The Landscape Guide
BRITAIN: contents
1.10 Styles of garden design (14 no.)
Which is the "landscape" style?
Names for the fourteen styles of British garden design, since 1650. 
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It is convenient to have names for styles when discussing the history of garden design. The names act as an aide memoir and focus attention on the changing uses and changing concepts of beauty which have marked the course of garden history. Unfortunately several of the names in general use are not sufficiently limited in scope to be useful for the purpose. The names 'Natural style' and 'Landscape style' are typical examples. They are applied indiscriminately to eighteenth century English gardens, but both are vague and confusing. Almost any style could be called 'Natural' depending on one's concept of nature. And which style should be called the 'Landscape' style? There are many contenders. Timothy Nourse, whose ideal garden was a walled enclosure, first used the word in connection with gardens in 1699 (he said 'let there be walks of trees to adorn the landskip').
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see
Illustration of an enclosed garden, from Timothy Nourse

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Addison was the first, in 1712, to speak of making a landscape, but Shenstone, in 1754, is usually given the credit for inventing the term 'landscape gardener'. Lancelot Brown is the most famous 'landscape gardener' but in fact he called himself a 'place-maker' (c.1760). His successor, Humphry Repton was the first professional designer to call himself a landscape gardener (c.1794) but he often used 'improver' as an alternative title. The style of his sometime friends, Price, and Knight, was the most deliberately based on the principles of landscape painting of any in the eighteenth century, but the nineteenth century was, of course, the real heyday of 'landscape gardener' as a trade and professional title. Since one or other of the above considerations could be used to justify calling almost any style the landscape style, I decided to avoid the name in the first edition of this book. In this edition, for the reasons given in the Preface, I have used the name Landscape Style for what was named the Transition Style in the first edition. 

A risk with the names 'Natural' and 'Landscape', in connection with styles, is their tendency to encourage the woeful simplification that there are only two styles of garden design 'which are really.......the formal and the naturalistic'. This remark does make the point that lines can be either curvilinear or rectilinear but it obscures the fact there are many different styles of garden design. Eleven will be described in this book. They depend on three main variables: the plan, the hard details and the soft details. In large gardens and estates the plan is usually the most characteristic feature and over half the styles take their name from a feature of the plan. In small gardens there is less scope to vary the plan and their appearance tends to be dominated by the design of the hard details (steps, pavings, walls etc.) and the soft details (herbs, shrubs, trees etc). The hard and soft details often provide the richness of colour, texture and meaning which are amongst the chief delights of gardens. But they are not of equal durability. A few years neglect can easily destroy a planting design but, walls, steps and fountains often survive when all the other elements of a garden have gone. This is certainly the case with the oldest surviving British gardens.

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Fourteen styles which have influenced British gardens are listed below and will be explained in subsequent chapters:


  1. Enclosed Style of Garden Design
  2. French Style of Garden Design
  3. Dutch Style of Garden Design
  4. Forest Style of Garden Design
  5. Augustan Style of Garden Design
  6. Serpentine Style of Garden Design
  7. Picturesque Style of Garden Design
  8. Landscape Style of Garden Design
  9. Italian Style of Garden Design
  10. Mixed Style of Garden Design
  11. Gardenesque Style of Garden Design
  12. Arts and Crafts Style of Garden Design
  13. Abstract Style of Garden Design
  14. Postmodern Style of Garden Design


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