Garden design ideas

Garden design ideas point to  an overlap between the histories of garden design and landscape architecture:

  • Both disciplines relate ‘the works of man’ to ‘the works of nature’
  • Their design ideas and histories are inter-twined
  • They involve the composition of landform, water and planting with vertical and horizontal structures
  • They are concerned with what Norman T Newton called Design on the land and Geoffrey Jellicoe called The landscape of man.
  • They are influenced by art but differ from from ‘art’, because ‘designed’ objects have utilitarian functions. [If ‘art’ is regarded has having functions then they concern the mind more than the body – if one regards mind and body as separate entities.]

Gardens are better places for exploring design ideas than public landscape architecture, because they tend to be smaller, because they are less utilitarian and because they have private clients who often care more about ideas than impersonal public clients.

Design history is a rich source of ideas. But historical designs are best treated as timeless patterns of the kind advocated by Christopher Alexander in his book on The Pattern Language, unless one is doing on historic restoration or re-creation project. I find art-historical categories provide the best approach to the classification of periods in the history of designed gardens.  But nationalistic and dynastic categories also have their uses.

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