"The Flowering of the Landscape Garden: English Pleasure Grounds, 1720-1800"

Mark Laird
$49.95 cloth; 416 pages; 66 color and 228 black-and-white illustrations

Mark Laird, a distinguished University of Toronto landscape historian, has written a wonderfully detailed and absorbing history of the aesthetic and horticultural development of the English garden.

In contrast to formal French garden style with its straight lines and controlled vistas, the English garden, as popularized by architects such as Capability Brown, utilized the natural landscape to shape the presentation. Laird has thoughtfully researched the development of the English pleasure garden and has illustrated his new book with his own watercolors depicting the floral arrangements that once bloomed along the edges of the great 18th-century English gardens.

Many of the plants in these gardens, Laird explains, came from exotic locations, mostly British dominions in the New World, Africa and Asia. The great American naturalist, Philadelphian John Bartram, helped supply English gardeners with fantastic and previously unknown species that he located in the American colonies.

The mania for unusual plants took on a character of its own, resulting in a black market, occassional piracy, and exorbitant prices commanded for choice specimens. In addition to Laird's insightful watercolors, the book contains hundreds of period illustrations, from architectural drawings to naturalists's renderings of new-found plant life.

Laird was honored last month with a prestigious Europa Nostra medal for his work at the Painshill Park Trust in England.

-University of Pennsylvania Press

Horticulture fans will not want to miss Laird's talk on English gardens at the Bookstore Feb. 26. See "What's On" for details.

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Originally published on February 25, 1999