The Idea of the formal garden evokes clear and specific images: the Renaissance symmetry of the Villa Lante; the knots and mazes of Hampton Court; the immense vistas of Versailles. But how well founded are our preconceptions in fact?
In this major study new research combines with glorious illustrations to demonstrate for the first time how historic gardens were originally conceived, and how they have changed. The gardens today are seen to be a fascinating overlay through time of changing ideas and attitudes. The evidence unearthed suggests that formality is the central and enduring tradition of Western garden design, that it was still vigorously alive in the eighteenth century, and that its relation to the landscape garden has been consistently misjudged. In some gardens, the original planting has disappeared, while others have been meticulously restored; indeed, traditional categories prove insufficient to describe them, for a "Baroque" garden may actually be a re-interpretation from the 1930s.
In the course of his wide-ranging investigation, Mark Laird draws on archival sources - maps, plans, published and unpublished descriptions - and his own horticultural expertise to look afresh at over fifty of the finest surviving gardens in Europe and the United States. All the major styles - Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque, Regence, Rococo - are represented, along with nineteenth- and twentieth-century revivals.
The author is one of the most original garden historians writing today, and in Hugh Palmer, the photographer, he has found an eye and knowledge to match his reputation. The sumptuous color photographs are supplemented by over one hundred rare historical plans and views to show how the gardens changed through history. Additional reference material includes a gazetteer of sites, a glossary of planting terms and full bibliographies.
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