most general readers but a good deal less than those with specialist knowledge of Italian garden history. So perhaps the guide was written for people like me. But, are there many other people like me with an in-between knowledge of Tivoli?
The title A Tivoli Companion is well-chosen, reminding one of Georgina Masson’s Companion Guide to Rome. The Introduction is explicit that ‘this is not a guidebook that will tell you where to stay and what to eat’ but also states that ‘Tivoli is a rich enough place to have its own guidebook’. So is it a ‘guidebook’? Not really. The contents page identifies the main section of the text as an ‘Essay’ and this is the truth of the matter. It is akin to an extended magazine article. About half the text is about Tivoli’s three famous gardens: Hadrian’s Villa, the Villa d’Este and the Parco Villa Gregoriana, with their history and character dealt with rather glancingly. The author’s photographs tell us more but not as much as they could have done with more consistent and informative captioning. The book has only one plan. Hand-drawn and with almost unreadable labelling. But the information is useful and interesting: ‘Tivoli and R. Ariene in 17th century showing channel dug under the town to the NE corner of Villa d’Este’.
Just possibly, the puzzling aspect of the Companion is explained by the information about the author on p.78. Most of his writing has been about cinema. His literary approach is filmic. I am pretty confident that Calkwell’s Companion is, to date, the most extensive discussion of Tivoli’s graffiti in the English language,

A Tivoli Companion Tim Cawkwell CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2015)

The Gardens of Fletcher Steele, Priscilla Elliott – book review by Tom Turner

The Gardens of Fletcher Steele by Priscilla Elliott

The Gardens of Fletcher Steele by Priscilla Elliott


I opened this short book with some puzzlement, wondering why the author wrote it when a longer book had been published in 1989 and revised in 2003 (Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect: An Account of the Gardenmaker’s Life, 1885-1971 Robin S. Karson). Elliott must surely have read Karson’s book but does not list it in her bibliography.
The explanation of Elliott’s approach lies in her title: her focuses is on the gardens Steele designed. They are explained with quotations from his letters and grainy old sepia photographs from the Library of Congress Archive.
Fletcher Steele’s career has parallels with that of Thomas Mawson (1861-1933). He was born 28 years after Mawson and the comparison is interesting. Both were strongly influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and by its transformation into another Italian revival. In terms of design quality, the work of both men was less-inspired than the work of Jekyll and Lutyens. But in one respect Steel’s work is more interesting and important than Mawsons. Steele was interested in the modern world and keen to draw upon them. Mawson ridiculed the Art Nouveau style. Steele was attracted by the currents of Art Deco and Art Nouveau and interested in Abstract Art. This helped him achieve something Mawson never managed: a design classic – at Naumkeag – which Elliott sensibly illustrates on the cover of her book.
Though she lists and documents Steele’s gardens, Elliot is disappointingly quiet on stylistic issues and on Steele’s place in the histories of garden design and landscape architecture.
The Gardens of Fletcher Steele, American Landscape Architect by Piscilla Elliott (2014) is published by Guysborough Press 72 Cottage Street Melrose MA 02176

Great Gardens of London, Victoria Summerley – book review by Tom Turner

Good writing and good photography are real assets for garden books. Great Gardens of London was produced by a skilled investigative journalist working with two expert photographers. Victoria Summerley explains that the book is ‘aimed at residents and visitors alike’. Yes. But it is not particularly aimed at garden visitors. Or should I say ‘it is not aimea at all garden visitors’. The book’s first garden is that of the Prime Minister’s official London residence: 10 Downing Street. Doubtless it has been seen by many important visitors to London but I doubt if many travellers on omnibuses from Clapham are to be counted among their number.

Great Gardens of London by Victoria Summerley, Hugo Rittson Thomas, Marianne Majerus Frances Lincoln (2015) ISBN-10: 0711236119, ISBN-13: 978-0711236110

The book has a map and appendix with details of which gardens can be visited: 13 of the gardens are never open and 17 are open in various degrees. I did not know that Downing Street lets in a few visitors by ballot. Another appendix suggests more gardens to visit. 

America is said to have less of a class system but Winfield House, second in the book and the American ambassador’s London residence, is not part of the tourist circuit. No matter: the book is a great opportunity to see and read about these important gardens.

I don’t know whether to be pleased or sorry that PM Gordon Brown’s wife (Sarah) introduced raised vegetable beds to Downing Street. Good to think of the happy couple doing something useful with their time but I worry about how the beds fit into the garden aesthetically and about why they wanted the beds to be raised. Did they use railway sleepers? Raised beds are fashionable, and possibly a Tory idea, but my experience is that unless your ground is badly drained or polluted, or you want to avoid carrot fly, vegetables do better in unraised beds and need less watering. I’d like to know whether Downing Street harvests rainwater for its garden – or does it make unsustainable use of tap water? I was interested to read that Margaret Thatcher commissioned the Downing Street rose beds and that they contain a rose named after her. Great that it survived the dark age of Blair and Brown, much as the nearby statue of Charles I survived the Civil War. Do they use strips of iron to protect the adjoining lawn?

Sustainable gardening is high on the agenda for Winfield House. Even memos are composted. Just think how much Wikileaks trouble would have been avoided if the US had stuck to composting. Obama liked Winfield garden so much that he joked about wishing he had been Ambassador to London instead of President.

The gardens and parks in the book which are accessible to the public are well worth visiting, though most are flattered by the excellence of the photography. Eltham Palace Garden is an interesting place but, despite continued efforts by English Heritage, I find the quality of the gardens disappointing. Summerly sees Eltham as the product of ‘two dynasties’: the Tudors and the Courtaulds. But one does not sense their tastes in the design. It looks like a municipal park. English Heritage say the aim is restore Eltham to the style of the 1930s and they have used archive material to this end. Perhaps the problem is that the Art Deco style, which worked well for rebuilding Eltham Palace, was never resolved in English gardens. Fletcher Steele, as he showed at Naumkeag, could have done a much better job.

The garden of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill was ‘pretty dreadful’ before the Strawberry Hill Trust began a £9m restoration of the house and garden in 2009. Generally, I think individuals and trusts do a better job of this kind of work than bodies, like English Heritage, with national responsibilities. The Strawberry Hill Trustees have the wisdom to run a volunteer programme. Why don’t all publicly owned green spaces do this?

The next chapter is on Hampton Court, where much garden history research and restoration has been carried out. I am sorry that the book does not use historical drawings or plans but can understand that they might be thought unsuitable for a non-specialist readership.

Moving on, I was very pleased to find a chapter on the Downings Road Floating Gardens in Bermondsey. The wretched, unimaginative, blinkered bureaucrats of Southwark Council have been trying to get them removed for years. Their inclusion may help those who have long campaigned for their recognition and protection.

The book’s 30 gardens are categorised into five chapters. Some are unconvincing as groups. Chapter 4, on roof gardens, is a good group and a pleasure to discover. My dream is that London will become a Roof Garden City. This chapter shows what is possible. Most roof gardens are, understandably, not open to the public. But they are great places and, unlike most of the design styles represented in the book, they look contemporary. Jane Brown wrote of ‘the gardens of a golden afternoon’. Much though I like them, that afternoon continues to linger on beyond its natural lifespan. What London needs is a wealth of roof gardens. Unlike many capital cities, including Washington, Delhi, Beijing, Tokyo and Moscow, London has a climate which is very well suited to the enjoyment of roofs – providing they are well planned and well designed. I hope the second edition of Victoria Summerley’s Great Gardens of London will include the University of Greenwich Roof Garden in Stockwell Street. And if space can be found, I’d like to have more discussion of garden design styles.

Tom Turner

Cotswold Garden Tour of Hidcote, Highgrove and private gardens

Chipping Campden garden tour

Chipping Campden is a ‘garden town’ in the Cotswolds

Chipping Campden is a small market town in the Cotswolds, described as ‘the most beautiful village street now left on the island’ (G.M. Trevelyan English social history, 1944). The Cotswolds is an area of gently rolling hills famous for its sleepy villages, fine gardens and concentrated ‘Englishness’. The June tour from Cotswold Walks starts with 3 days visiting its private gardens. They are open (for charity) only for a week in June. After that the guests move to another Cotswold town (Barnsley, Bibury or Cirencester) for visits to other gardens, including:

Hidcote Manor  was designed and created by an American, Major Lawrence Johnston and examplifies the Arts and Crafts style of garden design with well-designed  garden rooms and linking spaces.

Rockcliffe garden was designed by its owner, Emma Keswick and her taste shines through the the design.

Temple Guiting Manor garden was designed by a well-known designer at the Chelsea Flower Show, Jinny Blom

Barnsley House Garden was owned and designed by Rosemary Verey

Highgrove is the country home of HRH Prince of Wales. He has had a remarkable success as owner, patron, designer and part-time gardener.

Asthall Manor garden is owned and designed by Julian and Isabel Bannerman, who also help Prince Charles with the design of Highgrove.

LAA Landscape Architects Website

LAA Landscape Architects Association

LAA Landscape Architects website

This blog has covered both designed gardens and landscape architecture for 7 years but have decided:

  • to use this blog for garden design, garden history and garden tourism
  • to use the LAA Landscape Architects blog for commentary on landscape architecture, urban design and planning – from me and, I hope, from others

I have not changed my mind about the relationship between the two subjects (please see What is the difference between garden design and landscape architecture?) but not everyone shares my interest in both areas of work.

Chelsea Flower Show, Sissinghurst, Wisley and Tatton Park Garden Tour

England is rightly famed as ‘the garden country’ and it would be a pity, surely, to visit England without seeing some of its gardens. So we recommend a 3-day classic gardens tour which includes visits to Chelsea, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, the RHS Wisley Garden and Tatton Park.

Chelsea Flower Show garden tour

Chelsea Flower Show Garden Tour

Chelsea Flower Show Garden Tour

The three main reasons for visiting the Chelsea Flower Show:

  • to see the show of flowers in the great tent
  • to see the show gardens which surround the great tent
  • garden-related shopping

The show is international. Flowers, products and garden designers come from around the world. So do the visitors. The demand for tickets is high and unless you buy a ticket long in advance of the show, or try your luck with ticket touts, there is little chance of getting in.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Garden Tour

Sissinghurst Castle Garden is, quite simply, the most famous garden in England. This is partly on account of its high design quality and partly because of the fame of its creators: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson.

Wisley RHS Garden Tour

RHS Wisley Garden Tour

RHS Wisley Garden Tour

RHS Wisley is the home garden Royal Horticultural Society. It has a fantastic collection of flowering plants in every category: herbaceous plants, Alpine plants, flowering shrubs, trees – everything.

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden Tour

Tatton Park Garden is set in a vast park designed by Lancelot Capability Brown. The garden has a Red Book by Humphry Repton and was largely designed by Joseph Paxton (who also designed the Crystal Palace in London) and was planned to give views of the Brown lake and deer park.

Tour of English gardens around Windsor and Bath

West of London garden tour

The country between Windsor and Bath has long been popular with people who are ‘tired of London’ and many of them have charming gardens made by famous designers. The Windsor to Bath Sisley Garden Tour provides opportunities to see them without the hassles of driving or finding places to stay. The route passes through beautiful countryside, lovely villages and cherished market towns, including Bath, Windsor, Marlborough, Malmesbury and Shaftesbury. The garden tour starts with a pick up from London Victoria Train Station or Heathrow Airport. The week includes visits to:-
Windsor Castle was built after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Set in a great hunting forest, now called Windsor Great Park, it became one of the royal family’s best-loved country homes.
Munsted Wood. This famous garden was the home of Gertrude Jekyll, the most famous Arts and Crafts garden designer and the author of many ever-popular books on planting design. The house was designed by Edwin Lutyens.
The Manor at Upton Grey. Designed by Gertrude Jekyll for a leading figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, the garden is particularly interesting for the planting, which was fully researched and restored by Rosamund Wallinger.
Bury Court. It has a courtyard garden by Piet Oudolf, working with the owner, and a front garden by the minimalist garden designer Christopher Bradley-Hole.
West Green Garden. An old manor house with an admired twentieth century garden by Marylyn Abbott.
Bowood House is one of the best surviving examples of  Lancelot Brown’s Serpentine style of garden design. The serpentine lake and encircling tree belt can be seen from the Italian Garden – which was designed as a stage from which to view the surrounding landscape.
Iford Manor was designed by Harold Peto, an Arts and Crafts architect and garden designer. He owned the house and spent many years collecting statues and other features in Italy. The garden is beside a river in a remarkably tranquil, beautiful and isolated valley.
Stourhead is rightly famous as the best example of a ‘landscape garden’ designed to recreate the ‘landscape of antiquity’ as envisioned by Claude Lorraine and other great landscape painters.
Shute House Gardens were designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe, the most famous English landscape architect of the twentieth century.
Abbey House Gardens were designed by a well-known designer who promoted postmodernism in gardens: Ian Pollard. It formed part of Benedictine monastery before Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and is now a remarakable integration of new and old.
Though not part of the Sisley tour, it is easy to make a post-tour visit to Hampton Court  Palace Garden and the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.

Bath, in the west of England, could well be described as a 'garden city'

Pinjore Yadavindra Mughal Garden


Pinjore Gardens deserve more recognition as an example of the Mughal style. There is much more which could and should be done but the restoration work already carried out is good and the water features work most of the time. The lower section of the garden is of particular interest and with more work could become India’s best example of the ‘fruits and flowers’ approach to planting design which was once the predominant character of Indian gardens. Constance Villiers Stuart, who made the first serious study of Indian gardens, was well aware of this and wrote about Pinjore in her book: see C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals .

Edwin Lutyens read Villiers Stuart’s book when working on the design of New Delhi and Le Corbusier visited Pinjore when working on the design of Chandigarh. She surely influenced Lutyens design for the garden of the Governor’s Place in Delhi – and Corbusier might have done a much better job of Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex if he had learned more from Pinjore.

 

 

Should London be a National Park?

The current proposal for London to be a National Park appears, to me, ill-conceived. It is a great city and its open space planning needs staffing and funding, but I can’t see sufficient kinship with the national park concept. Let’s recall the history of the concept. It began in America as an idea for giving the new world something of similar cultural significance to the ‘monuments’ of the old world. So they chose tracts of unspoiled scenery. This appealed to the British. We did not have any unspoiled scenery so we chose areas of high scenic quality instead. Some parts of London undoubtedly do have high scenic quality – but they are already designated as conservation areas and enjoy protection within the planning system. What London does need is a Landscape Authority to get on with work on the All London Green Grid. If London were to have something more on like a National Park Authority it should be a Thames Landscape Agency, as argued in the above video. The Port of London Authority is making a mess of managing the river for anything other than commercial traffic.

 

Dry stone walling in Crossbones Garden, a 2015 Chelsea Fringe event


Dry stone walling is flexible; it does not use mortar; it is good for wildlife; it is a sustainable. The only minus points arise if fuel is used for quarrying and transporting the stone.
This video is of a Chelsea Fringe event in Crossbones Garden, near London Bridge Station. Participants receive a certificate of attendance at the end of the session. John Holt is a great teacher.

Lee Rigby Memorial bikers ride from Greenwich Park to Woolwich 22 May 2015


In addition to many other design objectives, public parks should be designed as good places to hold public events and demonstrations. The main avenue in Greenwich Park was not designed for this purpose but serves it very well, as here for a memorial event for a British soldier, Fusilier Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who was attacked and killed by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich. Rigby was off duty and walking along Wellington Street. Two men ran him down with a car, then used knives and a cleaver to stab and hack him to death. Armed police officers arrived five minutes later. The assailants, armed with a gun and cleaver, charged at the police, who fired shots that wounded them both. They were apprehended and taken to separate hospitals. Both are British of Nigerian descent, raised as Christians, who converted to Islam (info from Wikipedia).

Review of the show gardens at the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show


Please see this page for video reviews of selected show gardens.
I’ve been too hot at Chelsea and I’ve been too cold. On Press Day, in 2015, I was too wet and too windswept. When the sun came out in the afternoon, the Press had to leave so that the Royal Family could enjoy the show. I’m not a republican, yet, but the rain did fall like stair rods. So what of the design quality of the Show Gardens? I thought some of the Fresh Gardens, on Royal Hospital Way, were better than most of the large gardens on the Main Avenue – some of which could be described as Stale Gardens.

Great Garden Design by Ian Hodgson – review

Ian Hodgson Great Garden Design book jacket

Ian Hodgson Great Garden Design book jacket

The Society of Garden Designers has produced a very good book on garden design. I commend it to anyone commissioning a garden and to future historians of garden design.
The section I like best, on Outdoor Experiences, deserves to become a book in its own right. There are only four sections, on Relaxing, Dining, Playing and Bathing.  But there are subsections, so that Dining includes Cooking Outside, Keeping Livestock and Growing Your Own.
This approach to garden design comes, in the UK, from John Brookes. His Room Outside, first published in 1969, launched British garden design on its profression from the Arts and Crafts Style to Modernism. In his introduction to Great garden design Brookes draws attention to the way in which ‘this book breaks down the overall plan of a garden and deals with the various sections and functions it may include’.
A failure to grasp the key principle of Modernism hindered, and hinders, the development of garden design. ‘Form follows function’ is the most convenient summary of Modern Movement principles but caused problems for garden designers. ‘What’ they wondered, ‘are the functions of a garden?’ My criticism of Great garden design is a weakness in the history and theory of garden design.
After Brookes’ Forward and an Introduction by Ian Hodgeson (the author) there is a chapter on Contemporary Garden Styles. A section on Sourcing Inspiration is followed by a section on Choosing a Style – which struck me as a return to the high Victorian eclecticism of Edward Kemp and the Mixed Style. It is followed by a menu of styles. Their names are Contemporary Formal, Urban Chic, Cottage and Country Style, Natural Style, Water Gardens and Subtropical Style. This is a departure from Modernism but I would not call it Postmodern and nor do I think the categories will be of use to those future garden historians who come across this useful and very well-illustrated book.
Great Garden Design was published 5th March 2015 by Frances Lincoln www.franceslincoln.com.