English Landscape Gardens: 1650 to the present day

Posted on September 7th, 2011 by Charles Boot

an online garden history course

Tim Richardson writes:

I have written this course as an ideal introduction to English garden history. It provides an overview of five centuries of development, from Baroque formalism through the naturalistic landscape style, right up to contemporary cutting-edge planting style.

The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner called the landscape garden Britain’s major contribution to the visual arts, and this course aims to explore why and how that came to be so. Beginning in the mid 17th century, when grand gardens were laid out in formal style, the course traces the development of garden style across five centuries. There is special emphasis on the early-18th-century landscape garden, as perhaps the high point, when politics, art, science, philosophy and gardening intersected in an unprecedented way. Later in the century Lancelot Brown made the style his own, creating a landscape monopoly across Britain, before Humphry Repton brought back an element of formality in the Regency period.

The 19th century witnessed the apogee of the head gardener and the creation of the first public parks, while new plant introductions from China and elsewhere provided new impetus to horticulture. The 20th century was one of the richest periods in English garden history and will be fully explored here. Gertrude Jekyll pioneered the colour-themed herbaceous border and her partnership with architect Edwin Lutyens created what is often seen as the perfect stylistic union between house and garden. The story is brought right up to date with modules on 20th-century planting theory and contemporary art or sculpture gardens such as Little Sparta.

Formed of ten modules, it is strongly recommended that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you), as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.

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if you have any questions about this course, please email

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