Charles Jencks, in The Language of postmodern architecture, assigned 'the death of Modern Architecture to a precise moment in time': July 15 1972 at 3.32 pm. But in the British Isles, Modern Gardens had scarcely enjoyed a life. The public gave every appearance of having looked at Tunnard's photograph of the Behrens house in an 'olde worlde' garden and decided the garden was charming but the house an abonimation. Nor had professional designers shown much enthusiasm for the style.

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The garden at Ditchley Park, designed by G A Jellicoe.
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm
The restaurant in the Cheddar Gorge, by G. A. Jellicoe and Russell Page, had one of the earliest modern gardens in England.

Jellicoe was, in essence, a post-modernist from the start of his career. As suggested in the accompanying essay on Jellicoe and the subconscious, it was an attitude learned on his mother's knee. One can detect its presence in his first significant designs, for Ditchley Park and the Caveman Restaurant, in the 1930s. Ditchley Park was a modern design with a heavy overlay Italian Renaissance themes. The Caveman Restaurant was a modern design with a significant symbolic content. Visitors to the restaurant could look up through the glass fish-pond to see the world through a representation of the miasmal stew from which our species evolved. As a designer, Jellicoe was too literary, theoretical and experimental to become popular. But some of his themes have found echoes in the work of others. Michael Spens wrote a book about him entitled Gardens of the Mind and there is a Garden in Mind at Stansted Park in Hampshire. It experiments with surrealism, as Jellicoe did in the Magritte Garden at Sutton Place.

[See essay Jellicoe’s subconscious approach to landscape design on CD]

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At the level of garden centre design, one can see something of a merger between the Abstract and the Arts and Crafts approaches. The geometry of abstract art has been blended with the varied sensuous delights of arts and crafts gardens. This tendency is most apparent in the selection of materials. The coldness of square concrete slabs, white-painted wood and steel, which once characterised the Abstract style, have given way to the richness of earthy bricks, stained timber and concrete finishes in which the cement is dominated by an exposed stone aggregate. Decorative fittings have reappeared in gardens and the prevailing sense of place and scale is altogether more intimate than in the early days of the Abstract style.

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The first edition of this book (1986) saw the inaugeration of a series of Garden Festivals as 'an auspicious pointer to the future of English garden design', though the master plans were seen as disappointing interpretations of the Mixed Style. They were worse than disappointing. They were disastrous. Excepting a few promenades, the five Garden Festivals have been destroyed: at Liverpool (1984), Stoke-on-Trent (1986), Glasgow (1988) and South Wales (1992). Most were built in two years and destroyed in one year. The largest sums of money ever spent by a British government on parks and gardens was utterly squandered, while equivalent projects in Germany, Holland and France, yielded useful parks and dramatic examples of landscape design. Michael Hesseltine, a Tory minister and leading advocate of closer relations with continental Europe, was responsible for the British blunders. When he promoted the Millennium Exhibition site at Greenwich, I wrote a letter which The Times did not publish. It proposed the following inscription, either for a slab outside the Greenwich Millennium Dome or as a tattoo on a suitable part of Mr Hessletine's anatomy: 

In the planning of Festivals, two principles apply. First: the after-use should be planned before the Festival-use. Second: the planning, design and construction process takes 10 years, not 2 years. 

My conclusion to the 1986 edition was more optimistic with regard to the festival theme gardens: 

The importance of the Liverpool International Garden Festival in the history of English garden design rests upon its 'theme gardens'. The use of themes marks a complete departure from the non-representational Abstract Style, and implies a return to what van Doesburg described as 'the repetition of stories, tales, etc', which he believed should be left to 'poets and writers'. If new links are forged between garden design, contemporary philosophy and poetry, the consequences of the Festival will be salutary. If, on the other hand, the 'theme gardens' merely lead to concrete reconstructions of historical styles, it will be a retrograde step. The art of garden design prospers when it looks to the fine arts and the world of ideas. It falters when looking exclusively to its own history.  

Whether or not it resulted from the Festivals, garden design in the British Isles did acquire a fresher complexion between 1986 and 1998. Designers have shown a significant interest in design themes, symbols, poetry and philosophy. New materials have been used with old materials. Bare concrete has given way to brick and stone. Bright colours have been used, especially as wood stains. Bold geometry has been enjoyed for its own sake. Lighting schemes and new water features have added drama. Steel, iron, aluminium, glass, mirrors and plastics have been used. One can see these trends on television gardening programmes, in magazines, in books and in demonstration gardens (eg Broadview Gardens). One can also see them in the gardens which designers have made for themselves.

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Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm
Little Sparta, by Ian Hamilton Finlay
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm
Little Sparta, by Ian Hamilton Finlay
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm
Little Sparta, by Ian Hamilton Finlay

Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden, Little Sparta at Stoneypath, has become the most important garden to be made by a poet since Pope's garden at Twickenham (c 1719). In the 1970s, Finlay was Scotland's leading concrete poet. As with the work of other concrete poets, the disposition of the words on the page, or whatever, made a significant contribution to their meaning. Some poets arranged their words to form circles, squares, spirals and triangles on the printed page. Finlay became interested in working on materials other than paper, including wood, stone, glass and aluminium. One could not place these works in libraries but they fitted easily with buildings and gardens. Finlay remembered how the Augustan designers had placed inscriptions on words and other features. The grotto at Stourhead is inscribed with Pope's words: 

Nymph of the grot these sacred springs I keep
And to the murmer of these waters sleep
Ah spare my slumbers gently tread the cave
And drink in silence or in silence lave.
 

Ian Hamilton Finlay began to place 'concrete poems' in his garden. Sculptors worked with him. The garden at Stoneypath has links with art, poetry and philosophy. Finlay's work is discussed in Mark Francis book on The meaning of gardens.

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Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm
Charles Jencks' London garden
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm
Charles Jencks' London garden

Since writing The language of postmodern architecture, Charles Jencks has become involved with garden design. He admires Finlay and has worked with him. Jencks' gardens, in London and south-west Scotland, are laden with symbolism. In his own terminology, they are double-coded. The primary coding is legible to all. The secondary coding is intelligible only to those who share the designer's knowledge of art, mythology and astro-physics.

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So what of the future? As argued in an essay on Revolutions in the garden, I believe the last decade of a century to be specially important in garden design. It is a time when people are prone to looking back and looking forwards. Both are vital to the making of good gardens. The wind is set fair for the twenty-first century to produce a crop of gardens as great as those of the Italian Renaissance. The twentieth century taught us what to do. The next century will be a time for doing and, no doubt, for more revivals.

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm
The Thames Barrier Park, by Alain Provost, is best understood as a revival of the Abstract Style. Note the resemblance of the diagrams on the right of the board, below, to John Brookes diagrams.
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htm

See history of landscape architecture

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