Books on Landscape History

Books on Landscape History
Books on landscape history have a wealth of information to offer us today. Here are some of my favorite titles on the subject.

“Garden History-Philosophy and Design 2000 B.C.-2000 A.D.” by Tom Turner was published by Spon Press/Taylor & Francis Group. It has beautiful historical illustrations. Written in an accessible style, this presents a concise, engrossing history of garden design with individual accounts, sample designs, and complete details for over 150 gardens from ancient Egypt to the present. There is even a list of plants used in ancient Egyptian gardens.

A chapter is also devoted to Asian and Islamic gardens to 1700 A.D. In addition, there are detailed accounts of western gardens from the 1400’s on since there are more historical records of those than there were for earlier periods. The appendix contains maps of the gardens’ locations. The author explores the evolution and development of garden design, and the influence various factors, such as geography and cultural settings.

“The English Garden and National Identity-the Competing Styles of Garden Design, 1870-1914” by Anne Helmreich was published by Cambridge University Press. English gardening tends to have far reaching influence to this day. Yet, interestingly enough, English garden embrace many different schools of thought. This is made clear by the author. Despite the divergent styles in England, all those involved were engaged in a search to express what they saw as the English national character.

Among the topics are wild gardens advocated by designer/writer William Robinson and cottage gardens. The author explores the role Gertrude Jekyll and her colleague Lutyens played. Illustrated with historical photos, this features extensive quotes from the period. She reveals how those involved were influenced by many cultural factors.

Fletcher Steele was one of the most influential landscape architects in America. His life and work is the subject of an authoritative, award-winning book. “Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect—an Account of the Gardenmaker’s Life, 1885-1971” by Robin Karson is the fourth volume of a series published by the Library of American Landscape History. This is beautifully illustrated with Steele’s own photos.

Steele had a lasting influence on American garden design. He designed almost 700 gardens during his career, some of which are still in existence. There are now seen as works of art. The author gives a wonderful account of how Steele came to develop his signature garden style, and how he introduced innovative ideas into landscape architecture. The author provides a careful analysis of his work and achievements during the various periods of his career. The appendix includes a glossary, planting plans for some of the gardens with lists of the plants he used, and a list of his clients.

There may be a number of books on Monet’s gardens, but none match the scope of “Living Monet-the Artist’s Gardens” by Doris Kutschbach. This was released by Prestel in July. The author places the gardens within the context of the artist’s career, his home life, and his position in the art world. This groundbreaking title even features details about the daily life of the family and recipes from the artist’s kitchen. It is wonderfully illustrated with lush color reproductions of his art, many of which are depicted in two-page spreads. There are also historic black and white photos as well as drawings of his gardens.

This title covers both art and garden history, and shows how plants and flowers played a major role in his art. The author gives details on how the artist designed the gardens carefully to achieve the desired effect. She presents the stories of his gardens during the various phases of his life. At the same time, she reveals his influence on other artists of the time. This features historic quotes from the author and others. The appendix contains a short biography of Monet.

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