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Thomas Mawson Book Review

Gardeners will revel in the beauty of a wonderful new book on Thomas Mawson. This is a must have for those interested in garden history.

“Thomas Mawson-Life, Gardens, and Landscapes” by Janet Waymark was released by France Lincoln. It features 240 illustrations, including exquisite color photos as well as historic black and whites and drawings.

This is the very first complete biography of the life and career of this renowned Edwardian garden designer and city planner. Born in 1861, he died in 1933. This book does justice to this remarkable man so that he can receive the recognition he deserves.

A chapter is devoted to each stage or aspect of his multi-faceted career. In addition to being a landscape architect, he was also an educator, writer and city planner.

The introduction focuses on his early years. His humble beginnings and limited education never prevented him from achieving his goals. Growing up, he worked in the family nursery and gained valuable gardening experience. He also came to realize that he loved drafting and drawing, which led him to take an art course. He was largely self taught as far as horticulture and garden design was concerned.

The author follows the early years of his career, and explains how he developed his distinctive garden style based on his childhood in the Lake District. In Mawson’s view, the design must create a sense of place and honor the natural landscape of the area. Very quickly he became well known. His work was in demand, especially among the well-to-do.

The author also explains how his business grew over the years to include many overseas commissions. His sons joined their father in the family business.

As this book makes clear, Mawson was at the forefront of landscape architecture and city planning. In some ways his parks and town/city work paralleled that of Frederick Law Olmsted. He was involved in town planning in both the New World and the Old. For years he was engaged in town projects in Greece, which were never completed because of World War I and political upheaval in the area.

The author also makes clear that Mawson was involved in much more than garden design. This book devotes a chapter to his role as an educator and author. During his lifetime, Mawson wrote a number of books on garden design and garden planning. He actually coined the term “Arts and Crafts Style,” which was used by Gertrude Jekyll and others of the period.

The appendix has a list of all the garden commissions that he undertook between 1887 and 1929. This also lists his work in parks and town planning.

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