Cover image for The flowering of the landscape garden : English pleasure grounds, 1720-1800
The flowering of the landscape garden : English pleasure grounds, 1720-1800
Laird, Mark.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvii, 446 pages, 35 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
SB457.6 .L349 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



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.

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Laird, a historic landscape consultant, teaches landscape history at the University of Toronto. His work on re-creating historic garden designs has led him to construct a revisionist history of the 18th-century English landscape garden, using contemporary plant lists, plans, paintings, poetry, essays, letters, household accounts, and nursery bills. He argues that the English mania for flowering shrubs and conifers from eastern North America helped create the distinctive planting forms of the Georgian pleasure ground. This study shifts the focus away from extensive parkland to the more intimate sphere of the shrubbery and flower garden. 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. Recommended for large public and academic libraries.√ĄDaniel Starr, Museum of Modern Art, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Laird, a historic landscape scholar, teacher, and consultant, explores in extensive detail less investigated aspects of the cultivated landscapes of 18th-century England. The "picturesque" landscape of this period is known for its seemingly natural--and predominately green--arrangements of trees, lakes, and lawns. However, the author's research brings to fore the use and extent of colorful, flowering plants also employed in this era. The documentation about the extensive importation of North American plants, particularly magnolias and pines, to England and how those plants influenced the ambience and form of the English pleasure ground is of particular interest. Coverage of the interactions of various trades associated with landscape design in the Georgian period and their influence on designs throughout the generations is especially noteworthy for its broader contribution to cultural history. Laird's original watercolor reconstructions of plant forms are among the profuse illustrations that enrich his book. Among the supplements is an index to referenced plant names of likely appeal to horticulturists. Besides being a solid and unique contribution to the literature of garden history and horticulture, this book provides substantial insight into 18th-century English culture. Graduate students through professionals. E. H. Teague; University of Florida

Table of Contents

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
Index of Names and Places
Index of Plant Names
Permissions and Credits