Landscaping might sound like a modern art form — after all, how could we have practiced yard maintenance and lawn care before the days of high-powered mowers?
But surprisingly, landscaping history has roots that extend much further back than most people realize, whether they’re avid gardeners or amateur plant enthusiasts.
This article will provide a brief overview of the lush history of landscaping, from the ancient gardens of the Middle East to the current-day sprawling lawns of the United States.
What is Landscape Design?
Before we can get into the nitty-gritty of this fascinating profession’s origins, it’s first necessary to define what exactly landscape design is. In general, the art of landscaping can be divided into six fundamental categories: landform, vertical structures, horizontal structures, vegetation or plant life, climate, and water. When these six elements are integrated and arranged, they are referred to as landscape design, a broad term that strives to enhance the functionality and aesthetic of outdoor areas.
Early Days of Landscape Design
Formal planning and structuring of open natural spaces has been in existence in some form for several thousand years. The earliest forms of landscaping design can be seen in the evolution of verdant and luxurious gardens so iconically associated with the the royal monarchs of antiquity. For instance, the Babylonian Empire, located in modern-day Iraq, lives on for its namesake Hanging Gardens, constructed circa 600 BCE and now considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Other early instances of landscape design are apparent in the cultures of Ancient Greece. The Greeks were voracious scholars of both geometry and philosophy, which they considered two sides of the same coin — a relationship that doesn’t quite translate to today’s views on the subjects. But a closer look reveals that they do share some similarities in relation to landscape design: geometry is all about ideal shapes and mathematically optimal usage of space, while philosophy strives to gain greater knowledge about the world — especially the natural world — so as to make choices more closely aligned with human values. Pliny the Younger, for instance, wrote about the layout of his Tuscan property, elaborating on the precision and beauty of boxed hedges, topiaries, and powerful manipulation of natural elements.
The ancient Greeks and the Hellenistically influenced cultures that followed (think Rome and, later, Renaissance Europe) have lived on for their masterful integration of the mathematical with the aesthetic. In a way, their abstract, innovative perspectives really did lay the foundation for modern landscape design, from the intricate geometric mosaics of garden fountains to the symmetrical rows of sod laid on a fresh green lawn.
Early Modern Landscaping
The term “landscape architecture” was coined in 1828 by a native of Scotland named Gilbert Laing Meason. Although it sounds more in line with engineering than creativity, the term does indeed refer to the integration of the aforementioned elements of landscape design: landform, vertical structures, horizontal structures, vegetation or plant life, climate, and water.
However, what makes Meason’s Landscape Architecture of the Great Painters of Italy so influential was its ability to argue for a rational combination of ancient and modern ideals. Meason wrote of how Renaissance and earlier artists depicted astounding images of gardens, and then argued how these aesthetes could be combined with more modern structures and paving projects. Perhaps the best example of this is embodied in the creation of Central Park in Manhattan, a masterful duo of urban and rural, industrial and natural, whose construction was influenced in large part by the insightful observations and suggestions of Meason’s 1828 opus.
The Current State and Future of Landscape Design
Today, landscape design is as broad and complicated as it’s ever been. From trying to find the perfect lawn fertilizer to selecting a lawn care company, it’s difficult to balance professional with personal work in one’s natural spaces.
If you’d like to learn more about how professional landscape design can enhance the beauty of your lawn, reach out to Restoration Landscape Co. today. It’s our mission to cultivate the best yards Mother Nature can create.