Landscape Design History is Changing Our Gardens Forever!

Throughout landscape design history, individuals have displayed their own personal tastes and preferences with the beauty of their estates and the elegantly landscaped gardens that surround their property. While there has been evidence of unique garden design in history for many years, the style and trends have continued to shift over time.

landscape design history

Today, homeowners have a wide array of popular landscape design options to choose from. Knowing a little about landscape design history can help you decide on the style that would best complement your home.

Ancient civilizations, like the Greeks and the Romans, were renowned for the magnificent structures and amazing gardens they designed and constructed. Examples of Roman architecture can be found in various eras of history, always with spectacular outdoor areas and an emphasis on unique landscape design.

The stunning effect of Italian landscape design has had a strong influence on landscape design history all over the world. Early 19th century architects were striving to keep up with the continually increasing, wealthy population following the Industrial Revolution.


Frederick Law Olmsted

landscape design history

Home designers in both the US and England studied the ancient design of Roman structures and began an ever growing trend in landscape architecture and design.

With affluent living and prosperity becoming more commonplace, extravagant homes and magnificent gardens also became more common. Relaxing and luxurious outdoor areas were abundant everywhere, including private residences and public recreation areas.

In the United States, Charles Voux and Frederic Law Olmsted shown in this portrait to the right, were responsible for introducing some of the earliest forms of landscape design as we know it today. These innovators created a number of unique residential landscape designs and contributed to the design of Central Park in New York City and the many parks surrounding Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Gertrude Jekyll

landscape design history

Around the same time in landscape design history, design trends in England were pulling away from the classic Roman garden style.

Gertrude Jekyll introduced elements of art in a bold style of landscaping, featuring bright and colorful flowers and intriguing plant life throughout the yard. She used this innovative technique to soften the hard lines of structures created by her long time associate the renowned English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

She created over 400 gardens in the Britain, Europe and America. She spent most of her life in Surrey, England, than latter to the now famous Munstead Wood were she bred many new plant varieties.


Thomas Church

landscape design history

The landscape architecture of the mid 1900’s laid the foundation for perhaps the most famous landscape design expert in history, Thomas Church.

Church, said to be the “father” of the now famous, California garden style, created some of the most gorgeous landscape designs of all times for thousands of residential properties during his 45 years in business. He based his marvelous landscape designs on four guiding principles of design.

1. Scale

California landscape designs are centered on a relaxed, outdoor lifestyle. This garden style is planned with comfort and usability in mind, combining elegant details with simple plant life for a spacious and tranquil outdoor space. Each of Church’s landscape designs were planned to scale for use by typical families and their guests, with plenty of useful space.


2. Functionality

The landscape design that made Thomas Church an important part of landscape design history was not just planned to be comfortable and spacious. California garden styles are also designed to be functional. Each outdoor living space is designed with a specific purpose in mind and the plans center around that use.

landscape design history
3. Simplicity

When Church first introduced his style of landscaping, it was quite a change from the elaborate, highly adorned garden styles of the period.

California style yards are beautiful, yet very simple, focusing on practical usage of all the available space. An example of this is shown here, one of Churches better known private gardens; the Donnell Garden in California.



The most alluring feature of the California garden style in today’s society is Church’s ability to blend the simple garden and outdoor space with even the most extravagant home. This type of landscape design combines the home and the garden for an extended living arrangement that allows you to appreciate nature without sacrificing comfort and everyday living.

Thomas Church was a master of landscape planning and went on to create more than 2000 landscape designs using these basic design principles. Most of his work was performed in the state of California near his San Francisco office, leading to the name, California style. Whether you live in California, England, or anywhere else in the world, California’s landscape design history will continue to play a magnificent and well-loved part.

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