Iconic Gardens

“Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus.” David Hockney

Below is a short list of iconic gardens of the British Isles. By this we mean gardens which are not simply very enjoyable and entertaining, or which contain interesting plants and plant associations, but ones that have taken their particular genre forward or transformed it in some way.

These are significant gardens, whether because of a long-lasting reputation, or that they epitomise a certain time, place or movement. (For further thoughts on iconic see below ***)

We have only included gardens that are extant and open to the public. The list is not definitive but intended as a starting point.

Stabs at defining ‘iconic garden’ from the Garden Design Journal’s series “New Iconic”:

“For a garden to be able to qualify as ‘iconic’ it really has to be young, or youngish, innovative, high-achieving, publicly accessible and financially secure.” Charles Quest-Ritson on Trentham Garden (not so financially secure maybe, currently laying off staff…..) in the Garden Design Journal March 2008.

“The soil’s consistency can never be overlooked, for this garden’s (Marchants) ‘iconic’ status is gained principally from the supreme plantsmanship that Graham and Lucy and their small team of helpers has adopted.” David Wheeler Garden design Journal June 2008

“an iconic garden should be the uninhibited expression of a life or an enthusiasm; it should have an audience beyond those who ever visit; it must contain enough ideas for each generation to find new meanings; it must reflect national identity; and it must show the highest quality of thought and expression.” Christopher Woodward Garden Design Journal January 2008.

With thanks to Charles Hawes, Anne Wareham (www.veddw.co.uk) Anne Guy (www.anneguygardendesigns.co.uk), Paul Leitch (www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk) Adam Hodge and Peter Matthews (www.petermatthews.co.uk) for use of photographs.


Tim Richardson, from Garden Design Journal, where he writes a great column;

Sara Maitland from Gardens of Illusion (with Peter Matthews): Cassell 2000 ISBN-0304-35434-1 (a very thinkinGardens book)

Stephen Anderton from Gardens of Inspiration (there was a lot of it about) ed. Erica Hunningher: BBC 2001 ISBN 0-563-55176-3

If anyone can offer us free images of the unillustrated gardens we would be very grateful: email: info@thinkingardens.co.uk

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