The History of Landscaping – Quite a Story

Up until about a hundred years ago, the average person didn’t have a lawn to worry about. They were too busy going to work, putting food on the table, and trying to educate their children. It was only when people started leaving the farming life for the life of the cities and suburbs that single-family houses sprang up in droves, and people had the money to spend on such luxuries as landscaping.

Which is not to say that landscaping is a brand new profession. As early as the 1800s, the wealthy of practically any country were able to employ professional artisans to build gardens and landscape their homes. Of course, they weren’t average people, but nevertheless it’s fun to learn about the forerunners of today’s landscape designer.

The most famous is the British landscape designer, “Capability” Brown. His real name was Lancelot Brown, but it was his habit to look at a piece of real estate and say, “It has capabilities,” and t hat is how he got his nickname. Brown has been called England’s “most famous gardener.” He was born in 1716 and died in 1783, and yet over a hundred years later his legacy lives on. Over 44 of his gardens are still in existence today (he designed over 170). Of course that’s because he designed these gardens for the “landed families”, or nobility, who were not about to sell their mansion every ten years and move up to a bigger one.

Prior to Capability Brown, the landed families had huge “formal gardens.” Brown changed all that, encouraging his clients to make use of a more naturalistic design, with compositions of grass, clumps of trees, and pools and lakes.

England has Capability Brown, the United States has Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted was born in 1822 and died in 1903. He went to Yale and studied agricultural science and engineering.

In 1853, the New York legislature decided that they’d have to create a park in the middle of the city, for their many inhabitants. They held a contest to decide who would design it, and Frederick Olmsted and his partner, English architect Calvert Vaux, were awarded the contract, to create a “greensward,” as Olmsted termed it. ” The park was not created on barren land, however – many poor people and free blacks were evicted from their homes under eminent domain so that the park could be placed there. (Not that that was Olmsted’s fault – that’s where the legislature wanted the park, and that’s where they were going to put it regardless.)

Olmsted went on to make a career out of creating city parks – indeed he conceived the system of parks and interconnecting parkways. Two of the best examples are the park system he designed for Buffalo, New York, and the system for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Olmsted and his partners also designed over 355 school and college campuses.

So as you walk through your city and see all the greenspaces and landscaping, spare a thought for the landscape architects who brought all this beauty to you. Studying the history of landscape architecture is fun and informative.

Extraordinary Landscapes

In the summer of 2007, a curatorial team from George Eastman House invited twelve photographers to photograph the sites designated by The Cultural Landscape Foundation as their 2007 Landslide landscapes. The photographs focus on culturally significant landscapes at risk of alteration or destruction, and include trees and other plantings that have witnessed or withstood major cultural or natural events.

In this exhibition of work the focus is on celebrated botanical heroes that have withstood the test of time Ranging from Charleston’s angel southern live oak, a majestic living legacy from the antebellum South to the dew-drenched petals of a rare tree peony from Pavilion, New York, these photographs lovingly document heritage landscapes that are threatened by development, disease and the ravages of time.

Additionally the exhibit, “Heroes of Horticulture” documents the sole surviving witnesses to some of the nation’s greatest people and most significant moments. Some are hundreds of years old: the horse chestnut tree that shaded suffragist Susan B. Anthony in the late 19th century to the live oak tree allĂ©e in Houston.
These photographic collaborations with artists, now a traveling exhibit, have yielded compelling interpretations of extraordinary places. And, for most of us, this is the only way we may ever experience the subjects and places depicted.

The exhibition includes twenty-four images by photographers Mark Klett, John Pfahl, Eli Reed, Louviere+Vanessa, John Divola, Eric Baden, Jodean Bifoss, George Blakely, Roger Bruce, Matthew Keefe, Fredrik Marsh, and James Via. The twelve sites, located across the nation, are currently featured on TCLF’s website ( and appears in the January 2008 edition of Garden Design magazine. For a schedule of this amazing traveling exhibit visit

Landscape Edging Stones – A Great Way to Spruce Up Your Garden

Now that the harsh winter of 2009-2010 is just a memory it may be the right time to get outside and make some of those landscape improvements that will allow the days spent on the lawn a more pleasant experience. Of course, the reason people spend time outside is to enjoy nature so why not make those improvements with a natural landscape edging stones.

Natural stone lends itself to a variety of aesthetic applications, such as edging around a flower bed to add to the natural feel of the plants growing there or to create a walkway to make it easier to go from place to place. Natural stone can even be used as a retaining wall to protect the earth that is being held back from erosion. Unlike wood or plastic, stone will last forever and needs little to no upkeep once it has been installed.

Stone has been used in a great many ways in the past and many of the structures it has been used to create are still standing centuries after their first application. It is not unusual to see stone structures built centuries ago throughout the world that are living on and being used by modern day man. This is not only a testament to the builders of those structures but to the quality of the material itself. For those wishing to leave a legacy for future generations, natural stone is the way to go.

When using natural landscape edging stones for a do it yourself project a few techniques should be considered. Remember that it will be necessary to displace some of the earth and sod from the spot that will receive the edging. By laying a plastic barrier down before placing the stones weeds and grass will have no place to grow and pop up in the cracks between the stones. That means a little digging and a bit of extra work, but the effect will be worth it.