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The Flowering of the Landscape Garden: English Pleasure Grounds 1720-1800

By: Mark Laird

446 pages, Col illus, b/w illus

University of Pennsylvania Press

Hardback | Feb 1999 | #103096 | ISBN: 081223457X
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NHBS Price: £51.99 $63/€58 approx

About this book

The park of lawns, trees, and serpentine lakes in a picturesque composition of greens has long been viewed as the enduring achievement of eighteenth-century English landscape art. Yet this conventional view of the picturesque style ignores the colorful flowers and flowering shrubs that graced the landscape garden of the Georgian era. While the book is primarily devoted to the historical reconstruction of the formal and horticultural characteristics of "theatrical" shrubberies and flowerbeds, it also aims to animate the world of the eighteenth-century pleasure ground. Mark Laird shows how the unwritten lore of planting design was passed down by generation after generation of gardeners and discusses the interaction of landscape designer, client, nurseryman, land agent, and gardener in modifying and transforming the geometric layouts of previous generations. He traces the development of planting design theory and practice from Batty Langley to Capability Brown and William Chambers, and demonstrates how an English mania for flowering shrubs and conifers from eastern North America helped create the distinctive planting forms of the Georgian pleasure ground. Laird offers readers a wealth of visual and literary materials-from contemporary paintings, engravings, poetry, essays, and letters to more prosaic household accounts and nursery bills-to revolutionize our understanding of the English landscape garden as a powerful cultural expression. Through his original watercolor reconstructions of planting forms and through delightful descriptions of seasonal change and sensuous effect, he makes the gardens come alive, thus recognizing both the palpable qualities and aesthetic sophistication of eighteenth-century planting design. Laird's training as a landscape architect, garden conservator, and historian gives the book remarkable breadth and depth. It is a benchmark work, uniquely bridging the gap in landscape history between design and planting and horticultural studies.

Sumptuous.-New Yorker "A must-have masterwork."-Philadelphia Inquirer "Every once in a while an academic book on the subject of landscape history turns out to be in a class of its own, a 'classic' as it were. The Flowering of the Landscape Garden ... reads as smoothly as a good novel, explains as rationally as a textbook, and delights as easily as a walk though Painshill Park."-Landscape Architecture "Laird's work over the past fifteen years has done much to dispel our misconceptions about the role and significance of flowers and shrubs in the English landscape garden. He has forged a new narrative which shifts the focus away from parkland to the more intimate surroundings of the house."-Times Literary Supplement "Laird's work is not just a library product but a hands-on appreciation and ongoing dedication to his subject."-English History Review "An invaluable contribution to landscape and horticultural history."-Journal of Architectural Conservation "A revisionist history of the eighteenth-century English landscape garden, using contemporary plant lists, plans, paintings, poetry, essays, letters, household accounts, and nursery bills... These landscapes were not the monochromatic fields of green grass and trees we have come to accept as typical. They were filled with color in plantings beneath trees, along paths, and in flower gardens set in beds near the house. The book is well designed and lavishly illustrated. Laird's original watercolor reconstructions of planting forms show the color provided by shrubs and flower beds that have not survived."-Library Journal


Preface Introduction: Locating the Georgian Shrubbery and Flower Garden Ch. 1. The Origins of Theatrical Planting Ch. 2. The North American Influx: A Mania for Pines and Magnolias Ch. 3. The First Shrubberies: Circuits, Clumps, and Axiality Ch. 4. The Role of Exotics in Early Shrubberies Great and Small Ch. 5. Flowers in Cones, Crescents, Circles, and Conservatories Ch. 6. Flower Gardens Before Nuneham: The Planting Palette Ch. 7. The Shrubbery Codified Ch. 8. Shrubberies Perfected: Professionals in the Pleasure Ground Ch. 9. Theatrical Flower Beds and Flowering Elysiums Ch. 10. A Flower Garden of Profusion and Luxuriancy Epilogue Notes Bibliography Index of Names and Places Index of Plant Names Permissions and Credits

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Mark Laird is a historic landscape consultant who works on preservation projects in North America and Europe. He teaches landscape history at the University of Toronto and serves as review editor of Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. He is the author of A Natural History of English Gardening.

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