Give Now

Modern Garden Design’s Roots In The Past

Nowadays, garden designers reflect the interests of our time: sustainability, the whole food movement, organic practices and so on.

garden of kale

Photo: Patty O'Hara (flickr)

Kale and other edible greens can be incorporated into the front garden for both an ornamental and delicious effect!

Garden designers nowadays reflect the interests of our time: sustainability, the whole food movement, organic practices and so on. There is more melding of ornamental and edible plantings, and in fact, edible plants are considered ornamental and qualify for positions in a front garden.

The elevation of function as an important design principle, however, has its roots in the 20th-century modernist movement.  Designers such as Brenda Colvin and Sylvia Crowe transformed industrial sites in Britain into beautiful spaces with gardens that looked appropriate in terms of the adjacent structures.

Brenda Colvin: A Career in Landscape
Trish Gibson
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Garden Design
Sylvia Crowe
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Fredrick Gibbard was another modernist designer who concentrated on function. He worked in the British town of Harlow in Essex and said that although garden design is “picture-making,” function must always be central to the process.

The modernist architect Walter Gropius went so far as to say that “art, industry, nature, practicality and pleasant living are all indivisible.”

Walter Gropius, 1883-1969: The Promoter of a New Form
Gilbert Lupfer / Paul Sigel
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

All 20th-century modernist designers embraced new technology and materials but focused always on what spaces are to be used for. Their emphasis on using naturalistic rather than formal plantings has especially influenced how our current gardens look today. The space itself and the areas contiguous to it dictated what was deemed appropriate to a site. For instance, local rocks were considered more appropriate than marble for a water feature.

Although spaces have their own character, they must fit in with and merge into whatever they are adjacent to. Thus a formal garden of topiary would never be placed right next to a cow pasture or a factory.

The Modern Garden
Jane Brown
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Modern Garden Design: Innovation Since 1900
Janet Waymark
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

View all posts by this author »

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Focus on Flowers:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Focus on Flowers

About The Host

Search Focus on Flowers

Focus on Flowers on Flickr