Ian Hamilton Finlay

Posted on April 12th, 2006 by Sian Jones

Sadly, on Monday 27 March 2006, Ian Hamilton Finlay died at the age of 80. The fulsome obituaries in the broadsheets acknowledge the passing of a Renaissance Man – poet, sculptor, artist, philosopher, landscape gardener.

For the past 40 years, the garden around his home in the Pentland Hills of southern Scotland, has been at the heart of his creative activity. As an innovative modern garden, Little Sparta has won international acclaim and prompted commissions for public and private gardens elsewhere – the most notable in the UK being Stockwood Park, Luton, St George’s Bristol and the garden of the Serpentine Gallery in London’s Hyde Park.

Always challenging, often controvertial, his works offer an ecstacy of delight and sometimes the surprise of a shock – generally mediated by his wry humour. Although thoroughly modern, he enjoyed a passionate sense of history and associated his art with the lyric garden making of the Georgian poets, William Shenstone and Alexander Pope, and with the pugnacity of a Stowe. Positive in his foresight, he has ensured that the garden will be conserved and remain open to the public (see www.littlesparta.org).

The plans he formulated with the Little Sparta Trust for the garden’s future are discussed in the article, ‘Planting for Perpetuity’, in Historic Gardens Review (March 2006). A fuller appreciation will appear in Garden History News no. 78.

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