'Restoration' is a much-abused word, when applied to gardens. Plainly, it means 'to return to its former condition'. But many people speak of 'restoring' a walled vegetable gardens by planting it with decorative plants. This may be a good use of the walled enclosure but it is garden design, not garden restoration. Others speak of 'restoring' a Georgian garden when they have no information whatsoever as to what was there in Georgian times. And there are far too many so-called 'knots' and 'parterres' which have no relationship to the garden's actual history or even to the manner in which such features were made at the period in question. The alternatives for a historic project are as follows:
It is sometimes right to conserve an historic fabric in its existing condition. For structures, this is possible. With plant material, it is more difficult. In conserving an avenue, for example, one must chose between re-planting each tree as it dies and replacing the whole avenue as one operation.
It is sometimes right to 'restore' a garden in the exact sense of putting it back to its condition at a previous date. This can be done using archaeological evidence, drawings, estate records, illustrations, travellers accounts and any other information. But one has to be careful:
This is the term Dr Sylvia Landsberg uses for making medieval gardens. There are no records of gardens which were made in particular locations so that 'restoration' is always an inappropriate term for medieval gardens. But we have a great deal of knowledge of medieval gardening and it is possible to 're-create' examples. In some locations it is a very appropriate policy.
4. Creative Conservation
Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe used this term for his work on gardens with a number of historical layers. He recommended a policy of achieving a creative synthesis while conserving the best of each layer and, where appropriate, adding a new layer.
Cases in point
The following examples are likely to be of interest to those considering a garden restoration project
Lost Gardens of Heligan
Hampton Court Palace
The Tudor House Museum and Garden
Painswick Rococo Garden
Westbury Court Garden
Painshill Landscape Garden