Lancelot Capability Brown Landscaping at Compton Verney.

13 Best landscapers of all time.

Landscaping is a word that is often used but can mean different things to different people. If we study the history of landscaping we can learn how these different interpretations of landscaping came about. Historically, architecture and landscaping are concepts that are very much intertwined, as are sculpture art and painting. Why is there confusion over the word landscaping?  Who were the most influential landscapers of all time and what influenced them? To find out we look at the history of landscaping and landscape design, but first a few modern definitions.

What are the different types of landscaping?

The broad term Landscaping can refer to any of the following disciplines.

  1. Soft Landscaping.
  2. Hard Landscaping.
  3. Garden Maintenance.
  4. Landscape Design.
  5. Landscape Architecture.

Soft Landscaping

Soft landscapers are usually qualified horticulturists. They are skilled in areas of plant health and plant cultivation. Horticulturists are also trained in design and other aspects of landscaping construction.

Hard Landscaping.

Hard Landscaping as the name suggests is related to installation of the structural elements of the landscape design. Examples of these are exposed aggregate concrete paths, insitu concrete retaining walls and pergolas.

Garden Maintenance

Garden maintenance is often referred to as landscaping.

Landscape Design

Landscape design usually involves the use of CAD to layout both the hard landscaping and the soft landscaping designs. Modern landscape design also involves creating photorealist computer renderings to help the customer visualise the finished design. The use of 3D CAD is now a common part of the landscape design process. Sometimes this service is provided as a landscape design only service. The final outcome is usually better when it is a product of landscape by design rather than just moving materials around the worksite to achieve the desired look.

Landscape Architecture

Landscape architects study at university to learn the theoretical skills required to design public spaces using CAD.  Landscape architecture encompasses the knowledge of the physical materials, living systems and human factors. Landscape architects have both plant knowledge and strength of materials knowledge to design an effective public space by CAD. Landscape architecture also includes the environmental planning, urban design, and site planning for a landscaped site. The understanding of the main concepts of civil engineering is vital for this role. Even in the 18 century landscapes were made to detailed drawings by landscape architects like Lancelot Capability Brown and Humphry Repton.

The history of landscaping

The Egyptians

The earliest surviving detailed garden design plan dates from circa 1400 BC. It is surprising how much of this design style is still in use in modern Mediterranean garden design. The garden was for a highly ranked official in the Egyptian Court at Thebes. The home had a main entrance with a pergola with vines growing. The garden design also included self-contained walled enclosure, rectangular water features and garden paths with tree lined avenues.


The Persians, Babylonians and Assyrians

These gardens are described in the old testament as pleasure gardens. The gardens were designed to enable cool water and shade to be enjoyed in private.  The landscaping also included man made hills with terraces planted with shrubs and trees.

Greek Gardens of the Classical Period

Sport and public places were both big parts of Greek culture. Sports grounds developed into the academy and the lyceum and people gathered in these places.  The public spaces in Greek life included groves of shade trees which is essential in a Mediterranean garden. Also included were some porticoes, spectator seating and the exercise ground itself. It was around this time that a courtyard garden design with rows of columns supporting roofs over covered walkway became part of the urban lifestyle. This garden design became known as “peristyle” from the Greek word “peri” meaning around (as in perimeter) and “style” which means column. It is thought that this style of architecture originated in temples like the Temple of Hera at Samos and was then adopted for domestic buildings.

Greek Gardens of the Hellenistic Period

The death of Alexander the great was the start of a new age in Greece where the country was less Athens centric. New luxurious gardens or pleasure grounds had sprung in the Greek colonies. Notable amongst these were the gardens at Syracuse and Alexandria. These gardens were more influenced by gardens in the east. Under Alexander the great Macedonia had formed a huge empire stretching from Macedonia to parts of India. Within the empire the spread of people brought architecture and landscaping to different cities. After the death of Alexander, the empire was divided, and the various kings spent money on gardens and architecture to impress their guests.

What have the Romans ever done for landscaping?

Many of the southern cities of the Italian peninsula were founded as Greek Colonies. The area was known to the Romans as Magna Graecia and to the Greeks as Megale Hellas meaning “Great Greece”. Starting with Naples in 327 BC all of the Greek cities in Magna Graecia were absorbed into the Roman Empire. The Romans adopted the Greek peristyle landscaping with small enclosed town gardens and with Roman villa gardens. Some examples still exist in the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum which were previously very much Greek cities. An example of the adoption of this style can be seen in the Villa Adriana which is Hadrian’s grand villa near Tivoli. Another example is Nero’s Golden House in Rome. As Christianity began to spread through Europe in the later part of the Roman Empire, the peristyle courtyard garden evolved into the cloistered abbey garden and courtyard.

Roman Landscaping. Villa Adriana near Tivoli Italy
Roman Landscaping. Villa Adriana near Tivoli Italy

Roman Concrete

One of the reasons that some of the Roman building can still be seen today is the Roman use of concrete in building construction. Unlike bricks or stone construction, the concrete buildings are difficult to recycle into newer buildings. For this reason many of the buildings of ancient Rome were just left in situ with some of the concrete crumbling or becoming submerged by the increasing ground level.

Concrete Pantheon Rome
The Pantheon in Rome was constructed entirely in concrete.

Roman concrete was made more durable by the addition of volcanic ash. This has meant that many Roman buildings have survived into modern times and the became an inspiration for architects and landscapers on the Grand Tour, They were also an inspiration for High Renaissance architects. One architect that was greatly inspired by this building was a goldsmith named Filippo Brunelleschi who built the dome for the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence, Italy. Brunelleschi had spent several years in Rome studying and sketching the ancient monuments.

 Roman Heated Swimming Pools

The engineering abilities of the Romans extended to more than temples, villas  roads and aqueducts. The Romans also invented the heated swimming pool. It was built by Gaius Maecenas in the first century BC near Rome.

Islamic Landscaping

Islamic gardens or Paradise Gardens are well known for their water features. Water was precious to the desert dwelling Arabs of North Africa who we part of an empire that stretched all the way to India. Their garden designs were greatly influenced by Persian gardens. Symbology was important in these gardens with the gardens divided into 4 sections by mini canals each representing a different aspect of life. These are known as quadripartite or Charbagh and the canals represent four rivers running with water, milk, wine and honey.

Paradise Gardens

The word paradise comes from the old Persian language pairi dez and means enclosed or surrounded by a wall. An outer perimeter wall or an enclosure of buildings is often a feature of these gardens. When Spain was captured the Moors, “paradise garden” became a common garden theme in the wealthy homes and public spaces of southern Spain. Therefore many of the gardens in southern Spain have the theme of four rivers and the garden divided into four parts. To create the illusion of depth in the shallow canals, dark blue tiles are used as a lining of the canal.

The Patio of the Lions. Islamic Landscaping. Paradise Gardens at the Alhambra in Spain.
Islamic Landscaping. Paradise Gardens at the Alhambra in Spain. The Patio of the Lions.


Another part of the symbology is the square ponds representing earth and the round fountains representing heaven. These were combined to represent the meeting of heaven and earth. The colonnade courtyards surrounding the gardens also had symbology in the surrounding columns with designs showing date palms. Some examples of this type of Islamic landscape architecture include the Alhambra in Granada.

The Island of Sicily

The Islamic influence also spread to another colony in the Mediterranean. The island of Sicily had parks built by the Saracens using the Islamic garden themes. When the Normans conquered the island in the 11th century, they maintained the gardens much as they were with walled enclosures containing canals, lakes and citrus groves. It was not just the gardens which came into the Norman hands, there was also a wealth of knowledge recorded in Arabic and Greek texts.  This transfer of knowledge in the fields of mathematics, science, astronomy and medicine, which occurred in Spain, Sicily and the Levant, helped to spark the 12th century renaissance. One enduring legacy of the Islamic garden is the garden patio.


Italian Renaissance Gardens

Donato Bramante

The Italian garden renaissance began in the 15th century near Florence. Medieval enclosures that were earlier necessary for defence began to open up into a system of villas with a coherent house and gardens. In Rome, the design of Italian renaissance gardens on the hillsides became the role of architects. Famous renaissance architect, Donato Bramante, designed a significant garden linking the Papal palace with the Villa Belvedere. The villa had been built by the previous pope as a place to catch summer breezes during the hot summer in Rome. Bramante had studied painting prior to studying architecture and was skilled in the use of perspective. The hard landscaping for this design incorporated a system of stairways and garden stairways and was named Belvedere meaning beautiful view. The Belvedere garden also revived the Roman tradition of adorning the garden with ancient statues. Bramante is probably better known as the architect who designed St Peter’s Basilica in Rome we see today and for his disagreements with sculptor Michelangelo. To finance the building of St Peter’s, the church began to sell papal indulgences which in turn lead to the Reformation and years of war and religious persecution in Europe.

Vatican Gardens in Vatican City. Donato Bramante was divided into three new courtyards: the Cortile del Belvedere, the Library Courtyard and the Cortile della Pigna with the landscape design of the Renaissance.
Vatican Gardens in Vatican City. Donato Bramante divided this area into three new courtyards: the Cortile del Belvedere, the Library Courtyard and the Cortile della Pigna with the landscape design of the Renaissance.

Bramante was really a central figure in High Renaissance Architecture. This style of architecture is characterised by its use of proportion and symmetry and most notably for the influence through the study of antiquity. Bramante’s work that first ushered in the High Renaissance was the Tempietto which is designed as a circular temple inspired by the remains of the ancient Temple Vesta.

Il tempietto is an example of Bramante's High Renaissance architecture.
Il tempietto is an example of Bramante's High Renaissance architecture.

Andrea Palladio

Another influential architect of the High Renaissance was Andrea Palladio, who was chief architect of the Republic of Venice. Palladio was greatly inspired by the architecture of Greece and ancient Rome. His teachings in I quattro libri dell'architettura (The Four Books of Architecture) extended his influence to most of Europe and covered everything from materials to Town Planning.  William Kent, the British architect and landscaper was heavily influence by Palladio's books.

Villa La Rotonda near Vicenza by Palladio. The symmetrical design has 4 facades.
Villa La Rotonda near Vicenza by Palladio. The symmetrical design has 4 facades.
Palladio's Rural Villas

Palladio's design of rural villas for the Venetian nobility with a strong centre and symmetrical side wings became the design theme for Italian villas and for the country estates of the British nobility. This style of architecture which strongly adheres to the principles of classical Roman architecture, became known as Palladian Architecture.

Villa La Rotonda near Vicenza by Palladio. The symmetrical design has 4 facades. The symmetrical design has 4 facades.
The landscaped gardens of Villa La Rotonda.


Rome and the gardens of the Cardinals

Between 1550 and 1600 there was a huge increase in garden construction in and around Rome. The most powerful people in Rome at that time were the cardinals, who each though of themselves as a potential pope. The pope was one of the most influential persons throughout Europe.

New popes were chosen for their culture, influential and wealth. The way to demonstrate this to the other cardinals was to create an inspiring and remarkable garden. Geometry, order and harmony were key features of these garden designs. The aim was to demonstrate the influence and cultured sophistication, not just of the cardinal but of the cardinal’s family dynasty.

Symbology in Renaissance Gardens

Symbology, such as family crests, and control of water flow was nearly as important as the aesthetic beauty. The cardinals employed the best architects in an attempt to outdo each other and to increase their influence.

Symbology in renaissance gardens including rare garden bulbs were part of these gardens during the renaissance period, but this is less noticeable today. Jasmines, crocuses, lilies, box topiary but these became overgrown when this style of garden was out of fashion. The shortness of the flowering seasons for the flowers that were available then, meant that flower beds could not be relied upon to be the principle garden feature. Trimmed herbs, box, lavender and rosemary were used to divide garden beds into geometric compartments.  Decorative contrast was given to stonework and brick walls with the use of ivy. Laurel, cypress pine and ilex.

The Canopus. The ruins of Hadrian's Villa near Tivoli has influenced landscapers and architects for centuries.
The Canopus. The ruins of Hadrian's Villa near Tivoli has influenced landscapers and architects for centuries. The Pool is a metaphor of the Mediterranean.


Hadrian’s Tivoli Villa Adrianna the inspiration for Renaissance gardens

Outside Rome, the ruins of Hadrian’s Tivoli Villa Adrianna was an inspiration that lit the spark for renaissance gardens.  Hadrian travelled more than any other emperor and was inspired by gardens throughout the Roman empire,

The Canopus with its columns was visited by the renaissance architects visited to discover how to create water flows into pools. They also learnt about how an aqueduct carried water and the design ratios and the use of symbolism within the garden. The garden is a metaphor for the Roman empire with Greece represented by the row of caryatids on the right. These statues are replicas of the statues forming the Porch of the maidens in the Erechtheum in Athens. A statue of a crocodile represents Egypt.

Villa d'Esti in Tivoli

Nearby in Tivoli the garden Cardinal Desti created a garden with fantastic use of water. Villa d'Esti.

Landscaping with Water features. Aerial view of the iconic Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy
Landscaping with Water features. Aerial view of the iconic Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy

Pirro Ligorio created these incredible water features by taking a third of the town’s water supply. The use of water in this garden is astonishing and is achieved without using any pumps. Symbology and coded messages are embedded throughout this garden . Within this garden, Ligorio created a model Rome in his palace garden complete with a statue of Romulus and Remus. The dramatic and theatrical were now starting to replace the peace and harmony of earlier gardens. Surprise and delight were not the aims of renaissance architecture. Power culture and wealth were demonstrated by the creation of gardens that are really in your face.

The French Gardens of the 17th Century.

Once again it was conflict and invasions that drove the interchange of cultures. This time it was the French who invaded Italy towards the end of the 17th Century that were influence by the gardens of the conquered. The Italian wars 1494 1559 were a series of violent wars that had a massive impact on Renaissance Europe. These wars were fought largely by Spain and France, but there were other armies involved. In 1494 French king Charles VIII invaded Italy, which triggered the wars.  After 64 years of sporadic fighting the French just managed to hold the fortresses at five Italian cities.  An early example of the Italian influence on French gardens and architecture was the Château of Anet in the Loire valley (Département of Eure-et-Loire). Little remains of this building as it was mostly destroyed after the French Revolution, but it was used in the filming of the James Bond movie Thunderball.

French Baroque Gardens

The baroque gardens of the French were based on the Italian renaissance gardens, but were flashier and with even more emphasis on complex geometry.  French landscape architect André Le Nôtre later designed a garden at the château Vaux-le-Vicomte south west of Paris. The garden is regarded as an early example of the baroque French classical style.

Vaux-le-Vicomte Baroque Renaissance Landscaping.
Vaux-le-Vicomte Baroque Renaissance Landscaping.
The Garden that left a deep impression on the King

The château and gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte were so impressive that King Louis XIV confiscated the house and threw the owner in jail. Le Nôtre then went to work for the king and went on to work on the design of the gardens at Versailles. Some of the other notable landscape designs include Sceaux, Saint-Cloud, and Chantilly. Fontainebleau, Tuileries and the Grand Trianon. In his art collection André Le Nôtre had a sculpture by Michelangelo, so there is a good chance he was a fan of the Italian renaissance. On both Versailles and the château Vaux-le-Vicomte he had worked with painter and designer Charles Le Brun who had design the classic statues for Versailles. Charles Le Brun had spent several years in Italy as part of his artistic development.

Dutch Gardens of the 17th Century

The conflict sparked by the reaction to the reformation lead to the arrival of Protestant refugees into the Dutch republic. The arrival of skilled craftsmen from other parts of Europe helped to start the Dutch Golden Age. In 1685 King Louis XIV made Protestantism illegal in France which lead to a further 200,000 Huguenots fleeing France. Amongst these refugees was Daniel Marot from Paris. He was a skilled designer, engraver and architect and soon found himself working at the Palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn.

Het Loo Dutch baroque gardens.
Het Loo Dutch baroque gardens.

Het Loo was owned by Willem Hendrik Prince of Orange who through his marriage to Mary Stuart later became King William III of England, Ireland and Scotland. The design of Het Loo was inspired by the work of Charles le Brun and Jean Bérain at Versailles. When Prince Willem Hendrik became King William III, he took Daniel Marot with him to London and appointed him as a court architect and Master of Works.


English Baroque Gardens

Charles II spent most of his exile at the palace of Versailles south of Paris. His long stay there would have influenced his choices after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.  In the short time Charles II was King, he helped to revive English tradesmen’s skill as put into place new measures aimed at the preservation of excellence in the arts.

French and Dutch influences in English Landscaping

Charles and his architects introduced French and Dutch influences in an attempt to produce new architectural order to England. It was during this time that architect Christopher Wren spent a long time in Paris to learn from the achievements of modern French Architects. During his time in Paris, Wren met with Italian sculptor and architect Gianlorenzo Bernini, who was the leading sculptor in the baroque style. Bernini was in Paris to complete the palace of the Louve. Wren also met with Francois Mansart, who introduced Italian classicism into baroque architecture. Mansart’s architectural designs, where he integrated the landscape and the building in harmony were an influence on garden designer André Le Nôtre.  Wren’s trip to Paris and meeting with the great architects of the day were to have a profound influence on his later architecture.  This can be seen in the design of St Paul’s in London with a renaissance style large central cupola.

St Paul's in London. Large central cupola by Christopher Wren.
St Paul's in London. Large central cupola by Christopher Wren.
William and Mary Gardens

After the Glorious Revolution William and Mary ascended to the throne of England. They brought with them to England skilled craftsmen and architects from the Dutch Republic and Europe.  The furniture from this period is known as “William and Mary” style.   Many of the finest buildings in England were commissioned during this time. These include Greenwich Hospital, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace.


Hampton Court Palace gardens
Hampton Court Palace gardens

Wren was commissioned to remodel and extend Hampton Court Palace with a new courtyard and apartments for the King and Queen. The great fountain garden was created by architect Daniel Marot, who had been brought over from Het Loo.

English Formal Gardens

There are many English gardens of this style that are open to the public. The photographs below are just a few of what is on offer.

English Formal Garden at Cliveden.
English Formal Garden at Cliveden. This garden shows the influence of earlier renaissance style.


Formal Garden at Waddesdon.
Formal Garden at Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire.


Italianate Garden Blenheim Palace.
Italianate Garden Blenheim Palace Oxfordshire.


Formal Landscaping. The Italian garden at Blenheim Palace.
Formal Landscaping. The Italian garden at Blenheim Palace.


English Formal Garden Hanbury Hall near Droitwich
Restored English Formal Garden Hanbury Hall near Droitwich

Landscaping Georgian English gardens

The Georgian era was one of great change in Europe and in England in particular. The huge growth in international trade and the emergence of middle-class wealth were chief amongst these. This led to more people wanting lavish landscaped gardens and the rise of the Grand Tour as a sort of gap-year for mostly young wealthy men. Starting in Dover, the Grand Tour would set out for Italy often via Paris. The trips could be as long as 3 or 4 years and the main destinations were the great Italian cities of the renaissance as well as the excavations of the Roman civilisation at Pompeii and Herculaneum. The influence of the Grand Tour on the young aristocrats of Britain often left them with architectural tastes for Neoclassical, based on the remains of ancient temples or Palladian base on Palladio’s interpretation of a Roman villa construction.

Neoclassical Architecture

The taste for Neoclassical architecture that was brought from the grand tour was a hit for public buildings all around the world and the influence lasted for many years. Many well-known buildings in Melbourne were designed in this style including the Victorian State Parliament house in Spring Street East Melbourne. Some other great examples of this architectural style include The State Library of Victoria in the Melbourne CBD and the Shrine of Remembrance in King’s Domain close to South Yarra. Other noteworthy Melbourne Buildings in the neoclassical style include;

  • Eldon Mansion in Grey Street St Kilda,
  • Richmond Town Hall in Bridge Road Richmond
  • St Kilda Town Hall on the corner of Carlisle St and Brighton Road, St Kilda
  • Port Melbourne Town Hall in Bay Street Port Melbourne
  • Fitzroy Town Hall in Napier Street Fitzroy

In addition to the public buildings there are some Neoclassical or Palladian style homes in the Melbourne Suburbs of Toorak and Brighton.

St. Kilda Town Hall neoclassical architecture.
St. Kilda Town Hall neoclassical architecture.


Neoclassical Victorian State Parliament house in Spring Street East Melbourne
Neoclassical Victorian State Parliament house in Spring Street East Melbourne.

Willian Kent

Chief amongst the early Georgian Architects was William Kent. Kent is credited with introducing the architecture of Italian Architect Andrea Palladio into Britain.  The naturalist landscaping style with serpentine lakes in place of straight canals was a hallmark of Kent’s landscaping. Kent had spent 10 years in Rome copying the paintings of the old masters and developing the skills of engraving and etching. Whilst in Italy Kent met the Third Earl of Burlington, Richard Boyle. It was Lord Burlington who gave Kent a series of commissions in Britain that kick-started Kent’s career as an architect and landscaper. Kent’s experience in Italy helped him to tap into the market for architecture amongst aristocrats nostalgic over their time on the Grand Tour.


Landscape Design of William Kent

Kent was a pioneer of the English naturalistic landscaping that began in the early Georgian period.  Landscaping became more naturalistic. Instead of the formal rococo or baroque  gardens of the French and Dutch, we see vistas that have been carefully crafted to take your eye to a picturesque garden focal point or building. Kent’s garden focal points included garden follies such as artificial ruins, grottoes, pagodas and temples.  Stowe in Buckinghamshire has some great example of the work of William Kent.

Landscaping at Stowe in Buckinghamshire.
Landscaping at Stowe in Buckinghamshire.


Amongst Kent's focal points are the hermitage, the temple of Venus, the Elysian fields, the Temple of British Worthies and the Temple of Ancient Virtue.

William Kent Landscaping. The Temple of Ancient Virtues.
William Kent Landscaping. The Temple of Ancient Virtues.


William Kent Landscaping. Elysian fields with the Temple of British Worthies.
William Kent Landscaping. Elysian fields with the Temple of British Worthies. Stowe


Kent at Rousham Park

Another example of Kent’s work can be seen at Rousham Park, where the garden has become a place of pilgrimage for fans of the landscaping of William Kent. One of the landscaping design features used by landscapers of this era was the ha-ha or sunken fence.

Landscaping with a Ha-Ha.
Landscaping with a Ha-Ha. This design feature enabled a view of the landscape without an obvious fence. Rousham Park Oxfordshire.

With the Ha-Ha landscaping design feature the landscaper could separate the landscaped grounds of the estate from the areas where the farm animals grazed without a fence interrupting the view. The Ha-ha was also used by landscaping genius Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

Landscaping of William Kent - Rousham Gardens
Landscaping of William Kent - Rousham Gardens


Praeneste by Landscaper William Kent
Praeneste by Landscaper William Kent at Rousham Gardens.


Praeneste Rousham
Praeneste at Rousham



Octagon Pool Rousham
Octagon Pool Rousham Park.


Temple of Echo by William Kent and William Townsend
Temple of Echo by William Kent and William Townsend. Neoclassical Architecture.



Lancelot “Capability” Brown the greatest Landscaper of all time.

Lancelot Brown is probably the most famous landscape designer in English History and is widely known as England’s greatest gardener. He is also known as the father of Landscape Design. In his younger years he worked on some projects to drain some of the Fens and it is widely believed that this is where he developed his knowledge of hydrology and how to apply it to landscaped design.

Landscaping. The lake at Blenheim Palace enlarged by Capability Brown.
Landscaping. The lake at Blenheim Palace enlarged and lined with clay by Capability Brown.


Blenheim Palace Lake. The landscaping of Capability Brown.
Blenheim Palace Lake. The landscaping of Capability Brown.


Capability Brown Landscaping at Blenheim Palace
Capability Brown Landscaping at Blenheim Palace. The lake was made much larger by Capability Brown.

When it comes to the design of water features such as lakes, streams and ponds, Capability Brown was a genius. It is hard to imagine how the shear volume of work being undertaken by Brown was achieved in a time when not everybody was literate. In a time before the railways, Brown criss-crossed the country to supervise his huge landscaping projects.

The Cascades at Blenheim Palace look natural, but much of the landscaping is manmade.
The Cascades at Blenheim Palace look natural, but much of the landscaping is manmade.


Over 250 landscapes have been attributed to Capability Brown and his list of clients include the King, the Prime Minister and several members of the House of Lords. Landscapers like Kent and Brown were the "Rock Stars" of their era. Their well connected list of contacts ensured they were in prime position for the high end landscaping projects.

Brown's English landscapes totalled around 52,000 Hectares. To put this in perspective, it would be like landscaping the whole area of Toorak 120 times without any machinery.

Landscaping on a Grand Scale

Brown’s landscaping included moving villages or churches, manually digging lakes and moving large trees to different locations. Like Kent, his landscaping style was towards naturalistic landscapes with views of buildings or focal points framed by trees. The landscape was designed to reveal a view of the main home only when it was close enough to give it the “wow” factor.

As with William Kent, Brown worked on the landscaped gardens at Stowe. Brown also manage a stint as Royal Gardener to King George III at Hampton Court Palace, but it is for his achievements at gardens like Blenheim Palace that he is best known.

During Brown's first years as a gardener at Stowe, he was involved in many of the landscape construction projects on the estate. This gave the young Lancelot Brown the opportunity to learn more about landscaping and constructions. There is little doubt that he was heavily influenced by the landscaping work of William Kent and perhaps to a lesser extent by the architecture of James Gibbs.

Palladian style Bridge at StoweStowe
The Palladian Style Bridge at Stowe in Buckinghamshire. Stowe is a great example of an 18th Century English Landscape Garden. The Palladian Bridge was constructed during Brown's time at Stowe.

Early in his time at Stowe, Brown was involved in the construction of a gothic church folly designed by James Gibbs. Brown later designed a gothic church for the landscape at Croome which bears some similarities to the James Gibbs design.

Gothic Temple at Stowe by James Gibbs
A garden folly Gothic Temple at Stowe by James Gibbs. The temple constructed during the time of Capability Brown is now available as accommodation.
Croome Court Home and Landscaping

After leaving Stowe, Brown had a major landscaping project at Croome Court. Croome Court is around 12 km east of Great Malvern and upstream from the confluence of the rivers Severn Avon. This area, just north of Tewksbury, known for its flooding and Marshy land, so Capability Brown was the right landscaper for the job. The project involved a redesign of both the house and Landscape. The house was redesigned by Browne in the Palladian style and the marshy landscape cleverly drained into an artificial serpentine river. This was a landscaping project where Capability Brown was able to use his drainage skills learnt in the fens of East Anglia.

The landscaping at Croome now looks entirely natural but it is in fact totally man made.


Croome Court home designed by Capability Brown.
Croome Court home designed by Capability Brown.

On a small hill on the property, Brown designed a classical rotunda as a place from where the landscape could be admired.


Classical Rotunda at Croome by Capability Brown.
Classical Rotunda at Croome by Capability Brown.

The Lake at Croome Court took hundreds of men more than 10 years to complete by hand.

Home, Bridge and Lake at Croome Court
Home, Bridge and Lake at Croome Court.



Artificial River at Croome by Landscaper Capability Brown.
Artificial serpentine "River" at Croome by Landscaper Capability Brown.

The lake constructed by Brown looks like a natural river. It winds through the parkland for a distance of just under 3 kilometres with the end just out of sight around a bend. This helps create the illusion of a river.




The lake at Croome by Capability Brown.
The lake at Croome by Capability Brown.

There are more than 18 drainage culverts built by Brown as part of the landscaping. Most of these are brick lined and still function as a drain to remove water from the land and channel it to the lake.

Drainage Culverts
In places where the drainage culverts have been damaged by modern farm machinery the National Trust has left drainage grates over the openings. This gives us a glimpse of the drainage work that was done.


Flowing water and the brick lining of the drainage culvert can be seen through the grates.
Flowing water and the brick lining of the drainage culvert can be seen through the drain grates.


Capability Brown created a gothic church on some high land in the park. There are great views of the estate from this position.

The Gothic Church at Croome by Capability Brown.
The Gothic Church at Croome by Capability Brown.


Church Interior Croome
Church Interior Croome
Tree Planting

One of Browns lasting legacies was the the massive tree plantings on his landscaping projects. Some of his landscapes were second only to  Kew Gardens for biodiversity. The full impact of Brown's landscaping prowess would not have been apparent for generations after the initial construction. The Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) is a member of the Pinaceae family and is regarded as one of Brown's signature trees.  It is now often seen in many British Grand Estates including Brown's landscaping at Compton Verney.

Capability Brown at Compton Verney

The upper bridge over the lake may have been designed by architect John Adam, but it was constructed during Brown's time at Copton Verney.

Lancelot Capability Brown Landscaping at Compton Verney.
Lancelot Capability Brown Landscaping at Compton Verney.


Landscaped Home and Lake at Compton Verney.
Landscaped home and Lake at Compton Verney.


Landscaped Hill and Lake at Compton Verney.
The Landscaped Hill and Lake at Compton Verney.


A view of the lake through the trees.
A view of the lake through the trees.

Palladian Style Chapel by Capability Brown


Humphry Repton

Repton was a landscaper in the same style as Capability Brown and saw himself as the successor to Brown. He was able to design landscapes with the naturalistic appearance of Brown, but with landscaping of the “Picturesque” added to the mix. Amongst Repton’s famous works is Sheringham Park in Norfolk. Repton invented the term “Landscape Gardener” and was known for showing his landscape clients illustrated before and after views in his landscaping “Red Book”. Repton's first commission was for a landscape at Catton Hall north of Norwich. This landscape included a gothic cottage with a thatched roof.

Lord Berwick at Attingham

In 1797 Lord Berwick commissioned Landscape Gardener Humphry Repton to make improvements to the landscaping of his property Attingham near Shrewsbury. Repton's landscape designs were illustrated in his "Red Book"  which was presented to Lord Berwick for his library.

Landscape Design Only

In contrast to Capability Brown, Repton's services were provided as landscape design only and he did not oversee the construction of his landscape designs. Repton's landscape designs were handed to the client as his famous Red Book. In this book, Repton pioneered the "before and after" landscape design concept that many landscaper designers use today.

A view of the home of the Second Lord Berwick from the bridge on the River Tern.
A view of the home of the Second Lord Berwick from the bridge on the River Tern.


The Second Lord Berwick's estate at Attingham. Cedar of Lebanon was par of Repton's design.
The Second Lord Berwick's estate at Attingham. Cedar of Lebanon was part of Repton's design


Naturalistic Landscaping. Beautiful colours and textures of the trees planted in the distance.
Naturalistic Landscaping. Beautiful colours and textures of the trees planted in the distance


Naturalistic tree planting by the bank of the River Tern.
Naturalistic tree planting by the bank of the River Tern.



Humpry Repton at Stoneleigh Abbey



Landscape Design by Humphry Repton at Stoneleigh Abbey
Landscape Design by Humphry Repton at Stoneleigh Abbey. Repton's design was to divert part of the River Avon so that it ran closer to the home and created a beautiful refection.


The landscaping vision of Humphry Repton. Stoneleigh Abbey reflected in the River Avon.
The landscaping vision of Humphry Repton. Stoneleigh Abbey reflected in the River Avon.


River Avon at Stoneleigh. Landscape by Humphry Repton
River Avon at Stoneleigh with the landscape beyond. Landscape design by Humphry Repton


A view through the landscape to the River Avon
A view through the landscape to the River Avon


Chastleton House in the Cotswolds

Some properties like Chastleton House in Oxfordshire have been attributed to Repton and is listed by the Nation Trust as a possible Repton Landscape.

Chastleton House Repton Landscaping

Chastleton house was built between 1607 and 1612 and still has much of the house in original condition. This was due to the family picking the losing side in the English Civil war and being fined heavily.

Chastleton House

Landscaping in the 1800s

The Landscaping of Getrude Jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll was a British horticulturist, garden designer, craftswoman, photographer, writer, and artist. She was born on 29th November 1843 in Surrey. She designed nearly 400 gardens in the UK, Europe, and the United States. She wrote more than 1000 articles for Country Life, The Gardens, and other magazines. Gardening lovers in the United. The British and American gardening lovers have described Jekyll as a major influence in gardening design. She ran a garden centre and bred many new plants.


Gertrude Jekyll The Strode House
The Strode House, built in 1674, seen from the Lily Garden at Barrington Court, Somerset. Gertrude Jekyll's influence can be seen in the planting here. ©NTPL/Mark Bolto

After her father died in 1876, she returned to Surry to live at Munstead with her mother, and it was here that she found her love for creating gardens. In 1883 she bought the land across the road where she began to create her garden, which was one of the greatest creations and known as Munstead garden. The garden consisted of hardy plants' seasonal and colour-themed borders, including herbaceous perennials, shrubs, climber, and hedges.

Gertrude Jekyll focused her design work on the use of plants in various settings, including woodland gardens, water gardens, and herbaceous borders, always aiming for the most natural appearance. She possessed an artist’s sense for colour and expertly contrasted plant texture. She was a strong believer in the concept of beauty in the natural landscape and worked hard to achieve it in her art. Her passion, hard work, and no-nonsense attitude were all components of her philosophy, resulting in some outstanding garden designs. She was a strong plants woman who tested plants in her garden at Munstead Wood in Surrey before suggesting them to others. She taught the value of ordinary plant familiars to gardeners today. Gertrude Jekyll’s garden designs concept was well developed, which can assist you in making your landscape fit with your craftsman style.

Generally, brightly coloured borders needed extensive care and seasonal plant replacement. By modifying the plant species in the garden border, Miss Jekyll simplified the process to suit the simplicity of craftsman-style living. Instead of delicate flowers, she put perennial plants with various heights and colours.

Miss Jekyll disliked plant identification labels. She preferred to keep track of various plants she grew in her garden. She used white paint to write the names on the stones that would be placed at the base of the tree.

She taught us that you don’t have to limit your garden to green foliage and bright flowers. Still, according to colour theory, she can create different moods by planting flowers selected for their overall combination. Grey foliage became one of her signatures. She often used it with pale shades of purple and pink to create a soft warmth in wider borders and alone in narrow borders. Any gardener might study their colour schemes and adjust them to fit their garden space and time constraints.

Landscaping in the 1900s

The Landscaping of Geoffrey Allan Jellicoe

Sir Geoffrey Allan Jellicoe was an English architect, town planner, landscape architect, garden designer, landscape and garden historian, lecturer, and author. His strongest interest was in landscape and garden design which he described as “the mother of all arts.” He frequently comprised his signature features such as canals, spillways, bridges, viewing platforms, and related planting as a designer. He believed that landscape design was part of a wider creative movement throughout history, encompassing visual arts such as painting, sculptures, and architecture. Geoffrey Jellicoe was trained as an architect. He travelled across Italy in the early 1920s with his fellow, drawing villas and their gardens and submerging himself in Italian garden designs. Throughout his life, the Italian influence was reflected in his work and can be seen at Ditchley Park through the design of Sutton place.

Paul Klee’s work notably influenced him. Klee’s work on colour theory and his use of elements of Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism inspired Jellicoe in designs like the rose garden at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, in 1959. Water is a recurring theme in many of his designs. Rills and fountains harness the sound and flow of water to produce energy and bring the landscape alive. These are beautiful additions to any landscape. Geoffrey Jellicoe was not knowledgeable about plants. His wife, Susan, was the expert who designed the planting plans for their gardens, including the water gardens, which she described as their best and favourite project.


Jellicoe’s most innovative and imaginative landscape designs were created in his 80s and 90s. He was commissioned to work on Europe, Africa, and the USA projects.

Geoffrey Jellicoe had a unique way of combining classical and modern design appreciation, a sense of a place's completeness, and a remarkable sense of volume. Jellicoe is the most prominent landscape designer of his time because his understanding of the landscaper is more than simply a picture and the importance of the effects of time on a place.


Our 13 most influential Landscapers of all time are as follows.

Lancelot Capability Brown

Humphry Repton

Donato Bramante

André Le Nôtre

Andrea Palladio

Donato Bramante

Pirro Ligorio

Willian Kent

Daniel Marot

Charles le Brun

Jean Bérain

Gertrude Jekyll

Geoffrey Jellicoe


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Sources, References. Landscaping Websites and Further Information




Gardens Illustrated


The Gardens Trust - Humphry Repton


Why the Pantheon has not crumbled


The Official Website of the Jekyll Estate