Throughout history great gardeners have risen from all walks of life. Some have been aristocratic amateur gardeners, others professional designers with an international practice. Some have come to garden-making from sister arts such as sculpture or painting; some have been hands-on nurserymen or botanists. What they all have in common, no matter where or when they were born, is the ability to take an idea and develop it in a new manner relevant to their times.
The book contains four sections. ‘Gardens of Ideas’ moves from the politically allusive gardens of 18th-century England made by men such as William Kent, to Charles Jencks’s Scottish garden inspired by 21st-century cosmography. ‘Gardens of Straight Lines’ explores the lives of the great formalist gardeners, from Le Nôtre at Versailles to the rational English minimalism of contemporary designer Christopher Bradley-Hole. ‘Gardens of Curves’ begins with that great exponent of the English landscape garden, ‘Capability’ Brown, and leads to the extraordinary Brazilian designer Roberto Burle Marx. Finally, ‘Gardens of Plantsmanship’ moves from the father of naturalistic planting, William Robinson, to the sweeping prairies of New York’s favourite Dutch designer, Piet Oudolf.