Gardens as Art

Throughout history there have been several beautiful garden styles. However, my favorite by far is the Arts and Crafts style garden.

The Arts and Crafts style is appealing because it was inspired directly by art theory. Gertrude Jekyll, who is one of the main designers of the Arts and Crafts style, was inspired by impressionist art and the artist J.M.W. Turner. Throughout her career, Gertrude Jekyll designed about 400 different Arts and Crafts gardens. Below is an example of the types of layouts she designed.

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Her layouts are impressive because each plant was placed specifically due to its attributes. All of the plants were considered for their flowering time, foliage colors, flower colors, height, etc. The skill necessary to create a harmonious Arts and Crafts flower garden is incredible. Moreover, Jekyll’s understanding of plants and plant breeding was paramount to creating beautiful designs. Some people have even described Gertrude’s design style as reminiscent of a painter’s brushstrokes. Overall then, the Arts and Crafts garden appeals to me because of the skill and the beautiful color featured in this style.

In addition to promoting art, the Arts and Crafts design also returned to the use of natural materials. For instance, many of the gardens used stone or wood or brick for the garden features. Using natural materials was different from other garden designs, but it was also a way of including the work of crafts-people from the area. Some of the features of the gardens were: pergolas, trellises, pools, walkways, hedges, topiary, and orchards. This garden style also directly complemented the architecture of the time. In particular, many of the houses were also constructed with natural materials from the area. Fireplaces, built-in furnishings (like light fixtures or bookcases), and exposed beams were also common stylistic choices in the house.


The gardens are also appealing, because although they are purposefully designed and maintained, when visitors walk down the paths it’s like walking past a prairie or wild meadow. However, each feature and flower is chosen for its characteristics and is specifically planted for its visual effect. Additionally, this garden style really promoted bushy and almost overgrown plants. Unlike other garden styles, it really embraced the color in nature and allowed the plants to fill out.

Looking at Arts and Crafts gardens is like walking through my grandmother’s garden and children’s books. They are incredibly beautiful and really utilized flowers in a way that other gardens before had not. In essence, Arts and Crafts gardens are the work of fairytales.


For more information about the history of the Arts and Crafts movement, check out this website:


Gardening Goes Urban: Copenhagen

As the weather is beginning to warm up, so too is interest in allocating green spaces in urban cities. In Copenhagen, DK, the goal is for everyone to have easy access to an urban garden. The interest in creating urban gardens has led to a variety of different garden styles in Copenhagen. Some of the gardens of interest are: Asistens Kirkegaard, the Fortification Parks, Botanisk Have, Mimersparken, and Superkilen.

Assistens Kirkegaard was originally created 1760. The cemetery contains the remains of many important Danes, including: Hans Christian Andersen, Søreb Kierkgaard, and Christen Købke, to name a few. Today, the cemetery is still used as a burial ground. However, it is also a beautiful space for people to pay their respects and wander through the lush greenery. During the spring, people who visit the park will likely see trees in bloom and beautiful flowers lining the graves. The natural beauty of the park connotes respect towards the deceased and offers a wonderful spot for contemplation.


The photo above, is an undated photo showing people enjoying the blooming trees in Assistens Kirkegaard, the photo was found on Below, is a picture of some of the trees in the park today, taken from 7317689-assistens

Like most architectural projects in Denmark, the Fortification parks were carried out at the request of Christian IV. However, it wasn’t until 1868 that land from the fortifications was designated as a park. The land from the fortification was split into three different parks, including: Østre Anlæg, Østedparken, and Aborreparken. In 1870, the Botanical Gardens were also added to the Fortification parks.

Today the parks offer an opportunity for people to wander along different paths, often alongside a body of water (rivers and ponds). The Botanic gardens in particular, are important to people today. Specifically, the University of Copenhagen uses the gardens to study different plants and provide educational opportunities for the public.


Check out this website: to learn more about the botanical gardens.

Clearly, all of the abovementioned parks are important for their use of greenery and space.

Mimersparken and Superkilen, which both opened recently in 2012, offer more contemporary approaches to greenspace. Much of the land in both Mimersparken and Superkilen, is covered by pavement, with some sections of grass. The design of Superkilen in particular, features pavement painted with a funky design, as evidenced by the aerial view of the park below.


For more images of Superkilen, go to this website:

Both parks were designed to include members of the community and children. For instance, Mimersparken has a basketball court, a football and hockey field. There is also a playground for kids to enjoy. Superkilen contains a playground and equipment for kids as well. It also contains a skate park. The park is unique because it features monuments and plants from places across the world. For Superkilen’s design, residents of the community were asked to submit suggestions for the parks features. Overall, Superkilen represents the diversity of the community and the residents of Copenhagen’s general desire for inclusiveness.

When combined together, it is clear that parks in Copenhagen are intended to include a diverse group of people. Entire neighborhoods benefit from the parks, as they offer an opportunity for kids to run and play and adults to relax or, perhaps, play themselves. Contemporary urban parks demonstrate the necessity of accessing open greenspaces in our busy lives and should not be taken for granted!


Gardens that Bring in the Big Bucks

Although public gardens are well known for their beauty and pleasure, gardens also functioned as a means for the upper class to express their wealth and power. Throughout history, gardens have been used as an important way of communicating power to society and the lower classes.

Beginning with early Roman gardens around 700 B.C.E., the members of the wealthy class were able to use their gardens as an area for throwing parties, displaying works of art, and relaxing. Some Roman gardens were even used as an area to sell artwork featured in the garden. For the Romans then, gardens represented a way for nobility to reinforce their power through their overt demonstration of wealth in the form of artwork, statues, and other elaborate garden features.

Centuries after the Roman gardens, in the 1500s, gardens continued to remain an important demonstration of wealth for the nobility. King Henry VIII ascended to the throne in England in 1509; as a celebration of his rise in power, the King’s Beasts were commissioned. As pictured below, the King’s Beasts were statues of animals which symbolized the different branches of royalty and the King’s own lineage.


The lion was commonly used as a symbol of England. Placing the lion in the garden served as an excellent reminder of the power of England. Additionally, guests who visited the garden were immediately reminded of the might of the king, and his royal ancestry.king's beasts

This website: contains more information about the significance in the colors chosen for the statues, along with the restoration process at Hampton Court Palace.

However, one of the most expensive gardens was the garden of Versailles in France. During the mid 1600s when Louis XIV ascended to the throne, gardening in France became more elaborate (and expensive.) The garden of Versailles was an extravagant way of entertaining.

King Louis XIV spared no expense in wooing visitors of the garden. In fact, when important visitors toured the garden, employees in the garden were required to turn on certain fountains, wait for the visitors to pass, and then turn off the water and wait for the visitors to approach the next fountain before turning it on. Although the cycle was tedious for the garden staff, the result for the tourists, and king himself, was breathtaking.


Viewers were also awed by the King’s orangerie, or citrus collection. The collection of trees was moveable, which meant that during the winter months the trees were brought inside and sheltered from the cold.


As visitors tour the Garden of Versailles, it remains as breathtaking today as it was when it was first created (although a little smaller). The Garden of Versailles, and Hampton Court Palace both serve as significant reminders of the wealth and foresight of kings like Louis XIV and Henry VIII.

Hello Italy! How garden art was reshaped during the Italian Renaissance

So to begin with, garden art in Italy before the Renaissance in the 15th century was influenced heavily by Christian ideas and conspicuous consumption. Gardens were typically self-contained and were designed to create a paradise on land.

During the Renaissance, however, thinkers and philosophers began reconsidering the assumed relationship between people and God and art. A new gardening style emerged which was more expansive and mirrored the ideas of the enlightenment period.


Villas during Renaissance  were designed with care to be symmetrical, proportional, and geometric. Pictured below is an Italian Renaissance inspired garden.

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“A third nature” also became a pervasive idea of the time, which essentially meant that gardeners would enhance the natural scenery and fuse nature with art (Grottos are an excellent example of a third nature).

As for the features of Italian gardens, they were well known for their symmetry and axial alignment, terraces, pergolas, and water features, among others. The truly spectacular gardens employed those features, but also grew exotic and rare plants, which both represented wealth and praised God. Some of the most common types of plants were herb, woodland, and orchard.

The Italian Renaissance architecture also differed from gardens before. For instance, by drawing on Roman garden art, Italian artists were able to mimic the feel of a Roman garden. Specifically, open theaters, statues of nymphs and other creatures, and covered walkways were all reminiscent of Roman design. In fact, some statues from excavated Roman cites were re-used in Italian Gardens! Below is an example of the fusion in Renaissance thinking, featuring both sculpture, water features, and lore. The sculpture depicts Diana of Ephesus and is featured in the Villa d’Este in Tivoli.




Italian Renaissance gardens combined literature with gardening in incredibly beautiful ways. Using lore from works of the time like, The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, gardens were able to weave together literature, art, and nature. As pictured in the image below, The Apennine Colossus is a marvelous example of Renaissance work that praises nature while also sculpting it.

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Check out this website: for more information about the Appennine Colossus.

The statue above is found in the Villa di Pratolino in Tuscany, Italy. Unfortunately the garden was mostly destroyed in 1820, however remnants of the garden can still be found in the Villa Demidoff. The layout of the Villa di Pratolino displayed several characteristics common in Italian Renaissance gardens, including symmetry and the use of fountains, among others.

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Above, is an image of the original layout for the Villa di Pratolino, notice the axis of symmetry, but also the view over the garden which would have been present in the palace, both characteristics of Italian Renaissance gardens.

Overall, by rediscovering Roman art and architecture, Italian Renaissance gardens were able to combine art and sculpture with nature to create a magnificent scenery. In sum, Italian garden art represents the reevaluation of nature, art, and religion which took place during the Renaissance.

So what’s this gardening thing anyways?

Well, to begin with, gardens are so much more than the traditional fruit and vegetable variety. Obviously vegetables have a place in the garden, but ornamental plants and green spaces are also very dear to garden enthusiasts. From gardening for pleasure to specific hobby gardening to farming, gardening embodies a diverse range of activities.

According to Penelope Hobhouse, author of The Story of Gardening, gardens are also unique and diverse because, “Different people want different things from gardening, and different cultures and climates make people see things differently.” Based on Penelope Hobhouse’s analysis of gardens, it seems that gardening and garden art is less about the plants, and more about the general experience of being in the garden. Thus, successful landscapers will shape the natural environment in a way that accentuates the beauty already present in the area. Hobhouse’s definition also implies that gardens from one culture may seem out of place, or unnecessary when taken out of context and applied to another culture.

For instance, Roman gardens during 753 BCE were known for their exotic plants, religious themes, and general symmetry. The landscaping was also considered formal, or structured with straight lines, as demonstrated in the picture below. Roman culture also valued art and the use of sculpture in their gardens (which appears in the garden below).Roman garden pic

Traditional roman garden. For more information see this website:


Monastic gardens during the Mediœval era, however, were known more for their utilitarian design and focus on practicality. Due to the desire for self-sufficiency, Monastic gardens were necessary to produce plants for food. Additionally, Mediœval gardens were known for their use of raised plant beds, as pictured below. Maintaining and owning a garden during the Mediœval era was also a luxury, as only the monastery, kings, nobility, and the wealthy working class (professionals, merchants, and artisans) were able to afford gardens.

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Example of a Mediœval garden. See this website for more information:

Based on the context then, gardens occupy different meanings and hold different social significance. Differences aside, gardens provide important opportunities for individuals to experience the outdoors and natural world. Especially as urban centers grow, green spaces and gardens will remain an important part of society. There have also been studies which link mental health with green spaces; in that, being in a green space reduces stress and helps people feel more calm. Generally, gardens are a celebration of the natural world and offer a way for people to find repose.