The English Taught America Landscape Gardening

I am reading a book about New York nurseryman turned landscape gardener Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852) with the title To Live in the New World: A. J. Downing and American Landscape Gardening. Many refer to him as America’s most important nineteenth century landscape designer. He inspired even Frederick Law Olmsted.

The author Judith K. Major tries to link Downing’s aesthetic to the English landscape Major, Judith To Live in the New Worldgardeners of the late eighteenth century. She argues that he comes close to Humphry Repton in his writing about the landscape. Downing admired Repton, just as he did the English horticulturist, writer, and landscape gardener John Claudius Loudon.

Such English garden writers inspired Downing’s book A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening

Major argues that Repton borrowed from both Andre Le Notre and Lancelot Capability Brown. She quotes Repton in these words, “I do not profess to follow either Le Notre or Brown, but, selecting beauties from the style of each, to adopt so much of the grandeur of the former as may accord with a palace, and so much of the grace of the latter as may call forth the charms of natural landscape.”

Repton tried to combine the elements of both a formal landscape and a natural landscape in his own style of landscape design. Downing in turn sought to position himself in that same English garden tradition.

Downing wrote in 1849 that “modern landscape gardening owes its existence almost entirely to the English.”

The English taught America landscape gardening through the voice of A. J. Downing.


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