A Heavenly Garden Party


It’s bound to happen sooner or later: you’re having a nice conversation with your gardening friends, and someone drops a name of someone they say was “one of the greatest gardeners ever,” and you’ve never heard of them before. Worse, smiles of recognition appear on every face but yours. Don’t worry—here’s what you need to know.

greatest gardeners

“I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends A chance to share old memories and play our songs again…” ~John Fogerty, Garden Party

Here is our list of 25 of the world’s greatest gardeners:

  1. Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858–1954) American botanist, horticulturist, and educator; spent much of his working life at Cornell University; author of more than 60 books, including the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture and Hortus Third.
  2. Lancelot “Capability” Brown (1715–83) English landscape gardener; one of the most influential promoters of the pastoral English landscape movement; responsible for at least 170 estate gardens, including the grounds at Stowe in Buckinghamshire.
  3. Roberto Burle Marx (1909–94) Brazilian landscape and garden designer known for his bold, abstract patterns and creative use of native flora; also an ardent conservationist.
  4. Thomas Church (1902–78) American landscape architect; noted for his promotion of modern, labor-saving gardens and “outdoor living;” active primarily in California: author of Gardens Are for People (1955).
  5. Beatrix Farrand (1872–1959) American landscape architect; a founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects; projects included Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C., and the Yale and Princeton University campuses; published the Reef Point Bulletins from her home garden in Bar Harbor, Maine.
  6. Margery Fish (1892–1969) English gardener and writer; popularized a style reminiscent of traditional cottage gardens; gardened at East Lambrook Manor in Somerset; author of We Made a Garden (1956).
  7. Karl Foerster (1874–1970) German nurseryman, plant breeder, and author; advocated a “natural” style of planting incorporating grasses and ferns along with flowering perennials; known especially for his hybrid delphiniums.
  8. Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) Third president of the United States; author of the Declaration of Independence; builder of Monticello; had a life-long interest in gardening; kept a detailed Garden Book from 1766 until 1824.
  9. Gertrude Jekyll (1843–1932) English garden designer and author; high priestess of the Edwardian herbaceous border; frequent collaborator with the architect Edwin Lutyens and with William Robinson (q.v.); gardened at Munstead Wood in Surrey; books include Wood and Garden (1899) and Colour in the Flower Garden (1908); pronounced JEE-kul.
  10. Jens Jensen (1860–1951) Danish-born landscape designer; practiced primarily in the American Midwest; known for his naturalistic “prairie style,” his advocacy of conservation, and enthusiasm for native plants.
  11. Lawrence Johnston (1871–1958) Expatriate American gardener and plant collector; creator of the garden at Hidcote Manor, Gloucestershire, considered to be one of the best examples of garden “rooms.”
  12. Elizabeth Lawrence (1904–85) American gardener and writer; gardened in Raleigh and Charlotte. North Carolina; author of the classic A Southern Garden (1942).
  13. Andre Le Notre (1613–1700) French landscape architect; designer of the grounds at Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versailles; associated with highly formal chateau gardens carried out on a grand scale.
  14. Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) American landscape architect; designer of Boston’s “Emerald Necklace” of parks and co-creator, with Calvert Vaux, of Central Park in New York City.
  15. Russell Page (1906–85) English garden designer; known for his meticulously crafted, often formal gardens, created mostly for wealthy private clients; author of the classic The Education of A Gardener (1962).
  16. J. C. Raulston (1940–96) American plants-man and educator; founder of the arboretum at North Carolina State University that now bears his name; tireless promoter of superior garden plants; co-author (with Kim Tripp) of A Year in Trees (1995).
  17. William Robinson (1838–1935) Irish-born gardener, author, publisher, and polemicist; led the assault against Victorian carpet bedding; gardened at Gravetye Manor in Sussex; books include The Wild Garden (1870) and The English Flower Garden (1883).
  18. Mien Ruys (1904–99) Dutch landscape architect and landscape designer; an advocate of “functionalism,” noted for her use of architectural perennials and her talent for creating small gardens; a strong influence on today’s Dutch designers.
  19. Vita Sackville-West (1892–1962) English gardener and writer; creator (with her husband, Harold Nicolson) of the garden at Sissinghurst in Kent; fringe figure in the Bloomsbury group thanks to her friendship with Virginia Woolf.
  20. Ellen Biddle Shipman (1869–1950) American garden designer; noted for her expert handling of herbaceous plants and ability to orchestrate color; extant work includes the restored English Garden at Stan Hywet Hall, Akron, Ohio.
  21. Fletcher Steele (1885–1971) American garden designer; formed a link between the Beaux Arts tradition and more modern ideas; extant work includes Naumkeag, in Massachusetts, with its famous birch-lined Blue Steps.
  22. Graham Stuart Thomas (1909–2003) English nurseryman, designer, consultant, and author; served as gardens advisor to the National Trust; among his outstanding reference works are Perennial Garden Plants (1976) and Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers, and Bamboos (1992).
  23. Rosemary Verey (1918–2001) English garden designer and author; created the garden at Barnsley House in Gloucestershire; books include Classic Garden Design (1984) and Good Planting (1990).
  24. Louise Beebe Wilder (1878–1938) American gardener and author; the best early 20th-century American garden writer; gardened in Bronxville and Pomona, New York; books include Colour in My Garden (1918), The Fragrant Path (1932), and Adventures with Hardy Bulbs (1936).
  25. Ernest H. Wilson (1876–1930) English-born plant collector and author; famous for his collections of Chinese and Japanese plants; employed by Boston’s Arnold Arboretum from 1906 onward; books include A Naturalist in Western China (1913) and If I Were to Make a Garden (1931).

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