Garden design

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Garden design is the process of designing the layout and planting of domestic gardens and the ornamental gardens of public parks. Gardens have been known for centuries, and the earliest records of garden design date back to the horticulture of Ancient Egypt and the Middle East.

Garden design in history

Before the renaissance, garden design in Europe was usually carried out by garden owners or by the professionals they employed (horticulturalists, architects, surveyors, sculptors etc). In China and Japan, gardens were often designed by scholars, artists, poets, painters and priests. In both Europe and Asia at that time, the land was generally owned and controlled by a small minority of wealthy people or institutions, such as religious orders. The smallest landowners were generally involved in subsistance farming, or at least much more likely to put their efforts and resources towards growing food than to dedicate their land to an ornamental design.

History of modern garden design

In Europe, professional training for garden designers probably began in seventeenth century France. After the time of Le Notre it was accepted that both an artistic and a horticultural training were necessary. Various garden design courses were established in Europe during the nineteenth century and in the twentieth century many of them changed over to the teaching of landscape architecture.

Sissinghurst, perhaps the most popular garden made in the twentieth century, was designed by its owners: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson.

Towards the end of the twentieth century there was a re-emergence of university level education programmes in garden design.

Garden owners became increasingly involved in garden design during the twentieth century, while, at the same time, the number of land owners who had gardens to design increased. While interest in ornamental horticulture became more wide spread among home owners, there was also a sizable expansion in the employment of professional garden designers. Most garden designers are trained in design and in horticulture, and have an expert knowledge of plants, their habits and their needs. Garden designers are also concerned with the layout of hardscape, including paths, water features, patios and decking.

The garden designer

In the UK), garden designers usually have a vocational type qualification (for instance a HND, BA or MA , however, anyone can call themselves a 'garden designer'. In the United States of America, XXXXXX. Garden designers should not be confused with Landscape Architects, who have a different training, and are members of a regulated profession. The alternative term 'gardener' is often applied to a labourer or hobbyist. In the US, the term "landscaper" frequently denotes a person hired to maintain the lawn and garden, rather than a landscape architect or pofessional designer.

The theory of garden design and landscape architecture can be traced to Vitruvius. Though he had little to say specifically about the design of outdoor space, Vitruvius put forward the influential theory that the objectives for all design projects are: Commodity (utilitas), Firmness (firmitas) and Delight (venustas).

Traditionally, garden designs were set out on the ground. With renaissance advances in plan drawing it became common for gardens to be designed on paper and transferred to the ground using surveying instruments, including tape measures and theodolites. With the invention of Computer Aided Design (CAD) towards the end of the twentieth century it is becoming increasingly common for garden designers to work on computer screens and then print paper plans which are issued to garden builders. A range of CAD programmes is used including vector drawing software, bitmap editing software, 3D modelling software and animation software. Some of these programmes are able to 'print' 3D models as well paper plans.

The elements of garden design

Gardens incorporate many types of plants into their structure. Trees, shrubs, and perennial plants generally form the bones of the garden.

include landform, water features, fountains, garden ponds, planting design, garden buildings, garden lighting, garden sculpture, garden ornament, garden furniture and hard landscape materials. These elements are used to make a wide range of garden types.



Naturalistic or informal

Wildlife and environmental



Cup garden

Garden design courses

Education in garden design has emerged from the older traditions of training in horticulture and architecture. Horticulturalists receive a technical education with a scientific underpinning. Garden designers require a knowledge of horticulture and building construction but also require the skills in art and design traditionally associated with architectural education. This is often provided with a Bauhaus type art foundation course in drawing, painting and 3D modelling. Since garden designers draw upon the historic legacy of garden design they also require knowledge of the history of gardens. A garden design education can be obtained via a 3 or 4 year university course or by various short courses, often run by private colleges, with a duration somewhere between 1 day and 2 years.

The Inchbald School of Design, in association with the University of Wales, offers an MA course in Garden Design. The University of Greenwich offers an MA in Garden Design and also an MA in Garden History.

A number of part-time certificate courses are available at various private colleges in the UK, including Merrist Wood College, Surrey, and Inchbald School of Design, London.

See also

External links