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European Gardens: History, Philosophy and Design

Cover - European Gardens

by Tom Turner
(Routledge, London and New York, 2011)

Reviewed by Patrice Todisco

In this richly illustrated book, landscape architect and garden historian, Tom Turner ambitiously traces the evolution of European gardens throughout a 12,000 year period. More than 400 pages in length, European Gardens: History, Philosophy and Design provides a comprehensive introduction to the social, political and artistic ideas that nurtured this unique art form.

Following a design philosophy overview, the book is divided into nine chapters beginning with garden origins and cultivation (10,000 - 1,000 BCE) and concluding with current design trends and abstract and post abstract gardens (1900 - 2000). Although centered on the European tradition, the evolution of gardens in the Fertile Crescent and twentieth century gardens and landscapes in North and South America are described.

Each chapter contains a historic assessment, followed by an analysis of garden plans depicted as style diagrams. References to gardens by notable figures, such as Pliny, are included as well as quotes from contemporary garden and landscape designers. Attention is directed to individual gardens and the context in which they were built, including settlement patterns, urban design principles and regional planning.

Turner has perfected a graphic system that portrays the six key elements of a garden; landform, water, vertical structures, horizontal structures, vegetation and climate, in a clear and consistent format. The style diagrams are used liberally throughout the book and are beautiful in their simplicity. These style diagrams, combines with text and photographs, provide a synopsis of individual gardens that is quickly understood by the reader. The clarity and consistency of the visual information makes it easy to remember, adding value as a reference guide.

Tuileries2012
The Tuileries in 2012

European Gardens: History, Philosophy and Design includes almost 1,000 historic and contemporary color images and the text is presented in a highly readable format. Turner provides a summary of key concepts, styles, examples and garden terminology throughout, often as outlines.

Comprehensive in scope, the book is mainly as an introduction to key themes and gardens as only one or two paragraphs are dedicated to individual sites. For a more detailed analysis of a garden or period, additional research is necessary. Fortunately for the reader, the book is extensively notated.

Turner concludes with a series of questions inquiring, "What Next?" noting, "From 50 centuries, we can learn about the close relationship between garden design and urban design because both arts involve the composition of buildings with paving, landform, water, vegetation and climate."

An on-line companion guide can be found on the website, www.gardenvisit.com. The site also includes information on garden history, tours, designers and products and provides access to more than 200 articles and 20 on-line book reviews.

European Gardens: History, Philosophy and Design is the perfect accompaniment to a day spent in the garden and merits consideration by anyone with an interest in garden history and planning.

About the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Mass Hort logo newFounded in 1829, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public's enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment.

2017-2018 Calendar & Courses

2017-2018 Calendar and Courses

Mass Hort Classes & Events

Tue Oct 24 @ 1:30AM - 03:00PM
Singing in the Rain
Wed Nov 01 @ 7:00PM - 09:00PM
Integrated Pest Management Course
Thu Nov 02 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
House Plant Success
Wed Nov 08 @ 1:00PM - 05:00PM
Ecological Gardening Symposium
Thu Nov 16 @ 1:00AM - 03:30PM
Make Your Own Holiday Centerpiece
Fri Nov 24 @10:00AM - 08:00PM
Festival of Trees and Snow Village
Wed Nov 29 @ 4:00PM - 08:00PM
Festival of Trees and Snow Village
Fri Dec 01 @10:00AM - 08:00PM
Festival of Trees and Snow Village
Sat Dec 02 @ 1:00PM - 03:00PM
Make Your Own Herbal Gifts
Sat Dec 02 @ 4:00PM - 06:00PM
Holiday Hort Gifts
Wed Dec 06 @ 4:00PM - 08:00PM
Festival of Trees and Snow Village
Fri Dec 08 @10:00AM - 08:00PM
Festival of Trees and Snow Village
Sun Dec 10 @10:00AM - 06:00PM
Festival of Trees and Snow Village
Mon Dec 11 @10:00AM - 06:00PM
Festival of Trees and Snow Village
Tue Jan 09 @ 1:30PM - 03:00PM
Tour: Harvard's Glass Flower Collection
Tue Jan 16 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Botany for the Home Gardener
Wed Jan 17 @10:00AM - 02:00PM
Designing the Winter Landscape
Thu Jan 18 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Grow Your Own Succulent Container
Sat Jan 20 @10:00AM - 02:00PM
Greenhouse Growing and Maintenance
Wed Jan 24 @10:00AM - 04:00PM
Digital Photography: Capturing Botanic Images
Thu Jan 25 @ 7:00PM - 09:00PM
Landscaping and Planting Design