The Landscape Guide


PREFACE to the first printed edition (Antique Collectors Club, 1986)


 English garden design (1986)  English garden design (1992)
 1986 cover  1992 cover

Frank Clark, who wrote a most charming book, The English Landscape Garden, was once asked to give evidence at a public inquiry about the value of preserving an eighteenth century garden (Levens Hall) through which the Ministry of Transport hoped to drive a motorway. Ill health prevented him from attending but he told his students that he had been ready to claim that the ideas which led to the design of such gardens represented a more important English contribution to western culture than either Shakespeare’s plays or Milton’s poetry. His reasoning was simple: many countries have produced great poets but England is the only country to have produced a complete theory of outdoor design. The first application of the theory was to gardens but, as Christopher Hussey tells in The Picturesque, it subsequently had a dramatic impact on the other arts, ranging from poetry itself, to painting, literature, architecture and town planning. David Watkin has enlarged upon Hussey’s discussion of the subject in his book The English Vision

The first chapter of this book gives an account of the ideas on which the art of garden design was based in England. The remaining chapters describe and illustrate the various styles which have resulted from these ideas. Dates are given for the period covered by each chapter – they are arbitrary but help to describe the contents. Fourteen styles of garden design are named and illustrated in the course of the book. Some are well represented by surviving examples, others very poorly. Where appropriate I have used old engravings and photographs to illustrate more accurately the intentions of the original garden designers. 

The care of historic gardens has become an important sphere of activity for landscape architects and, though many of these gardens are at risk through neglect, many restoration projects are in hand. I would like to make a personal plea for some restoration projects which would be of special historical value as examples of poorly represented styles: 
the semi-circular parterre which should like in front of Hampton Court; (2) the great flight of grass steps in Greenwich Park; (3) London and Wise’s parterre at Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire; (4) the fermes ornees at The Leasowes and Great Tew; (5) some full-scale Gertrude Jekyll borders with colour schemes based on J M W Turner’s colour theory. Munstead Wood is the ideal location but others could be made in several urban parks and in gardens which are open to the public. 

Although the title of this book refers to English garden design, some of the designers are not English and a few of the examples are in Scotland and Wales. English is used in preference to British because it describes a culture rather than an empire. 

I am grateful to Professor G P Henderson who introduced me to the philosophy of aesthetics, and to Frank Clark who aroused my interest in the history of garden design and lent me his copy of A O Lovejoy’s The Great Chain of Being, a work which has had a considerable influence on this book. I hope to have acknowledged my intellectual debts in the text. 

I would also like to thank Michael Lancaster and my wife, Margaret, for continuous advice on the manuscript, Adam Czerniawski for advice on the first chapter, and Cherry Lewis for her careful editorial work. Individuals and organisations who kindly gave permission to reproduce illustrations are acknowledged in the captions. Other photographs and drawings are mine or my wife’s.