“Greater Perfections: The Practice of Garden Theory”


John Dixon Hunt
288 pages, 138 black-and-white illustrations, $35 cloth

Gardening is usually thought of as a practical activity, but a new book by John Dixon Hunt, professor of landscape architecture and chair of the department of landscape architecture and regional planning, explores the conceptual basis of garden art. The book takes a large-scale view of the garden in human culture and treats the garden as the epitome of place-making — or what is nowadays termed landscape architecture.

“Greater Perfections” explores the meanings of “garden” and the relationship between gardens and other artificial landscapes. It looks at both the role of verbal and visual languages in place-making and the ways gardens have been represented in the visual and literary arts. But above all, it offers a new and challenging account of the role of representation in garden art itself.

The book draws upon many different historical traditions and archival materials (including numerous illustrations), but Hunt’s major historical excursus is into the exciting theoretical world of the late 17th century, focusing on John Evelyn and his work. This example sustains the final section of the book on contemporary landscape architecture. Hunt calls for a new history of landscape architecture as the basis for redirecting the discipline’s energies and vision.

“Greater Perfections” seeks to celebrate the rich traditions of place-making, and to celebrate the diverse topics that gardening practitioners have addressed through their work. The book seeks to connect those traditions with the contemporary perception and design of sites. Hunt proposes a wholly fresh basis for the understanding of that most vital and persistent human activity: the making of gardens.

Originally published on February 3, 2000