‘To rely entirely on planting as the backbone of a garden for the whole year is asking too much.’
So wrote award-winning landscape designer John Brookes MBE (1933–2018) for House & Garden Magazine in 1963, in which he laid out a new design philosophy and methodology that revolutionized garden design.
In the summer of 2019 as I was riffling through boxes and papers in John Brooke’s old design studio at Denmans, his home and garden, I came across a lever arch file labelled ‘1990s Lectures’. I squirrelled it away so I could read it through, but it was not until the summer of 2020 that I finally managed to sit down with it.
It proved to be a wonderful collection of John’s lectures to audiences with varied backgrounds, differing interests, and in different countries. Some were witty, some very serious, some gentle, and some very direct, and all were in his familiar, wonderful ‘voice’. After reading them, I was compelled to read more of John’s writings and then chose 50, including the 1963 House and Garden article, which are well worth reading — and rereading.
While John is remembered, in part, for formulating a design process using ‘the grid’ and for preaching that the garden should be regarded as a ‘room outside’, I think he should also be remembered for his broader views on the environment and conservation, the importance of preserving local identity, articulating the links between art and garden design, and the clarity with which he laid out the design process for both designers and homeowners.
Those views were well ahead of his time, and are embodied in the essays, articles, and lectures included in How to Design a Garden. John’s design advice and philosophy remains timely and forward looking. His advice to homeowners is as relevant to designers as his advice to designers is to homeowners.
This book is intended to bring us back to basics and remind us of the best of his thinking and to provoke discussion at a time when people all over the world have found new interest in, and solace, strength, and inspiration from, natural landscapes and their gardens.
How to Design a Garden will be available to purchase from Denmans directly on publication from the beginning of October and is currently available to pre-order direct from a number of online retailers as below:
Book Depository: https://bit.ly/3f07WiG
A Great Read: https://bit.ly/3fukwFS
** UK.bookshop.org is a good option for anyone who wants to support independent bookshops.