Category Archives: Garden Design

Monty Don on the ‘Paradise Gardens’ of Islam

Monty Don is my favourite TV garden presenter but watching his BBC2 series on “””Paradise Gardens”””” has been a mixed pleasure. He has the talents to be a good garden historian. But he does not have the time. So the BBC should involve more experts. On Islamic gardens (as they are often, if misleadingly called) the best source of reference is Islamic Gardens and Landscapes by D. Fairchild Ruggles. She argues, convincingly, that before the sixteenth century the gardens Monty Don has visited (at speed) were NOT conceived as Paradise Gardens. The concept of paradise was found in the Qur’an but was not applied to real world gardens until tomb gardens came to be made in Mughal India. Retrofitting the paradise concept to earlier gardens is a flight of fancy of a kind the BBC should spurn. It makes no more sense than would a discussion of motor vehicles in eighteenth century gardens or in Roman gardens.

Monty is stronger on the planting of Islamic Gardens and it was a pleasure to hear him draw attention to the British planting of the Taj Mahal Garden  and Humayun’s Tomb Garden. He, or his research assistants, had the good sense to consult local experts. A British viceroy did his disappointing best to convert the Taj Mahal garden to the Gardenesque Style of  Victorian England. ‘George Nathaniel Viscount Curzon was really a very superior person’.

RSPB Lodge Sandy Wildlife Garden

Garden Finder entry for RSBP Lodge Garden


I don’t miss the Lodge Garden of the 1870s – because there is no reason to think its quality was exceptional. Nor do I miss the Lodge Garden of the 1930s, partly for the same reason and partly because the National Trust has made so many ‘improved Arts and Crafts’ gardens.

The RSBP Lodge bulding, near Sandy, was designed by Henry Clutton (above) for Arthur Wellesley Peel (below)

Photographers are able to find angles which make the Lodge Garden look National Trusty, which is the right thing to do near the house. But by taking a close look one can see that the RSBP has begun work on something more innovatory and more important. It is using its technical expertise to make a wildlife garden. There is every reason for the RSPB to know more about this and to do it an way that can be an inspiration to both amateur and professional gardeners. My suggestion is for the RSPB to make a garden that is beautiful, as well being habitat-rich. My video was taken in 2009 and I am sorry to criticise such a worthwhile effort. The Lodge Garden looks as though a group of conservation volunteers from a sixth-form college had been invited to have a bash at making a wildlife garden. There should now be a concentration on design quality.

Garden birds have been popular at least since the gardens of ancient China and ancient Rome

London has 13.2% of the UK’s population and the area of private gardens  in London  37,900 hectares. Gardens tend to be larger outside London so land devoted to gardens in the UK could be 300,000 ha. Comparing this with the area of the National Nature Reserves in the UK (94,400 hectares) it is obvious that the RSPB could do a lot for the UK’s bird population by creating a first class example of an Ornithological Garden for the Lodge. Birds were highly valued in ancient Chinese and Roman gardens.

Damien Hirst of Toddington Manor

Is Damien Hirst furnishing Toddington Manor with a Young British Artist Garden? Born in 1965, he is now a now Middle Aged British Artist

Damien Hirst is the lord of Toddington Manor. The old manor house was drawn by Kip in the eighteenth century and rebuilt as a gothic revival mansion in the nineteenth century. Hirst uses the manor for his art collection and I hope he is making a YBA garden.

Beliefs, gardens, design and #GardenBeliefs

Beliefs have led to the planting of Nelumbo nucifera the Sacred Lotus since ancient times

Beliefs have led to the planting of Nelumbo nucifera the Sacred Lotus since ancient times

Beliefs have always influenced garden design styles, just as they influence contemporary gardens. And  just as they will surely influence future gardens. I do not have a religion but I do believe in beliefs and in their importance for designers. Neil MacGregor’s radio series on Living with Gods is therefore of great interest to me. Taking objects and places as examples, MacGregor explains the beliefs that led to their creation. This is what I tried to do when writing histories of Asian, European and British garden design.  So when I can see a connections between what MacGregor say and the history of gardens I will blog and tweet about them using the hastag #GardenBeliefs. I am hoping he will devote a programme to Nelumbo nucifera the Sacred Lotus – but doubt it. It was a celebrated garden plant long before the Buddha made it a very famous garden plant as recorded in the story of the Flower Sermon:

Toward the end of his life, the Buddha took his disciples to a quiet pond for instruction. As they had done so many times before, the Buddha’s followers sat in a small circle around him, and waited for the teaching. But this time the Buddha had no words. He reached into the muck and pulled up a lotus flower. And he held it silently before them, its roots dripping mud and water. The disciples were greatly confused. Buddha quietly displayed the lotus to each of them. In turn, the disciples did their best to expound upon the meaning of the flower: what it symbollized, and how it fit into the body of Buddha’s teaching. When at last the Buddha came to his follower Mahakasyapa, the disciple suddenly understood. He smiled and began to laugh. Buddha handed the lotus to Mahakasyapa and began to speak. “What can be said I have said to you,” smiled the Buddha, “and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa.”

Alan Watts a great interpreter of Buddhist ideas for westerners made a wise comment on contemporary religious ideas (he uses the term ‘faith’ where I  use ‘belief’):

The present phase of human thought and history … almost compels us to face reality with open minds, and you can only know God through an open mind just as you can only see the sky through a clear window. You will not see the sky if you have covered the glass with blue paint. But “religious” people who resist the scraping of the paint from the glass, who regard the scientific attitude with fear and mistrust, and confuse faith with clinging to certain ideas, are curiously ignorant of laws of the spiritual life which they might find in their own traditional records.

Seven restoration projects of garden history importance – two in Greenwich Park

Historic garden restoration projects

A proposal for 7 historic garden restoration projects in the preface to the first edition of Tom Turner’s English Garden Design

I proposed 7 garden restoration projects in 1986, and reported on what had happened in 1998:

The Preface to the 1986 printed edition of this book made ‘ a personal plea for some restoration projects which would be of special historical value as examples of poorly represented styles’. The plea had no influence upon events but the following update may be of interest to readers: (1)  The semi-circular parterre at Hampton Court, known as the Fountain Garden, has not changed. But the nearby Privy Garden has been restored with the greatest possible care for historical accuracy. I believe this was an error of judgement: the Privy Garden is an unremarkable as a Baroque parterre but looked good in its picturesque 1986 condition. The Fountain Garden remains rather ugly but would have been very splendid – if restored in the manner of the Privy Garden. (2)  The Giant Steps in Greenwich Park have not been restored. The Royal Parks Agency commissioned a design for a Baroque water cascade on the site. It was opposed by the local people. I can see a strong case for restoring the original steps which would have been like Bridgeman’s theatre at Claremont Landscape Garden. Or one could make a respectable case for a new design on the site. But ‘restoring’ a cascade which never existed would have been illogical. (3)  The Leasowes is now run as a country park. (4)  Nothing has been done about the parterre at Melbourne Hall or the ornamental farm at Great Tew (5)  Gertrude Jekyll’s garden at Munstead Wood is, I am delighted to report, being restored.

It’s time for another update:

  1. The semi-circular parterre at Hampton Court has not been restored and the Privy Garden still lacks the aesthetic quality it had before it was restored
  2. ‘Restoration’ of the Giant Steps in Greenwich Park is under consideration and may well happen – I will do a blog post about this soon
  3. The Leasowes is still run as a country park and with little regard for the outstanding importance of William Shenstone’s conception
  4. Nothing has been done about the parterre at Melbourne Hall
  5. Nothing has been done about  the ferme ornée at Great Tew
  6. Good restoration work has been done at Munstead Wood and it is open to the public by appointment
  7. I suggested ‘some full-scale Gertrude Jekyll borders with colour schemes based on J.M.W. Turner’s colour theory’
The herbaceous border in Greenwich Park is not a national disgrace

The herbaceous border in Greenwich Park is not a national disgrace

With regard to the 7th suggestion, I was thinking about the long border in Greenwich Park but did not mention it because the Giant Steps seemed more important. In 2013, The Royal Parks appointed Chris Beardshaw to ‘completely redesign the border’. I have often admired his work at Chelsea and am sure he did a good job for Greenwich. But there are lessons to be learned:

  1. The quality of the long border is poor. This may because you can’t just ask an expert to design a herbaceous border. You need to expert to have responsibility for its management and review the design very frequently. It’s best to have the expert working on the border and thinking about it all the time. Is this plant doing too well? Why is that plant suffering? Would it be better if those two plants were not side by side? do those colours go together?
  2. The Royal Parks Agency (as it used to be) lacked expertise in the design and the design history of parks, gardens and landscapes. So they probably did a poor job in briefing Chris Beardshaw.
  3. The Royal Parks are really bad at involving volunteers in the management of parks and gardens. This is a tragic wasted opportunity for bringing in resources of mind and brain and involving the community.
Gertrude Jekyll's brilliant idea for the colour planning of herbaceous borders has never yet been deployed at the large scale and superb viewing conditions Greenwich Park could provide

Gertrude Jekyll’s brilliant idea for the colour planning of herbaceous borders has never yet been deployed at the large scale and superb viewing conditions Greenwich Park could provide

English lawns in 1964

Lawn and Adirondak Chair (Guardian, 1964)

Lawn and Adirondack Chair (Guardian, 1964)

The Guardian has just reprinted a 1964 article on lawns by Moira Savonius, who also wrote books on fungi and on flowers. She sees lawns as a ‘cult’. My impression is that grass cutting has declined in public parks and stately homes but that the area they occupy in private gardens is but slightly diminished – and maybe not at all if you allow for fact that motor mowers were , relatively, much  more expensive in 1964 and so many more people ‘neglected’ their grass in the suburbs. A curious feature of the black and white photo accompanying the article is the Adirondack Chair – I believe they were most uncommon in 1960s Britain.

Donald Trump unveils new White House garden design

Trump White House Garden Design

Golden opportunity for garden design lover

The design objectives were to make fellow Americans feel great about themselves, to restore women to their proper place in American life and to show that the garden of the White House can serve a higher purpose than Michelle Obamacare for sustainable vegetables. The designer is believed to have been recommended by a Mr Putin who has an important position in Russia and good taste in golden statues of bimbos.

A cub journalist working for Gardenvisit.com was invited to be a judge on the internal competition for redesigning the garden of the Trump White House in Washington DC. She was flattered but turned down the opportunity when required to wear a gold bikini.

Michelham Priory Medieval Garden

Michelham Priory Garden is a delightfully tranquil moated manor house in East Sussex. What I like most about it is the recreated medieval garden. And what I like most about the medieval garden is the ‘flowery mead’ and the turf seats. Our knowledge of Michelham – and of medieval gardens in general – is not enough to say whether or not the details are accurate. But, to me, these details feel right and this is not a feeling I have about comparable recreations, either by the Garden History Museum or National Trust. Nor do I have this feeling about cathedral cloister garths. They are all managed with lawn mowers and this device was invented in 1830. The usual problem with medieval recreations is that their designers are muddled about the differences between medieval, renaissance and baroque gardens. So they use clipped hedges, which were a baroque feature, to make renaissance-style knot gardens. It does not make sense!

Michelham Priory Medieval Garden

The ‘flowery mead’ in Michelham Priory Medieval Garden

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?

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

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.

 

 

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.

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.